Harley White


Vagrant Child - Poem by Harley White

Let's suppose there was a man
who when but a youngster ran
far away from all he knew—
father, home, and country, too—

onward to another land
in his journeying unplanned.
Then he wandered to and fro
for some fifty years or so

all around the neighboring
regions, where with laboring
he would search for any kind
of food and clothes he could find.

On he roamed from place to place,
oft without a resting space
just to pause and catch his breath,
feeling nearly starved to death.

Sometimes there was naught to eat,
barely shelter in the street.
Neither was there work for him
to subsist in life and limb

but the most menial chores.
With a body strewn with sores,
he was quite a sorry sight,
in this miserable plight.

Meanwhile the father sadly
had kept on seeking madly
for news of his long lost son,
asking each and everyone

where'er he went thereabouts
for clues to his whereabouts.
He sought in all directions
for pointers to connections

that could offer him the key
as to where his son might be.
Yet, despite his querying,
it was only wearying.

Then, exhausted by this quest,
finally he stopped to rest
in a city where he would
build afresh as best he could

a palatial home in size,
in a style that satisfies
earthly cravings and desires
plus what humankind requires.

With enormous wealth supplied,
he had riches far and wide—
silver, pearls, jewels untold,
warehouses crammed full of gold,

opulence overflowing,
and reserves ever growing,
plus a host of aides to do
all that they were bidden to.

Foreign holdings he possessed.
Delegates at his behest
handled the financial needs
for his enterprising deeds.

As the father older grew,
frequently he thought anew
with a heaviness of heart
of his son so long apart

from his fond protective care
and the burdens he must bear.
Worry plagued him night to morn.
Oh the father felt forlorn!

Plus it gave him quite a fright
sensing that the waning light
of approaching death was near.
Yet his son did not appear.

Thus his assets would be left
unattended and bereft
of anyone to take charge
or their profits to enlarge,

and he wished to leave some kind
of inheritance behind
for his son, for whom he pined,
always keeping him in mind,

while saying nothing ever
about him, or his never-
ending searches everywhere,
in his fatherly despair.

The destitute son arrived
one day where his father thrived,
having settled down at last
in a habitation vast.

Yes, ultimately he came
to be at the very same
mansion adorned to the hilt
that the wealthy man had built.

He saw the elder inside
of a courtyard long and wide,
sitting on a lion throne
with a stool of precious stone,

on which he could rest his feet
in a mode royally meet.
The son remained at the gate,
so awed by the grand estate

with its luxury ornate
and of the dominion great
he feared the elder must hold
that he shivered as from cold.

‘Why have I come to this place? '
thought the son, hiding his face
which betrayed his keen alarm.
He felt he would come to harm

or perhaps be arrested
if he merely requested
some employment at a task.
No, he dare not even ask.

As the son was faint-hearted,
he hurriedly departed.
But the elder had caught sight
of the person taking flight

whom he knew to be his boy,
and he overflowed with joy,
while the son withdrew in haste,
dreading that he might be placed

in jail, under lock and key;
thus he lost no time to flee.
Hence the father sent some men
to directly seek him then.

The attendants found him fast,
whereupon the son, aghast
and bewildered already,
felt himself so unsteady,

undernourished and unsound,
that he toppled to the ground,
out of courage, out of breath,
certain he'd be put to death.

The elder from a distance
saw the frantic resistance
of his panic-stricken child
and the agitation wild

with which he had reacted.
So the father retracted
his anterior decree,
saying, let the man go free.

For the elder could perceive
that his son would not believe
that he could deserve to share
in wealth to which he was heir

as offspring, alike in fate
to a mighty potentate.
The son, as fast as he could,
fled to a poor neighborhood.

So deluded was his mind
that he'd long ago resigned
himself to a life of pain,
where his wishes were in vain.

But the elder man was wise
and decided to devise
as an expediency
not to immediately

make his identity known—
for now to leave him alone.
He would not openly say
to his pauper son that they

were kin closely related.
No, this would not be stated,
until he had gained his trust
and proved he was kind and just,

which could happen, thought the man,
through a carefully laid plan.
He'd make a ruse to lure him,
a mode to reassure him,

so that the son would discern
that he could safely return.
To begin the scheme he'd hatched,
the elder promptly dispatched

some aides emaciated
who then ingratiated
themselves with the son slowly.
Their appearances lowly

did not seem to pose a threat
when telling him they could get
steady work for him to do
as part of the labor crew

at the elder's spacious home.
Thus he would not need to roam
all about, year after year,
looking for jobs far and near

plus some place where he could stay,
and he would earn twice the pay
he was presently making.
It was his for the taking,

if he would willingly work,
and his duties never shirk.
The son accepted with joy,
not knowing his father's ploy.

