Poetry, VOLUME 2

Poem: Prudentius “Hymn for the Burial of the Dead” [Vol. 2, #42]

Hymn For Burial Of The Dead
Prudentius

For Jim Newswanger, Sr. and Hazel Irene Smith

We are incompatible elements joined,
Mortal and immortal. They fuse
In the heat of the Lord’s forge. Mankind
Is fashioned thus. For a time it stays

But the weld, which cannot hold, gives way,
For spirit yearns to rise to the sky
While flesh, which is earth, is drawn to obey
Gravity’s stern decree. We die,

And our contrary portions come undone,
But God is good and even yet
Will not abandon anyone
Who is His servant. Bodies rot

In congenial mire, and in the grave
The spirit is trapped that, lighter, fights
To rise, assert itself, and live.
For a time, the universe hesitates

But flesh feels a sudden warming. Then
Those cold bones twitch and corpses sigh,
Reanimated, and rise again,
Borne by the heavenly breezes, to fly.

This life is all decline and loss,
Fading beauty, waning strength,
And wasting diseases, leaving us
Piteous ruins, and yet at length

Heaven shall make us whole, repair
Our derelict frames, restore, improve,
And make us perfect everywhere.
Why do we mourn, then, those we love

With foolish lamentations? No,
No tears! What we bury here in the earth
Is only the seed from which will grow
A fresh green plant. In this rebirth

We cannot doubt, for we believe
In heaven. We gaze down into a hole
In the gentle earth that we see receive
Our dead, who issued, body and soul,

From the mouth of God. In faith and trust
We commit to Him who does not forget
His creatures these remains, that dust
The winds may scatter but God shall yet

Revive and reassemble.
We will live again and breathe His breath…

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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


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