Rebuke | poetry/text

The Elder’s Rebuke

Beatrix Kicken reflects on the razor sharp rebuke of disapproval.

Emily Bronte describes a rebuke in such subtlety and persistence that the reader can’t help but to feel the sting. Each line makes the case for a turn of heart, spelling out the perilous dangers of earthy pleasures when contrasted with the prizes of heavenly virtues.

But she also weaves into this the contrast between youth and age, wizened humility in tension with impetuous youth.

A rebuke is a sharp disapproval whose argument is razor sharp, steeled by its indignance at something which is disappointing and beguiling. Peter sees immediately all that is wrong with this event, he sees with his earthly eyes, with his impetuous temporal ‘youth’ which is met not with a change of behaviour as desired but a counter-rebuke.

We witness in the Gospel a sword-fight of sharp sightedness – one that plays to the norms of the world and the other that honours the forms of heaven.

by Beatrix Kicken

The Elder’s Rebuke by Emily Bronte

“Listen! When your hair, like mine,
Takes a tint of silver gray;
When your eyes, with dimmer shine,
Watch life’s bubbles float away:
When you, young man, have borne like me
The weary weight of sixty-three,
Then shall penance sore be paid
For those hours so wildly squandered;
And the words that now fall dead
On your ear, be deeply pondered—
Pondered and approved at last:
But their virtue will be past!
“Glorious is the prize of Duty,
Though she be ’a serious power’;
Treacherous all the lures of Beauty,
Thorny bud and poisonous flower!
“Mirth is but a mad beguiling
Of the golden-gifted time;
Love—a demon-meteor, wiling
Heedless feet to gulfs of crime.
“Those who follow earthly pleasure,
Heavenly knowledge will not lead;
Wisdom hides from them her treasure,
Virtue bids them evil-speed!
“Vainly may their hearts repenting.
Seek for aid in future years;
Wisdom, scorned, knows no relenting;
Virtue is not won by fears.”
Thus spake the ice-blooded elder gray;
The young man scoffed as he turned away,
Turned to the call of a sweet lute’s measure,
Waked by the lightsome touch of pleasure:
Had he ne’er met a gentler teacher,
Woe had been wrought by that pitiless preacher.

Emily Bronte