Though work was mainly cleaning,
it didn't seem demeaning.
Nor did the son feel debased
clearing away filth and waste.

The vagrant was simply glad
for whatever job he had…
Looking from the windowsill,
the elder saw him fulfill,

for a small compensation,
any base occupation,
drudgery, or dreary chore.
For his son he wanted more!

So one day the elder came
to the son, dressed in the same
humble and dirty attire,
and told him he'd get higher

wages and lodgings better,
since he seemed a go-getter.
He said to him kindly, "I'm
quite old, while you're in your prime.

"Like a son you'll be treated,
always specially greeted.
You'll come and go as you please
without feeling ill at ease."

At the end of twenty years,
he was well above his peers,
no longer dressed in tatters,
managing household matters.

Soon the son had also learned
how the elder's commerce earned
gains through buying and selling.
Still he stayed in his dwelling

apart from the huge mansion
He cared not for expansion
of his own situation
and felt no deprivation

though he lived in nothing but
a very primitive hut.
‘These things don't belong to me,
nor do I want them, ' thought he.

When the father was assured
that his son's mind had matured,
he called a convocation
to make the declaration

that he would soon be dying
and thus would be relying
thenceforward upon his son
who in former times had run

away and suffered great lack,
till by chance he had come back
to his father's home anew
turning up out of the blue.

Thereon the elder revealed
what had erstwhile been concealed
from his offspring included
who'd before been deluded,

but now could be clearly shown
that the assets were his own.
In the presence of the throng,
the father announced the strong

relation the two men had
and divulged how he was glad
to pass along to his son
his wealth, when his days were done.

The son was filled with delight
that he'd been born with the right
he did not anticipate
to inherit riches great.

In an equivalent way,
the ultimate teachings say
that we've already acquired
the good fortune we desired.

While we may not realize
all the daimoku implies,
Nichiren clearly stated
(what scholars have debated

with their so-called wisdom rife)
that the true essence of life
and the Dharma unsurpassed,
with boundless treasures amassed,

the title and theme to know,
is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
It was the Daishonin's vow
for the ever-present now

to bestow this phrase profound
that we voice aloud in sound,
as the path for humankind
of enlightenment to find.

Topic(s) of this poem: narrative

Form: Narrative


Poet's Notes about The Poem

This parable is found in Chapter Four of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Lotus Sutra) . Below is a passage of the commentary by Nichiren, from The Dharma Flower Sutra Seen through the Oral Transmission of Nichiren Daishōnin - Translated by Martin Bradley (link shown below) .

"The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra states that, although there are various layers of explanations of the Buddha's loving-kindness, the real point is that the seeds that are sown in the ever-present infinite in time are the returning of our lives and devoting them to the dimension in which the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect occurs (Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō) . So, whatever form beings and things may have, they all follow this same fundamental path.

"Now, in the same way, Nichiren gives to the whole of humankind the teaching of the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō) ."

This can be seen at the link for... dharmagateway.org... then at the link for... 'Dharma Flower Sutra'... then at the link for... '4th Chapter on Faith leading to Understanding'...

Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō) .

http: //www.dharmagateway.org/daimoku.htm

Comments about Vagrant Child by Harley White

  • Kim Barney (11/15/2015 10:53:00 PM)


    Very nice. Spock the Vegan told me about this poem or I never would have seen it. Well done. (Report) Reply

    Harley White Harley White (1/4/2017 8:52:00 AM)

    I appreciate your telling this, Kim. And thank you very much...

    9 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Spock The Vegan (11/13/2015 10:51:00 AM)


    Very, very good.10+++ (Report) Reply

    Harley White Harley White (1/4/2017 8:49:00 AM)

    Thank you, kind sir, for your encouraging words...

  • Shakil Ahmed (11/13/2015 10:25:00 AM)


    nice poem, beautiful end rhyme, thanks for sharing, (Report) Reply

    Harley White Harley White (1/4/2017 8:50:00 AM)

    Thank you for your gracious comment and for reading it...

Read all 6 comments »



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Poem Submitted: Friday, November 13, 2015

Poem Edited: Wednesday, January 4, 2017


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