Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #9

As indicated in the side column (the What We're Currently Reading section), in these last few weeks I have been going back and dipping into the profound, and vastly underappreciated, poems of "the colossal genius," G. K. Chesterton. Anyone who has ever read more than a few words of Chesterton knows that he possessed this remarkable ability -- and in this regard I would say that no English writer has ever been his equal -- to combine good, pure, rollicking humor and fun with penetrating human insight and profound spiritual wisdom.

This short poem is a great example of what I mean. You read it, and at first you think it's just going to be all wit a whimsy, and you enjoy the ride... and then you hit those last two lines, which (it may sound strange) still sort of give me chills when I read them, as I think about what that scene must have been like... like just about everything GKC wrote, you're left thinking about it and pondering the significance of the seemingly casual, light-hearted words long after you've put the book down. The simplest of subjects in his hands becomes a profound reminder that God's ways are, indeed, not our ways... and it's very often the rejected stones with which He chooses to build.

Like all of GKC's work, this one is to be thoroughly enjoyed... and then savored, for a long time afterward.


The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

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.

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