Sunday, March 23, 2008

Three Poems for Easter

Three poems from several of my favorite writers came across my Google Reader today which I thought worth repeating here for Easter:

Seven Stanzas At Easter

By John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
thatpierceddied, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

He Rests in Rising

by Wendell Berry

What hard travail God does in death!
He strives in sleep, in our despair,
And all flesh shudders underneath
The nightmare of His sepulcher.

The earth shakes, grinding its deep stone;
All night the cold wind heaves and pries;
Creation strains sinew and bone
Against the dark door where He lies.

The stem bent, pent in seed, grows straight
And stands. Pain break in song. Surprising
The merely dead, graves fill with light
Like opened eyes. He rests in rising.


by Anthony Esolen

Rise, heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise,
That as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and, much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The cross taught all wood to resound his name
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long;
Or since all music is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I got me flowers to strew thy way,
I got me boughs off many a tree,
But thou wast up by break of day
And brought'st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and the East, perfume,
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavor?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.


Tim said...

The Updike is one of my favorites: I post it on my office door every Easter.

I have nothing against Anthony Esolen, who may be a fine poet for all I know -- but third poem is actually "Easter" by George Herbert.

Martin Cothran said...


I got that one on my Google Reader and there was no attribution, so I assumed it was Esolen. Thanks for spotting it.