A Serious Call to a Close Reader - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

A Serious Call to a Close Reader


You grew up thinking that your life was small,
And right and wrong were words like sweet and sour,
And sunset light on brownstones in the Fall
–That half-nostalgic joy of cocktail hour;
Desire for what you couldn’t quite recall—
Was a trick of nerves, and held no truth or power.

So when you heard– electrifying thought!—
That there were things that we should love or hate,
That “is” had a true corollary “ought,”
And a high call to shape the City’s fate,

You almost sang for joy– there was a Right!
—And great-souled pride at being called to serve
(With this, your band of brothers in the fight)
The truth you’d been discovered to deserve.

But then– well, soon enough the gnostic smirk
Of knowledge hidden for the hiding’s sake
Unmoored you from the first love of the work,
And lulled you back to sleep who were awake.

And I don’t know. I know that I’m not wise.
Texts have, thank God, a golden wealth of deeps:
But this much we do know: the great surprise
Has come, the news has spread, the sower reaps:

The double-spoken words of the first book
Became our common sense, and noised about—
Truth into which the angels longed to look
Became our jubilant credal rooftop shout.

I know what’s in your mind: that this was bait
To help us live beneath an empty sky—
A thing to make us yearn and love and hate
And just another shabby noble lie:

There was no resurrection from the dead
There were no graveclothes folded in the tomb
There was no flesh, but metaphor instead:
Truth was a “Child” within the “Virgin’s” “Womb.”

But that will never be: there’s no divide
Between initiates and fools: enlightened ones
With scare quotes as the weapons of their pride,
And mobs deceived that God had made them sons.

Look, more will be revealed, there’s more to learn;
More to decipher, and delight, and guess—
But where we all began you won’t return
Repudiating what we all confess.

Nothing is hidden that won’t be revealed;
No inner ring without an outward call;
Jerusalem, Rome, Athens: all are healed;
And Nehemiah’s built the city’s wall.
The City that our poleis had concealed
We’ll rule by gift-right, or not rule at all.

So, once again admit that you don’t know.
Stop trying to buy the gift you can’t afford,
And meet at last the Way you ought to go.
Let Lady Wisdom lead you to her Lord.

Susannah Black is an editor at Mere Orthodoxy, Plough Quarterly, Breaking Ground, and New Polity. She is senior editor at the Davenant Press. Her writing has appeared in The Lamp, SpectatorUSA, First Things, ProvidenceAmherst MagazineFront Porch RepublicEthika PolitikaHuman Life ReviewThe American Conservative, and elsewhere. She blogs at Radio Free Thulcandra and tweets at @suzania.

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