“Gardens”

The gospel begins in a glorious garden.
For love they daily labored, the lightest of loads,
Their efforts governed by one solitary rule.
But teased and tempted, they transgressed, and failed the test,
Dooming all their descendants to so disobey,
Binding every baby born to share the bitter blame.

Another garden, of a moonlight evening,
Saw the Second Adam’s anguished sorrow, sighing, speak
And heard his humble, heartfelt prayer as hours grew short
Till the ill-bought betrayer brought his brutal band
To bind and drag him down to meet the dreadful doom
Which he, our righteous Champion, now chose to face.

Later, after he died our death, his dust was laid
In grief within a borrowed garden rock-cut grave,
But when Mary, still mourning, came to embalm him,
An angel, glorious, announced the awesome truth:
The Christ had risen in utter triumph from the tomb.

When all his plans at last are fully accomplished,
This wretched, weary world made new, we are assured,
The temple where our Lord will always dwell with us
Will sit within the splendor of a garden city.

I began this poem in the middle of last month when I thought of the concept for the first two stanzas, intending it to be for Good Friday. Then I ran into difficulty, and when I returned to it I had forgotten what meter I was in, so I had to adjust what I wrote in that sitting to match the rest; I also found that I had written a poem as suited to Eastertide as to Holy Week. So I dithered as to when to post it, and settled on today.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

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Hymn: “All glory, laud, and honor”

Continuing my series on great old hymns, since tomorrow is Palm Sunday, I decided to focus our attention today on a hymn about the Triumphal Entry. I covered my favorite Palm Sunday hymn four years ago, and another particularly suitable text the previous Advent, but this is also a favorite hymn, and unlike “Hosanna, loud hosanna” (which only dates to 1873) this is actually an old hymn (the Latin more than a thousand years older than that). Continue reading

“Crowds”

“Hosanna! Savior, hail!” the masses cried
To greet their rightful King, though in their hearts
They shouted more to strain the chafing bonds
That long-oppressive Rome had laid on them
Than from true fealty to God’s anointed.

Not one week later, these same thronging crowds,
Incited by their leaders’ selfish plots
And stirred up into frenzied lust for blood,
Now clamored for their King to be condemned,
Abused, accursed, and put to gruesome death.

As he trudged through the streets, and up the hill,
Then hung in agony for his last hours,
The multitudes passed by to mock his end
Or stood to shout more scorn, but he was silent,
Suffering the bitter fate he chose
Without complaint, and even speaking grace
To those who tortured him before he died.

At last he breathed his final mortal breath
And cried his work’s completion to the sky;
An earthquake marked the opening of the way
That greater multitudes thereafter tread
Who have been, by his sufferings, brought to peace.

Photograph of Golgotha by an unknown photographer

I had long intended to write a poem for Good Friday, or at least for Holy Week, as in several of the last few years, but the first glimmers of an idea for the above only came to me less than a week ago.

As always, I earnestly welcome your comments, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. If you’d like to read more of my poetry, you can read my archive (also organized in more manageable installments), follow this blog for (now only occasional) new poetry (among other things), or get my book, which contains over sixty of my best poems, each paired with a public-domain illustration or drawing. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

“Last Words”

The Lord of light and life has bared his back
To suffer spiteful scourging, spread his hands
In painful welcome wide beneath the nails,
And hung in human agony for hours.
But, as the soldiers gambled for his clothes,
His labored, anguished breath gave voice to grace:
“Forgive, because they know not what they do.”

Continue reading

“Passion”

Painting by Jacques Tissot

Mere days ago, when he rode up the hill,
The cheering throngs, with palms and wild acclaim
Did him the royal homage he was due.
And, when his foes rebuked him, Jesus said
That if the crowds held back Hosannas, praise,
Or shouts of acclamation, then the very rocks
On which the road was built would shout his fame.

But now, today, the Passover begun,
The fickle crowds now thirsty for his blood
And justice through their courts’ injustice done,
Creation shows this statement was no lie:
The very sun grows pale for these three hours;
So great her anguish at the pain of him
By whom she first was spoken into flame,
That darkness blots out every beam of light.

And when he breathes his last, his final words
Proclaiming that man’s debt is paid at last
And trusting all—his spirit—to God’s hands,
In grief and satisfaction the earth shakes
To mark its Maker’s death. At the same time
God tears the heavy curtain into two
That hangs within the temple’s Holy Place
to shield imperfect, mortal priests from death,
Because the perfect, final Sacrifice
Was offered and accepted, once for all,
To take away the sins of Adam’s sons.

I wrote this poem, for today’s occasion, this past week. It was initially sparked by reading the Palm Sunday text with fresh eyes, and perhaps a little by Rebecca Miller’s post about the Triumphal Entry (and her question about whether it should be Good Friday at all is also well worth reading). Over the next few days it mostly “wrote itself,” and then I just had to work through how to end it without breaking the meter.

As always, I earnestly welcome your (further) comments, suggestions, questions, critique, or other feedback about this or any other part of my work. (In other words, if you liked this poem, or you didn’t like it, or it made you think of something, or … please leave a comment to let me know.) If you liked this, you can follow this blog, which includes one of my poems every Friday, or read other poems I’ve written here on my blog (perhaps starting with those linked from one of the “archive ” installments, since the full archive is by now, at well over a hundred poems, somewhat daunting); I’d especially like to know, as part of my preparations for a collection, which poems you think are my best. You may also share this poem with others, subject to my sharing policy.

This poem is also mirrored on my wiki.