Babbling Like an Idiot

Maybe beauty is not enough. Maybe it’s a lot of babbling like an idiot.

I found these beauties on my run this evening.


They reminded me of a poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, one I love for its turn of phrase, and one whose deep yearning I understand even as I push back against its hopelessness.


To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily.
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death.
But what does that signify?
Not only under ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.
Edna St. Vincent Millay

Perhaps the poet herself did not really mean it; perhaps she saw life as “an empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs” only in the shadow of some personal sorrow.

I hope so.

Maybe she couldn’t see it, but her poetry was a kind of ostentatiously excessive strewing of beauty not that much unlike the flowers of April. I like to think that of the gifts God has given me. They are not particularly useful, in the way the crafting of houses is useful, or the growing of food, or the engineering of technology, or the education of children are useful. I craft words. I create images. You cannot eat them. You cannot live in them.

Sometimes it’s easy to think these things are less important. Maybe this beauty is not enough. Maybe it’s a lot of babbling like an idiot.

But in my sanest, clearest moments, I know this is where I differ with St. Vincent Millay. I know for sure that beauty, where we find it, isn’t meaningless.

It’s a promise that one day all things will be renewed.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:5, ESV

2 thoughts on “Babbling Like an Idiot

  1. Your post reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago with a college friend. I had traded in my path as a student of biology for a double major in biblical studies and English literature. My friend was an engineering major and was disturbed with the impracticality of my decision. He was also disturbed that a friend of his should be caught reading a book called The Secret Garden. He asked me why I made this decision. I answered without thinking about how he would perceive my answer: “I chose the path of stories because to me it’s the most practical.” This didn’t go over very well with my friend. He wondered how many bridges these stories would build or wells they might dig. I was pretty befuddled by his answer and didn’t have a good reply. I now wish I would have said something like this: “I chose the path of stories because it’s saving my life.” That wasn’t something I understood completely at the time, but it was what I meant by my answer. (And stories, in the end, led me back to my love of living things of all shapes and sizes, but viewed through a new lens.) Does spring and its beauties come babbling like an idiot? Do life-giving stories and poems? If such is the case, I’m glad of it. Without the idiots, I doubt I would have discovered the reasons to go on living.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s