Friday, September 20, 2013

In whom all fancies live - a poem

I have come upon this wonderful poem, by GA Studdert Kennedy, If Jesus Never Lived, quoted by Bruce Smith in an article titled Hope and Tragedy in Life and Literature, from CASE Magazine Issue No. 30, that speaks of Jesus as the door by which we enter into wonderland and the source of all fairy tales. To quote from the paragraph by Bruce Smith with which he leads into this poem:
Finally, Jesus' life, death and resurrection not only confirm the reality of tragedy, they affirm the escapist eschatology of the happy ending. And I must say that I am consciously aware as I watch Cinderella skip off stage that it is an eschatological moment. It is, of course, the reason why some people don't like it, feeling this is not true to life. What is true to life is death: let the curtain fall on man's contradiction and on the calamity of the ending, because that is life. But the biblical picture says no, that is not life; that's the penultimate. There is an ending which is altogether to do with life and not death.
Picture from Wikimedia.

IF JESUS NEVER LIVED

SUPPOSE it is not true,
And Jesus never lived,
But only grew,
Like Aphrodite, from the foam
Of fancy—
From the sea
Of pure imagining, that frets
Within the soul eternally.
Suppose the Word was not made flesh,
But just another dream,
Which dwelt amongst us, only
As a gleam
Of glory from the land,
Where sand
Is gold, and golden sand
Shines bright beside the sapphire sea.
...
Suppose He never trod
This earth nor saw the sun,
Nor looked up to the skies,
That sinless one,
All spotless clean,
Untainted by man’s curse,
The might have been,
The ghost of good undone.
Suppose the gospel story lies,
What then? Why, then
There are no fairies
Any more For men,
The shore
Of fairyland is dry,
Unlapped by any sea.
All fancies die,
If Jesus never lived,
For living fancies need to be
The symbols of a Truth.
He is the door
By which we enter in
To wonderland.
By Christ’s strong sooth
Set free from sin,
Poor Cinderella weds her Prince,
As we long since
Were taught and may believe,
For God is found of those who seek,
Exalts the humble and the meek,
And puts the mighty from their seats,
In Christ.
Her tryst,
If Jesus never lived,
Is still unkept;
By those dead ashes where she wept
For Paradise,
She weeps on still,
And moans upon her fate;
The pumpkins still are pumpkins,
And the mice still mice;
Still by the cold and empty grate
She sits in rags and tears;
Through all the years—the empty years,
No fairy comes—nor ever will
If Jesus never lived.
In Christ’s pure light,
Fair Snowy-White
Can lift the coffin-lid,
And leave her tomb,
And vanquish all the gloom
Of death.
Because He lives
And gives
To Sleeping Beauty
One long kiss,
She opens her blue eyes and wakes,
Forsakes
Her sleep and shines for ever,
Beautiful in bliss.
There is no chance of childhood,
But for this
One Child of God, who knew
That childhood’s sweetest dreams
           come true,
And was their Truth.
...
O live for me, Thou sinless one,
Cleanse Thou for me
The earth and sea,
Sweep all the clouds from off
The sky,
For fancies never, never die
If only Jesus lives.

~G.A. Studdert Kennedy.
From The Unutterable Beauty: The Collected Poetry of G.A. Studdert Kennedy (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927).

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