Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.
Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.
J.R.R. Tolkien, “Mythopoeia.”
Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent: the season of penance and preparation that prepares our hearts for the Christmas feast. Tolkien’s poem is not officially an Advent text. Nevertheless, it offers a compelling picture of what it means to live in hope, despite the very real presence of evil.
I discovered this poem sometime in high school, and through college I had these lines about the timid, courageous weaver pinned to my door. They encouraged me to labor hard and well on every task, and to trust that even my imperfect works could bear witness to a larger hope. Today, I need such encouragement more than ever.
I’ll be posting more Advent-themed texts and images in the coming weeks. As you meditate on them, may the work of your hands help you believe in the “far-off day” when the Shadow’s curse will end.
Fields, Jack. Photograph. E.M. Bakwin Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Art of Indonesian Textiles. New Haven and London: The Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2007, 21 (fig 4).