General (Vol. 2)

I Cannot Bear to See the News

  1. Sometimes I cannot bear to see the news
    Of rape and murder past the mind's cool tact,
    And feel my studied gentleness give way
    In anger at my helplessness to act:
    The cheque is written, the petition signed,
    The deputation sent, the press in rage;
    Yet this is self indulgent, Far too late
    To turn back, halt or even to assuage.
  2. There must be more than personal redress
    For my frustrating impotence to act,
    More than the lack of satisfying goals
    Where those who give can see a sharp impact:
    The flights take off, the convoy makes its way,
    The money pours, the righteous mobilise;
    But retrospective action cannot wipe
    The stain of quiet days and compromise.
  3. Lord, You know more than any creature here
    The limit of our vision and our scope
    For you prescribed them in Your loving care
    Enabling us to face despair with hope:
    But why can you not transfer suffering
    From women raped and murdered by the score
    To those of us who bear such little pain
    That for Your sake we could absorb much more?
  4. What can be said for suffering such as this?
    Is it a visceral parable for sin?
    If so, why do the wicked seem to thrive
    By forcing innocent victims to give in?
    We must accept the grandeur of Your scheme
    Not seeing it in bargaining or chess
    But it is hard to understand the shares
    Of rape and murder, health and happiness.
  5. Must we then give all we have to the poor
    And stand as human shields before the weak?
    Are we to understand in literal terms
    The depth of the commitment that you seek?
    No need to say, the silence is enough,
    The means at our disposal are immense,
    We compromise with comfort here on earth
    But hope still to receive Your recompense.
  6. Inflame our hearts with love of sacrifice,
    Bless us with fitness for a higher league,
    Help us to fight the devil's subtlest wiles
    Of helplessness and compassion fatigue:
    That we may start by saving one more life,
    By stopping one more soldier in the field,
    By understanding that Your word is fast
    That what we give accords with what You yield.