Abou Ben Adhem
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While I was writing Meditation 219, and subsequently writing its follow-up, Meditation 228, Leigh Hunt's classic poem, Abou Ben Adhem, constantly came to mind. I don't know about today, but in the '50s this was a staple in primary school readers.
Abou Ben Adhem
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:--
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"--The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)
The God here is the polar opposite of the one discussed in those two previous articles; the opposite of the one who places faith ahead of works, the opposite of the one who demands our love - or else. And yet, in my experience, most Christians seem to believe their God operates as does the God in Leigh Hunt's poem, not as the doctrines of their faith would have them believe.