Poetry for Lent
LAST column, I promised to share some of my favorite poems that were inspired by the events of Holy Week.
One is G.K. Chesterton’s “The Donkey.” The poem says he was born “when fishes flew and forests walked/and figs grew upon thorn/Some moment when the moon was blood.” He describes his own “monstrous head” and “sickening cry”, and how he is “the tattered outlaw of the earth.” But despite his miseries, he has a wonderful secret:
“Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s two poems-in-tandem, “The Look” and “The Meaning of the Look,” were written about Peter’s denial of Jesus. In the latter poem, the poet surmises what Jesus’ thoughts must have been when He gazed at Peter when the cock crowed:
“I THINK that look of Christ might seem to say—
‘Thou Peter! art thou then a common stone
Which I at last must break my heart upon,
For all God’s charge to His high angels may
Guard my foot better? Did I yesterday
Wash thy feet, my beloved, that they should run
Quick to deny me ’neath the morning sun?
And do thy kisses, like the rest, betray?
The cock crows coldly.—Go, and manifest
A late contrition, but no bootless fear!
For when thy final need is dreariest,
Thou shalt not be denied, as I am here;
My voice to God and angels shall attest,
Because I KNOW this man, let him be clear.’
John Donne wrote “Upon Annunciation and Passion Falling on One Day”, which took place in the year 1608. In this profound poem, John Donne refers to the juxtaposition of life and death, to “the Angel’s Ave and Consummatum est,” of the Blessed Virgin “reclused at home, public at Golgotha” and “seen at almost fifty and scarce fifteen.”
Finally, I’d like to share this moving poem entitled “Good Friday” by Christina Rossetti. I am sure she would not mind us making our own her prayer in this poem:
“Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter, weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon –
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.”
These are just a few poems among so many that give words for the many unspoken thoughts and feelings arising in our souls as we meditate on the events of Holy Week. May you all have a blessed Holy Week and a Happy Easter!