Poem #21: I Can Trust by Daniel Webster Davis

Estimated Reading Time:  3 minutes
Book cover to African American Poetry - An Anthology, 1773-1927, Dover Edition.

TitleI Can Trust

Daniel Webster Davis

Source:  African-American Poetry: An Anthology, 1773-1927. Dover Thrift Editions. Ed. Joan R. Sherman. 1997. ISBN:  978-0-486-29604-3.

Link: You can find this poem on this website.


I can not see why trials come,
And sorrows follow thick and fast;
I can not fathom His designs,
Nor why my pleasures can not last,
Nor why my hopes so soon are dust,
But, I can trust.

When darkest clouds my sky o'er hang,
And sadness seems to fill the land,
I calmnly trust His promise sweet,
And cling to his ne'er failing hand,
And, in life's darkest hour, I'll just
Look up and trust.

I know my life with Him is safe,
And all things still must work for good
To whose who love and serve our God,
And lean on Him as children should,
Though hopes decay and turn to dust,
I still will trust.


It's funny, some themes for poetry are almost never out of season.  Contemplations on love, death, nature, and well, faith as we see in this one. However, I wonder about the faith and trust in this poem and absence of reflection.  

Right out of the gate, the speaker admits that they cannot understand why there are challenges and tribulations along with why the good times cannot stay as such.  However, he just trusts its the will of God.  Later on, he explains that "all things still must work for good to whose who love and serve our God".  But there seems to be an absence of whether, he understands. That is, is it just the speaker's job to take what happens or to be transformed or to learn by what happens? To understand what is the growth that the speaker needed to experience?

Maybe that is the educator in me or one whose faith is experienced differently.  It may also be that the sorrows and trials that the speaker refers to are beyond my comprehension and may be near impossible to easily find useful meaning in.  And that is quite fair to consider. There can be horrors to experience that feel like have no meaning, purpose or reason.  But if one can ground it in their God's power for some higher purpose, it could also provide the means to survive it--not just in the moment itself but in the aftermath when one has survived but still must relive the events through recall. Thus, to be able to look past the trauma and have faith that meaning is there, even if one never fully understands, is both an act of faith and salvation.

Those are my thoughts.  How do you interpret the poem?

About the reflections
This poem is part of a 365 day challenge project that focuses on a poem a day.  Similar projects have included short shorties and photo reflections. Part of the intention of this year's project is to develop a better appreciation and means of reflecting on poetry, something that has never been a strong suit for me.  These reflections therefore do not represent a definitive assessment of the work by me. They are merely an opportunity for me to have a public conversation about what they mean in order to help myself better understand them and mayhaps have a conversation with readers for further insight.  

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