I mentioned yesterday that the "millennial" generation has grown up without "the language and imagination of Faith." Our poem today addresses this phenomenon head-on. What the "millennials" are experiencing is, of course, nothing new -- it's the product of centuries of change within western civilisation (which is now global civilisation). Even in the 1880s Edwin Arlington Robinson could write about the emptiness of secularism.
This poem, Credo, is a brilliant weaving together of the despair the poet feels about the loss of meaning in modern life, and the struggle of faith. There seems to be no hope at all in the sonnet until the last two lines. In a brilliant way, though, Robinson drops little phrases throughout the poem which seem to point particularly to the nativity of Christ: "Star" (line 1), "shrouded heavens" (2), "imperial music" (6), "angel fingers" (7), "the far-sent message of the years" (13), and "the coming glory of the Light" (14). All of these images refer to the Gospel account of the Shepherds and the Magi (themselves travellers and pilgrims) who attend the Christ child at his birth. The "star" guided the Wise Men and "imperial music" played by "fair and angel fingers" led the Shepherds to Christ, in accordance with the "far-sent message of the years."
This is what we mean when we talk about "the language and imagination of Faith." Even in the depths of doubt, anxiety and despair (which is the over-arching theme of the poem), the images present in his imagination unwittingly guide him to the final two lines.
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
I cannot find my way: there is no star
In all the shrouded heavens anywhere;
And there is not a whisper in the air
Of any living voice but one so far
That I can hear it only as a bar
Of lost, imperial music, played when fair
And angel fingers wove, and unaware,
Dead leaves to garlands where no roses are.
No, there is not a glimmer, nor a call,
For one that welcomes, welcomes when he fears,
The black and awful chaos of the night;
For through it all--above, beyond it all--
I know the far sent message of the years,
I feel the coming glory of the light.