Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Heaven Our Haven

April 22nd, 2009 by Adam G.

Heaven Haven, by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

I HAVE desired to go
Where springs not fail,
To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
And a few lilies blow.

And I have asked to be
Where no storms come,
Where the green swell is in the havens dumb,
And out of the swing of the sea.

If I had to guess, I’d guess that Tolkien read this poem and it influenced his conception of his elves, especially the gray haven to which they can always go to avoid the “very storm of Mordor” and retreat to the green island across the sea “where the leaves fall not.” (Compare this also with Hopkins’ “golden grove unleaving”).

The poem also has interesting echoes from Stevenson’s epitaph–”home is the sailor, home from the sea” and to all the many hymns that compare salvation to reaching the harbor from out of the open ocean.

Unlike many of Hopkins’ poems, the language in this poem isn’t difficult. The only real problem is the line “springs not fail,” which has two different poetic twists in it. Hopkins has taken the conventional “springs do not fail” and put it in the poetic form “springs fail not.” He then changed the word order to “springs not fail.”

This poem is supposed to be about a nun taking the veil. Not a situation that really moves me, I admit. In Mormonism, as much as we may admire the dedication of monks and nuns and sympathize with their desire to live in a more Christian environment, we see their retreat from the world as a kind of failure. God wants us learning courage on the front lines, not deserting to the rear.

But its the universal aspects of the poem that attract. We all feel the need for a haven. We all look forward to heavenly peace.

Which brings out a bit of a contradiction in the gospel’s view of the afterlife. The scriptures tell us that heaven is a haven where we rest. The righteous shall sit down in his kingdom, to go no more out.”

At the same time, the restored gospel promises us that through the grace of Christ we acquire ever more capability and an ever broader sphere of activity. We join God, who works. We become angels and Gods and members of the council of heaven.

Perhaps the discrepancy is merely a difference between the kingdoms and mansions of heaven. Some worthily rest, some even more worthily labor. But I wonder if it may be that nothing is so restful as doing God’s work in a sure knowledge that success and His praise are assured.

Comments (6)
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April 22nd, 2009 08:52:50

April 22, 2009

And then there is the concept of Valhalla, wherein warriors engage in eternal combat with each other for sport in a giant hall presided by Odin. Also cool.

Adam Greenwood
April 22, 2009

From Private Barry Benson, Army of Northern Virginia, 1880

“In time, even death itself might be abolished; who knows but it may be given to us after this life to meet again in the old quarters, to play chess and draughts, to get up soon to answer the morning role call, to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade, and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle.

Who knows but again the old flags, ragged and torn, snapping in the wind, may face each other and flutter, pursuing and pursued, while the cries of victory fill a summer day? And after the battle, then the slain and wounded will arise, and all will meet together under the two flags, all sound and well, and there will be talking and laughter and cheers, and all will say, Did it not seem real? Was it not as in the old days?”

You don’t have to be Norse to want Valhalla. But there’s no warrant in the scriptures for it. I think Valhalla is, in Mormon terms, part of the Telestial or Terrestrial kingdom. Its finding something of real beauty and power and settling for it, when you ought to want more. Its essentially a pagan longing, in the way that pseudo-Spengler defines pagan.

Speaking of Valhalla, check out this Norse take on Clarke’s ‘Childhood’s End,’ in which we all fly off to psychically commune with some galactic mind in the sky:

n the shocking ending of the wondrous book THE WORM OROBOROS, E.R. Eddison, who perfectly captures the Norse spirit, has the gods reward the heroic virtues of his grand and warlike heroes, not with a paradise of endless life and endless peace, but with a Valhalla of endless life and endless war. If Arthur C. Clarke had been writing for a Viking audience, the finale of his book would have been that the Children of Men, the Supermen, would be drawn up into heaven as Einhenjar, and the Overmind would have been the One-Eyed One, the Hanged God, the Lord of Ravens. Accompanied by the horrifying and beautiful singing of the Valkyries, the spirit beings of the supermen, having put away all of the fears and scruples of the under-men, the Nithlings, would have stormed away across the heaven, while trumpets roared, streaming like warrior angels toward the doomed home stars of the Kzinti and the Klingon and the brutal Eddorian, conquering and to conquer, setting whole galaxies afire, to fight the wars of the star-gods forever!


Raymond Takashi Swenson
April 22, 2009

The image of going in and sitting down is of finding refuge in the tent of a desert chieftain like Abraham or his descendant Jethro. But when one joins the household and is provided sustenance, one also goes out with the sheep and gets other assignments even more challenging.

When my Mom heard about the fact that we were going to be working hard in the Spirit World, she decided to spend more time kicking back here in mortality.

It seems pretty clear that most Christians think that eternal life with God involves a perpetual church service, on where having a resurrected, physical body is not essential in any way. Anglican bishop N.T. Wright has been criticized for writing in his recent book, Surprised by Hope, that the Bible clearly teaches that we are destined to be resurrected physically to inhabit a renewed earth, which will also be restored by God. He thinks that understanding that our destiny is tied to our planet should make us more careful with it. He has been denounced for sounding like a Mormon!

After all, what is the point of physical resurrection unless we are going to be interacting with material things in the realm of god’s kingdom?

In the meantime, everything we hear about the Spirit World, from D&C 138 to individual experiences of spirits of the deceased coming back with messages for their children, tells us that they are busy in the work of offering the gospel to all of the billions of mankind who reside there.

We exult a bit when we think of the 13 million or so members of the Church around the world, but the place where most “saints” live is in the Spirit World, where there was never a Great Apostacy, where the original apostles of Jesus and the Nephite disciples and the original disciples among the Lost 10 tribes have been working on the conversion of all mankind for two thousand years. And they get fresh opportunities every day. We Latter-day Saints are just an outpost here in mortality, a necessary place where essential things must be done, but we are never going to be nearly as successful in spreading the gospel as when we join the mission on the other side among our ancestors.

It seems to me that such preaching will especially be done along family lines, both from converted children to grandparents, and from grandparents to children. After all, since we won’t get our full memories back until the resurrection, when we are in the Spirit World we will be operating with our limited intelligence and knowledge, traditions, language, and culture. Those best suited to reach us will be those with whom we share those traits.

Since we Mormons are the only church that is confident of the opportunity for our distant ancestors to repent and be saved, we should not be surprised that we will be enlisted in that effort to save most of mankind. My guess is that people will need to be trained before they get resurrected, given the full opportunity to accept the gospel before their status is fixed eternally.

Then there are all the children who die before maturity. They need to be educated and taught within their residual mortal limitations.

The work of taking salvation to all is going to keep us busy.

Adam Greenwood
April 22, 2009

We Latter-day Saints are just an outpost here in mortality,

Well put.

Velvet Element
April 23, 2009

The Innocence Mission uses an excellent adaptation of this poem for lyrics in “No Storms Come”. One of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard.

[Ed.-- see here]

Hans Hansen
April 23, 2009

“There are also interesting echoes to Stevenson’s epitaph–”home is the sailor, home is the sea” and to all the many hymns that compare salvation to reaching the harbor from out of the open sea.”

Let us also view Stevenson’s epitaph in its complete form, since it was misquoted above:

Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie;
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me;
“Here he lies, where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”
As for Valhalla; “You don’t have to be Norse to want Valhalla.”

I AM NORSE, but I don’t necessarily want Valhalla. Don’t forget that after battle each day, the slain are resurrected and you feast on endless wine and mead and wild boar in Valhalla. I assume that includes an all-you-can-eat buffet!

[Ed.-H. H, you’re right, that’s a typing error. I’ll change it.]

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