This I Believe

Root, E. Merrill (Edward Merrill)


  • Poetry editor of The American Friend, E. Merrill Root describes an experience of crossing the Atlantic under threat of submarine attack, and realizing, in the midst of fear, that life contains incredible beauty.
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And now, This I Believe, the living philosophies of thoughtful men and women, presented in the hope they may strengthen your beliefs so that your life may be richer, fuller, happier. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. E. Merrill Root is a poet. As the author of six volumes of verse, and an editor of The Measure, he has had a large share in the shaping of modern American poetry. The richness of his imagery and his sensitiveness to the reader have won him wide critical acclaim. He lives in Richmond, Indiana. This is Merrill Root's creed.
A symbol of what I believe today came to me years ago when I was too young to understand it fully. With
the pessimism of youth, I thought that I doubted life, and I sank into a dark center of despair. I was crossing the Atlantic on a night of war on a ship that was always the possible target of a torpedo. So every door and window was double-draped, lest light should summon death, while on deck every flair of a match or every flame butt of a cigarette was forbidden. A ship of darkness, we plunged through the dangerous dark. And very young, very frightened, I walked the deck alone, my mind as dark as my world.
Yet, as I stared down at the warm ocean, I saw it smitten with a plunging ship into a delicate phosphorescence of splendor. Some aquatic life along our path turned the darkness to a road of gleaming light. And gazing at
our pathway paved with miniature misty moons, I transcended my fear, my danger, my despair. I knew suddenly that even in our darkness hours, life is invaded by a flying splendor.
As the years advanced, bringing me ever richer life and ever greater joy, I have still more clearly known this perpetual invasion by a secret glory. A flying splendor surrounds, pervades, and disturbs me like a miracle. A someone before whose secret presence our scanty realism merely caricatures reality. Our timid naturalism merely libels nature. I move into every hour with a sense of a secret presence that speaks in revelation. I must be alive to every intonation, humble, sensitive, childlike. A lute suspended in the wind. A May time tree
answering the sun with responsive bloom. For this flying splendor forever reaches out to make me incredulous in my incredulity, to flood my poverty of faith with wealth of fulfillment.
Suddenly in leafless November woods, I see the black alders, unseen all summer, glow with berries like Theus flames. I allow my days to be mean, to be dull, and yet I see with wonder that each is still framed by the awful rose of dawn or dusk. I hear it’s said that the world ends with a whimper. And then I read of a GI, throwing his body on a bursting grenade that his buddies may live. Thus I find ever the invasion of a glory.
These flying gleams I know come from the horizon. They stream from areas vaster than any we yet know. They are too transcendent for one life to grasp, too great for one world to hold. So I feel myself, the pilgrim of heaven, the adventurer into a dawn that is forever. Death is only a door of pain into the world whence the flying splendor enters this. Thus, grief intensifies the glory. Thus, tragedy is man’s highest hour of triumph. For the grief, like the glory, leads the blossom from the root and carries the origin into the goal. I follow the flying glory like a slender golden thread. It never breaks and it leads me, at last, to God.
That was Quaker poet, E. Merrill Root. He is poetry editor of The American Friend.