Please excuse me, but in place of a homily for today, I will recite “The Marshes of Glynn.” It is a meditation on the wide sea marshes just north of here separating Brunswick from the Atlantic..
Its author, Sidney Lanier, was born in Macon, Georgia in 1842. At eighteen he graduated first in his college class, and he next married his Mary, who then bore him the first of their four sons.
At nineteen he became a Confederate officer, charged with guiding English supply ships into a hidden Confederate port. Then, two years into the Civil War, he was captured at sea, and he was confined to a Union prison camp. There he came down with Tuberculosis, making it tough for him afterwards to support Mary and their sons.
At thirty-seven, two years before his death, he was teaching at Brunswick, when he wandered down to the edge of the seven miles of marsh grass that separate Brunswick. Georgia from the sea.He wrote
“Somehow my soul seems suddenly free from the weighing of fate and the sad discussion of sin, by the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of Glynn.”
The marshes had three different lessons for him. First, they told him to bear up and survive.
“Ye marshes, how candid and simple and nothing withholding and free, ye publish yourselves to the sky, and offer yourselves to the sea! Tolerant plains, that suffer the rains and the sea and the sun.
Ye spread and span like the catholic man who hath mightily won God out of knowledge, and good out of infinite pain, sight out of blindness and purity out of a stain.”
Secondly, he came to see that for the marsh grass and for the marsh hens the marshes were their only world and their only God. That had him resolving that he too would nest and fly in God.
“As the marsh hen secretly builds on the watery sod; behold, I will build me a nest on the greatness of God. I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh hen flies in the freedom that fills all the space twixt the marsh and the skies;
By so many roots as the marsh grass sends in the sod I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God. Oh, like to the greatness of God is the greatness within the range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.”
Thirdly, the tide’s coming in and flooding the marshes made him think of sleep coming in, and filling the souls of men.
And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep roll in on the souls of men. but who will reveal to our waking ken the forms that swim and the shapes that creep uuder the waters of sleep?
And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in on the length and the breadth of the marvelous marshes of Glynn.