Another reflection from Chesterton on Saint Francis*, who among many other things, could be called a Performance Poet today.
Saint Francis hails the elements with an old familiarity that is almost an old frivolity. He calls them his Brother Fire and his Sister Water. So arises out of this almost nihilistic abyss the noble thing that is called Praise; which no one will ever understand while he identifies it with nature-worship or pantheistic optimism.
When we say that a poet praises the whole creation, we commonly mean only that he praises the whole cosmos. But this sort of poet does really praise creation, in the sense of the act of creation. He praises the passage or transition from nonentity to entity; there falls here also the shadow of that archetypal image of the bridge, which has given to the priest his archaic and mysterious name.
We in the West may be over-familiar with stories of Francis calling up his Brother Fire and his Sister Water, and this partly because we have lost touch with fire and water. How many households are all-electric and possibly only light candles on birthday cakes? Many have nowhere to light a fire, keeping warm and cooking without a flame, at the touch of a switch.
In our everyday lives water is tamed to flow through pipes, to be heated in a closed boiler, disposed of when dirty through more pipes; not the way to treat a sister. Still less the pollution in rivers and the ocean. Maybe we need to listen again.
We praise you, Lord, for all your creatures, especially for Brother Sun, who is the day through whom you give us light. And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour, of you Most High, he bears your likeness. We praise you, Lord, for Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and pure.
*Saint Francis of Assisi: The Life and Times of St. Francis” by G. K. Chesterton