Merton’s concept of solitude takes on a more universal tone as he relates it to interior freedom and the gift of oneself to society. He insists that persons in society are not mechanical units; but rather that their existence rests upon a sacred personal solitude. In the preface to Thoughts in Solitude Merton remarks that solitude is not just “a recipe for hermits. It has a bearing on the whole future of man and of his world.”
Merton related solitude to certain virtues, perhaps especially “poverty of the spirit. He composed a poem, “When in the soul of the serence disciple …”, with its first stanza:
When in the soul of the serene disciple
With no more Fathers to imitate
Poverty has become a success,
It is a small thing to say the roof is gone
He has not even a house.
(read the entire poem here)
“In Silence”, an especially beautiful poem, was also written during this time.