Monday, June 11, 2012
A New Creed
Amid the decay of creeds, love of nature has high religious value. This has saved many persons in this world — saved them from mammon-worship, and from the frivolity and insincerity of the crowd. It has made their lives placid and sweet. It has given them an inexhaustible field for inquiry, for enjoyment, for the exercise of all their powers, and in the end has not left them soured and dissatisfied. It has made them contented and at home wherever they are in nature — in the house not made with hands. This house is their church, and the rocks and the hills are the altars, and the creed is written in the leaves of the trees and in the flowers of the field and in the sands of the shore. A new creed every day and new preachers, and holy days all the week through. Every walk to the woods is a religious rite, every bath in the stream is a saving ordinance. Communion service is at all hours, and the bread and wine are from the heart and marrow of Mother Earth. There are no heretics in Nature's church; all are believers, all are communicants. The beauty of natural religion is that you have it all the time; you do not have to seek it afar off in myths and legends, in catacombs, in garbled texts, in miracles of dead saints or wine-bibbing friars. It is of to-day; it is now and here; it is everywhere. The crickets chirp it, the birds sing it, the breezes chant it, the thunder proclaims it, the streams murmur it, the unaffected man lives it. Its incense rises from the plowed fields, it is on the morning breeze, it is in the forest breath and in the spray of the wave. The frosts write it in exquisite characters, the dews impearl it, and the rainbow paints it on the cloud. It is not an insurance policy underwritten by a bishop or a priest; it is not even a faith; it is a love, an enthusiasm, a consecration to natural truth.
The God of sunshine and of storms speaks a less equivocal language than the God of revelation.
V. Sackville-West, A Creed, in Poems of West and East (London: John Lane, 1917), p. 22:
That I should live and look with open eyes
I count as half my claim to Paradise.
I have not crept beneath cathedral arches,
But bathed in streams beneath the silver larches;
And have not grovelled to the Sunday priest,
But found an unconfined and daily feast;
Was called ungodly, and to those who blamed
Laughed back defiance and was not ashamed.
Some hold their duty to be mournful; why?
I cannot love your weeping poets; I
Am sad in winter, but in summer gay,
And vary with each variable day.
And though the pious cavilled at my mirth,
At least I rendered thanks for God's fair earth,
Grateful that I, among the murmuring rest,
Was not an unappreciative guest.