With the dawn of a new church year, we have launched a new feature on our website, a weekly post of poetry that resonates with the lectionary readings for that week (Revised Common Lectionary).
*** Revised Common Lectionary ***
Once on a charger there was laid,
And brought before a royal maid,
As price of attitude and grace,
A guiltless head, a holy face.
It was on Herod’s natal day,
Who o’er Judea’s land held sway.
He married his own brother’s wife,
Wicked Herodias. She the life
Of John the Baptist long had sought,
Because he openly had taught
That she a life unlawful led,
Having her husband’s brother wed.
This was he, that saintly John,
Who in the wilderness alone
Abiding, did for clothing wear
A garment made of camel’s hair;
Honey and locusts were his food,
And he was most severely good.
He preached penitence and tears,
And waking first the sinner’s fears,
Prepared a path, made smooth a way,
For his diviner master’s day.
Herod kept in princely state
His birth-day. On his throne he sate,
After the feast, beholding her
Who danced with grace peculiar;
Fair Salome, who did excel
All in that land for dancing well.
The feastful monarch’s heart was fired,
And whatsoe’er thing she desired,
Though half his kingdom it should be,
He in his pleasure swore that he
Would give the graceful Salome.
The damsel was Herodias’ daughter:
She to the queen hastes, and besought her
To teach her what great gift to name.
Instructed by Herodias, came
The damsel back; to Herod said,
“Give me John the Baptist’s head;
“And in a charger let it be
“Hither straitway brought to me.”
Herod her suit would fain deny,
But for his oath’s sake must comply.
When painters would by art express
Beauty in unloveliness,
Thee, Herodias’ daughter, thee,
They fittest subject take to be.
They give thy form and features grace;
But ever in they beauteous face
They shew a steadfast cruel gaze,
An eye unpitying; and amaze
In all beholders deep they mark,
That thou betrayest not one spark
Of feeling for the ruthless deed,
That did thy praiseful dance succeed.
For on the head they make you look,
As if a sullen joy you took,
A cruel triumph, wicked pride,
That for your sport a saind had died.
*** This poem is in the public domain,
and may be read in a live-streamed worship service.
Welcome to Struggleville
(aka Vigilantes of Love)
I’ve been trying to negotiate peace
with my own existence.
She’s gotta stockpile full of weaponry;
she breaking every cease-fire agreement.
Whole thing is full of decay
just as sure as I’m made of dust,
and into rust I know the beast is falling.
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C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
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