"Teach Us To Sit Still"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The poet's spiritual experience, actually a developing faith in a redemptive experience, takes him through several mental and emotional steps, each disclosing a significant state of mind, each in its order imperative to the total experience. The first step essentially involves a recognition of the nature of things as they exist. The second step is, in facing the fact of physical death and its consequence, the establishment of a faith in something beyond the flesh. Finally the poet must acknowledge the medium through which to effectuate and nourish his faith. In the first section of the poem the poet recognizes the limitations of his own powers and accepts the fact that life is prescribed by the commonplace laws of time and space. Although in this section he rejects the ideal altogether, as the poem progresses he is to convert his former yearnings and aspirations into a secure, though unverifiable, faith based upon traditional Christianity. In this first section he prays for mercy and deliverance from the critical, ineffective restlessness of his spirit. His prayer includes the request:

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.