© 2002, Creekside Press


by Cranston Stroup


When mustard's brazen yellow floods the hills;
And lupines mirror patches of the sky;
While poppies catch the arrows of the sun
In prism shields of dew, wild onion runs
In purple carpets over emerald knolls;
And maiden-hair is found by every stream:
Who doubts that God has ordered all the Spring,
And laid His beauty breathless on the earth?
For it was Spring upon a pristine world
When that first flower in loveliness appeared,
A small, imperfect pattern of the bloom
That soon would riot over all the hills.
Give God a flower and he can make a world.
So beauty blossomed in the mind of God,
ąTil he could make all beauty from the bloom
Of that first struggling, wistful bud.
For it is much to have a flowering mind.
And God, looking down upon the pioneer,
Was pleased, and knew that it was very good.

See the instant change it made. For here
Upon the earth did beauty fall in rain.
And every ray of sunshine brought a gift
From out the crystal loveliness within
The mind of God. God smiled. The world was filled
With beauty. For there butterflies appeared
Sedately mating with the flowers. And here
That little mite of restless energy,
The hummingbird, was visiting the blooms.
The apple trees had blossoms of their own.
The plum tree shyly hid beneath her gown
A secret as a bride before a feast.
The larks, compelled to artless music, sang
Upon a thousand shelves of air. A thrush
Abided by her nest and caroled low
Of wonders that were then awakening
This lyric mind of God. A robin called
From off a snow bank that the Spring had come.
And God declared the sunset and the dawn
From resurrected beauty of the flowers.

The lights and shadows fall across the hills,
The woods are checkered shade and sunlight, too.
God is no novice, playing timid art,
But like the master makes the roses bloom
From out a skull. He orders Winter cold,
And then does not forget the Spring. He builds
A giant oak, but cannot fail to grip
Its throat with Spanish moss. He makes no fish
Without the otter, and no sheep without
The wolf. The robin sings, but sings upon
A snowbank. Weeds obliterate the rose.
Mockingbirds warble on a dung heap. Fangs
Destroy what love creates. God watches while
A blizzard sweeps across the North. He sees
A thousand sparrows fall, frozen, to earth.
Still he stops to say: "My sparrows must
Have warmer, closer feathers for next year."

But first give earth a carpet made of grass,
And fill the earth with flowery magic. Give
To every tree unique and lovely bloom.
Give orchids for the tropics, and violets for
The snow. Give oranges for the South, and corn
For northern lands, where sunshine is as gold.
And what a world there is for God's delight!

Go to Part IV

To Part I, Part II, Part IV

"So beauty blossomed in the mind of God." Part III, line 14. Morning glory. Watercolor with egg tempera by Jeff Chapman-Crane.   For a larger image, click here.


Commentary, continued from Part II

As a young Christian philosopher, Cranston Stroup was fascinated by the scientific theories of biological evolution and of the origins of the universe. He held no sympathy for fundamentalism. Indeed the religious culture within his family supported intellectual openness and encouraged vigorous engagement with the forces shaping society. Cranston resolved to undertake an epic poem opening a vision that might dissolve tensions between scientific theories of creation and the deepest truths within the Christian faith. I believe that he may have prepared this poem as a dissertation to complete his work in philosophy and to secure his Bachelor's degree from Stanford University.

In 1927 Alfred North Whitehead published Religion in the Making. In this imaginative treatise the British mathematician and philosopher proposed that God is interdependent with the world and develops along with the world's evolution. Cranston's poem suggests the influence of this book. Whitehead's analysis would, several years later, inspire a stream of Protestant reflection that came to be called "process theology." However even the earliest "process theologians" emerged after Cranston's composition.

When we attempt to probe the nature of God, "We come to comprehension's brink," as Cranston put it. Beyond that brink, poetry has clear advantages over systematic theology: This may be why the Bible contains so much of the former and so little of the latter. A poet can reach outward with all the color and evocative associations that words may inspire, while the philosopher or theologian must dangle stair-steps of rationality into the unknown.

Continues with Part IV

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