Thursday, April 06, 2006

Poetry and the Passion

Involved today in contextual Bible study of St Mark's gospel, I found myself contemplating the enormity of the crucifixion and my own inability to look directly at what was going on. In one way, the story is so familiar that we are almost protected from the brutality and suffering involved, and it was hard to express a response that was other than horrified silence.

Perhaps it takes a great poet to respond for us. In his poem "The Musician", R.S.Thomas uses his customarily powerful imagery to suggest the whole sweep of God's involvement in the suffering of Christ and the totality of Christ's commitment to our redemption. It has for many years been a favourite of mine; I was delighted when a mixed ability class of S4 boys responded to it with empathy and understanding.

As Holy Week approaches, I would like to share this powerful poem with any to whom it may be new.


A memory of Kreisler once:
At some recital in this same city,
The seats all taken, I found myself pushed
On to the stage with a few others,
So near that I could see the toil
Of his face muscles, a pulse like a moth
Fluttering under the fine skin,
And the indelible veins of his smooth brow.

I could see, too, the twitching of the fingers,
Caught temporarily in art’s neurosis,
As we sat there or warmly applauded
This player who so beautifully suffered
For each of us upon his instrument.

So it must have been on Calvary
In the fiercer light of the thorns’ halo:
The men standing by and that one figure,
The hands bleeding, the mind bruised but calm,
Making such music as lives still.
And no one daring to interrupt
Because it was himself that he played
And closer than all of them the God listened.



  1. Oh the memories...!

    The idea of the poetry site was intended for complete strangers to comment. She wants all the advice she can get. She needs you and would gladly take advice from a master!

    Jimmy has already got involved.

  2. Ps - I always remember this poem because I couldn't do the thing with my disfigured jaw. One day eh?

  3. One thing that struck me is the use of 'the' before God in the last line. Not his or our, but the!

  4. Jimmy7:18 PM

    The Cross

    I have walked
    on the way of the Cross
    where the tangible presence
    of a suffocating darkness
    falls around Like a screen
    for the broken in heart
    yet the fingers still pierce
    and the distorted faces
    betray the malformed
    feeling and thought
    The grief is so crushing
    it shatters the rocks
    the thunder attempts
    to cry out in pain
    the elements gather
    in lamentation
    as creation
    attends to witness the scene
    And what is love
    that it can sentence
    the Living God to death
    and can that love
    make pointing fingers
    direct a soul to him
    and can that love
    make distorted faces
    shine in glory
    should they walk
    on the way of the Cross.

  5. bill - I don't know whether that might suggest the universal nature of god - rather than diminishing the idea by making it "ours" or whatever.

    Jimmy - thank you for that. It would, I think, make a great piece to sing - especially at the bit "what is love/that it can sentence ..."