He thought there was time.


For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then

there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song

–W.S. Merwin

In Ephesians 5 we are told to redeem the time: See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.”

That admonition comes to mind as I read this poem  in the New Yorker. It’s by W.S. Merwin, whom I mentioned previously here and here in regard to his book The Folding Cliffs, which captivated me and gave me for the first time an interest in visiting Hawaii.

Willow flowers fading, and leaves emerging.

To me it speaks of how we can only make up for lost time by being attentive to the gifts that are coming to us right now, attentive to the presence of God. He is giving Himself in the present moment, and He has given us the lenten season to help us tune into that Reality, to come back to it and to Him.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The paragraphs above are from the first time I posted this poem on my blog. As I read Merwin’s meditation now, I find another layer of meaning, which explains the joyful last line. It’s in the words, “there is no time yet it grows less.”

We probably all feel that there is less time in the sense of opportunity to accomplish more things before it “runs out.” But chronologically we don’t get to “no time” until we are long past being able to compose verse about it. Merwin must be referring to the moments of “no time” in the sense of timelessness, such as when he listens to the rain, or hears the thrush, and experiences that fullness of heart that comes with the awareness of the gift of being. “Here I am, alive, and it’s raining!”

It’s still a good poem for Lent. This is when we try to make some space in our busy schedules for that time out of time, and listening for the new song.

(Re-post from 2012)


6 thoughts on “He thought there was time.

  1. Have you read Merwin’s poem “Dew Light”? It certainly supports the interpretation you’ve offered here. I’ve have it in my drafts to use, myself, once I find an image to accompany it. I had missed this poem; I like it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gretchen, trying this again. I just tried commenting by registering for a WP account and the little bar at the bottom only continued to say that it was trying to connect to my WP account.

    But this poem really did get my attention. It is in the middle of the night that I sometimes feel a sense of sadness when remembering my age and wondering if I’ll have time to finish all that I want to. So silly because I’ve already been given many more years than so many of my friends. And then when I wake up in the morning I always feel such joy at the many gifts God has for me in another glorious day. And I am so grateful for that.

    Let’s see if this comment goes through! Thank you so much for your sweet comment on my post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh how poignant this is for me right now at this current moment. Yes, making up for lost time by responding to God as he is coming to us with the gifts and insights right now. Thank ou for the lovely poem.
    P.S> I am sorry about the annoying word verification problem you had on my blog- I have looked through all the links to see if I can do anything about it and I can’t seem to see any option for changing or getting rid of anything. I selected NO word verification but can’t seem to avoid anything!


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.