I just encountered this little poem for the first time today.
Ballad of the Sun
O well for him that loves the sun
That sees the heaven-race ridden or run,
The splashing seas of sunset won,
And shouts for victory.
God made the sun to crown his head,
And when death’s dart at last is sped,
At least it will not find him dead,
And pass the carrion by.
O ill for him that loves the sun;
Shall the sun stoop for anyone?
Shall the sun weep for hearts undone
Or heavy souls that pray?
Not less for us and everyone
Was that white web of splendor spun;
O well for him who loves the sun
Although the sun should slay.
-G. K. Chesterton
Short and sweet and very meaningful, as Chesterton’s poems always are. (Well they’re not always short, but they’re always good.) Chesteron was a lover of nature. At the same time, he was careful to divide that from worship of nature. Nature has great beauty and provides many good things for us. This is because God created nature in order to allow us life and enjoyment, and God has mercy and goodness. But nature itself does not have moral properties such as mercy and goodness. In fact, much in nature can be lethal.
Here Chesterton illustrates this with the example of the sun. The first two verses celebrates what’s good about the sun. Verse three points out that the sun is not a deity, as many of the ancients would have it. Praying to the sun, or expecting it to care about any person or thing, is pointless. Verse four ties it all together.