I gazed at a candle through dark of night—
’Twas a light of my own creation.
At first the flame surged high and strong,
A flick’ring conflagration.
The hours drew on; the wick burned down.
Wax melted from the heat.
As the fuel rose, the flame waned dim,
Bedrown’d in its liquid seat.
What does it mean to be poorly wicked?
Or wax with a pow’r too great?
Of what am I made? What does light reveal?
A strength that must needs abate?
I keep stumbling over such troublesome thoughts,
Yes, stumbling over again:
The yoke may be easy but the ploughing is rough.
My patience is wearing thin.
The fruit of one’s labor, the learned ones say,
Shall vindicate hearts of wisdom.
Shed light on my deeds and what can be shown
But vindictive interdiction?
Bethsaida, Capernum, Chorazin—yes,
I fancy I’m better than that.
But am I wisdom’s child? I hardly think so.
I’m more like a fool’s bastard brat.
And yet I am greater: I have seen, and repent—
Even know that “greater” means “less.”
But how would I rate against Sodom and Tyre?
Oh, yes—it’s an odd calculus.
If I pour out my wax, I burn bright once again,
My flame leaping high and alive.
But how can this be, when my burden is light?
It seems I must die to thrive.