“Spring and Fall” (an excerpt from my upcoming story “Liberty”)

Chapel by Warren T


At 7:30 p.m., David made his way to the chapel.  He noticed Joy and Jonathon sitting outside with a white bearded man smoking a cigarette.

“Hey David, glad you made it,” said Joy.  “David, this is Dr. Cobb.  He’s the campus chaplain.”

Dr. Cobb extended his hand.  His eyes sparkled, “Please, David, call me Walt.”

“Am I early?” asked David.

“No,” said Joy, “it may just be us.  I tried to spread the word, but I’m not sure there is much interesting.”

“That’s okay,” said the chaplain, “we’ll have quality, not quantity.”

“Well, I don’t really have a plan.  I thought we would just meet for fellowship and support.  I did want to share this poem I found today when I was browsing at the library.  It’s by Gerard Manley Hopkins and it’s called, “Spring and Fall”.

To a young child

Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

“Wow!” said James, “that’s amazing.”

“Very nice,” said the chaplain.

“Yeah, I like it,” added David.

“It made me feel sad, in a way,” said Joy. “It made me wonder how it’s possible to enter the kingdom like a child (as Jesus said) in a world full of sorrow.”

David looked down.  The chaplain turned to him.

“What do you think, David?”

“Would you read those last two lines again?” asked David.

Joy found the place,

It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

“So is that like the Original Sin they tell us about in church?” asked David.

“It could be,” said the chaplain.  “Hopkins wrote in the late 19th century.  He was a Roman Catholic convert.  I don’t know his exact theology at the time he wrote this poem, but it is likely he shared the prevalent view of Original Sin.”

Jonathon turned to the chaplain, “What do you think?”

“I’d be more interested in hearing what you think.”

“Well, it hardly seems fair.  I mean, let’s say we take the Genesis story of Creation.  God made a man and a woman, put them in a garden to care for it – with just the warning to not eat fruit from one tree.  Knowing human nature, God knew what would happen next.  They go right for the forbidden fruit.  Then, as punishment, God not only exiles them from the garden, but punishes their descendants for generations to come with the condition of sin and the prospect of eternal damnation.  I mean, that sounds awfully harsh.  Does the punishment really fit the crime?”

Joy bowed her head.

“It doesn’t sound fair, does it?” said the chaplain, lighting another cigarette.

“Another thing I don’t understand,” added David, “is this whole divine election.  My father believes God chooses who gets saved and who doesn’t.  How could God send anyone to eternal damnation?”

“It seems barbaric to me,” said the chaplain.

“But aren’t you a Presbyterian minister?” asked Jonathon.

“It’s true, I was ordained in the Presbyterian church.”

“Don’t you have to support certain beliefs?”

“Not really.  There’s a phrase in our Book of Order (which is like a rule book) that says, ‘The Holy Spirit is Lord of the Conscience.”  He took a long drag on the cigarette.

The chaplain turned to Joy.  “Joy, you haven’t said much.”

“I was still thinking about the little girl in this poem.  I’m not much for theological discussions.”


(image “Chapel” from Warren T, some rights reserved)

3 thoughts on ““Spring and Fall” (an excerpt from my upcoming story “Liberty”)

    • Thank you. I’ll try to provide “sneak previews” now and then, but right now I’m focused on getting it all done and getting it right. I appreciate the encouragement.

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