Why windingquest?


Man hath still either toys or care;

He hath no root, nor place to one place is tie,

But ever restless and irregular

About this earth doth run and ride,

He knows he hath a home, but scarce knows where;

He says it is so far,

That he hath quite forgot how to go there.


He knocks at all doors, strays and roams;

Nay, hath not so much wit as some stones have,

Which in the darkest nights point to their homes,

By some hid sense their Maker gave;

Man is the shuttle, to whose winding quest

And passage through these looms

God ordered motion, but ordained no rest

Henry Vaughan 1621 – 95; Welsh poet and physician

Vaughan begins his poem ‘Man’ by noticing the stability of flowers and vegetation. They have their place. But not ‘Man’. We are never still. We are the home-seekers who never arrive home. We are in constant motion. The settler is a contradiction of human nature. It is the traveller who is truly human. Even the rocks that thrust through the hillsides of Wales have more a sense of where they belong than those who clamber over them.

As a shuttle thrusts tortuously through a loom so the human being is destined to weave intricate patterns of hope and suffering which shape our destiny.

This ‘winding quest’ became the title of a translation of the Old Testament written by a Dartmouth RE teacher, Alan Dale. It was ahead of its time both in its style and aim to open up the heart of those scriptures. But the title was remembered and fits my intention.

For if there is a straight road I invariably prefer the lane. It is not that it is ‘less well travelled’ but I judge it might be more interesting. For the highway which irons out the contours and removes the corner can become dull and tiring. A winding path may hide its surprises but they test the accepted and reveal what cannot be anticipated only expected.


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