Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Robert Buchanan by William Cosmo Monkhouse

Robert Buchanan

’T was the body of Judas Iscariot
Lay in the Field of Blood;
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Beside the body stood.

Black was the earth by night
And black was the sky;
Black, black were the broken clouds,
Tho’ the red Moon went by.

’T was the body of Judas Iscariot
Strangled and dead lay there;
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Look’d on it in despair.

The breath of the World came and went
Like a sick man’s in rest;
Drop by drop on the World’s eyes
The dews fell cool and blest.

Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
Did make a gentle moan—
“I will bury underneath the ground
My flesh and blood and bone.

“I will bury deep beneath the soil,
Lest mortals look thereon,
And when the wolf and raven come
The body will be gone!

“The stones of the field are sharp as steel,
And hard and bold, God wot;
And I must bear my body hence
Until I find a spot!”

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
So grim, and gaunt, and gray,
Rais’d the body of Judas Iscariot,
And carried it away.

And as he bare it from the field
Its touch was cold as ice,
And the ivory teeth within the jaw
Rattled aloud, like dice.

As the soul of Judas Iscariot
Carried its load with pain,
The Eye of Heaven, like a lanthorn’s eye,
Open’d and shut again.

Half he walk’d, and half he seem’d
Lifted on the cold wind;
He did not turn, for chilly hands
Were pushing from behind.

The first place that he came unto
It was the open wold,
And underneath were prickly whins,
And a wind that blew so cold.

The next place that he came unto
It was a stagnant pool,
And when he threw the body in
It floated light as wool.

He drew the body on his back,
And it was dripping chill,
And the next place that he came unto
Was a Cross upon a hill.

A Cross upon the windy hill,
And a Cross on either side,
Three skeletons that swing thereon,
Who had been crucified.

And on the middle crossbar sat
A white Dove slumbering;
Dim it sat in the dim light,
With its head beneath its wing.

And underneath the middle Cross
A grave yawn’d wide and vast,
But the soul of Judas Iscariot
Shiver’d, and glided past.

The fourth place that he came unto
It was the Brig of Dread,
And the great torrents rushing down
Were deep, and swift, and red.

He dar’d not fling the body in
For fear of faces dim,
And arms were wav’d in the wild water
To thrust it back to him.

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Turn’d from the Brig of Dread,
And the dreadful foam of the wild water
Had splash’d the body red.

For days and nights he wander’d on
Upon an open plain,
And the days went by like blinding mist,
And the nights like rushing rain.

For days and nights he wander’d on,
All thro’ the Wood of Woe;
And the nights went by like moaning wind,
And the days like drifting snow.

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Came with a weary face—
Alone, alone, and all alone,
Alone in a lonely place!

He wander’d east, he wander’d west,
And heard no human sound;
For months and years, in grief and tears,
He wander’d round and round.

For months and years, in grief and tears,
He walk’d the silent night;
Then the soul of Judas Iscariot
Perceiv’d a far-off light.

A far-off light across the waste,
As dim as dim might be,
That came and went like a lighthouse gleam
On a black night at sea.

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Crawl’d to the distant gleam;
And the rain came down, and the rain was blown
Against him with a scream.

For days and nights he wander’d on,
Push’d on by hands behind;
And the days went by like black, black rain,
And the nights like rushing wind.

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot,
Strange, and sad, and tall,
Stood all alone at dead of night
Before a lighted hall.

And the wold was white with snow,
And his footmarks black and damp,
And the ghost of the silver Moon arose,
Holding her yellow lamp.

And the icicles were on the eaves,
And the walls were deep with white,
And the shadows of the guests within
Pass’d on the window light.

The shadows of the wedding guests
Did strangely come and go,
And the body of Judas Iscariot
Lay stretch’d along the snow.

The body of Judas Iscariot
Lay stretch’d along the snow;
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Ran swiftly to and fro.

To and fro, and up and down,
He ran so swiftly there,
As round and round the frozen Pole
Glideth the lean white bear.

’T was the Bridegroom sat at the tablehead,
And the lights burn’d bright and clear—
“Oh, who is that,” the Bridegroom said,
“Whose weary feet I hear?”

’T was one look’d from the lighted hall,
And answer’d soft and slow,
“It is a wolf runs up and down
With a black track in the snow.”

The Bridegroom in his robe of white
Sat at the tablehead—
“Oh, who is that who moans without?”
The blessed Bridegroom said.

’T was one look’d from the lighted hall,
And answer’d fierce and low,
“’T is the soul of Judas Iscariot
Gliding to and fro.”

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Did hush itself and stand,
And saw the Bridegroom at the door
With a light in his hand.

The Bridegroom stood in the open door,
And he was clad in white,
And far within the Lord’s Supper
Was spread so long and bright.

The Bridegroom shaded his eyes and look’d,
And his face was bright to see—
“What dost thou here at the Lord’s Supper
With thy body’s sins?” said he.

’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Stood black, and sad, and bare—
“I have wander’d many nights and days;
There is no light elsewhere.”

’T was the wedding guests cried out within,
And their eyes were fierce and bright—
“Scourge the soul of Judas Iscariot
Away into the night!”

The Bridegroom stood in the open door,
And he wav’d hands still and slow,
And the third time that he wav’d his hands
The air was thick with snow.

And of every flake of falling snow,
Before it touch’d the ground,
There came a dove, and a thousand doves
Made sweet sound.

’T was the body of Judas Iscariot
Floated away full fleet,
And the wings of the doves that bare it off
Were like its winding-sheet.

’T was the Bridegroom stood at the open door,
And beckon’d, smiling sweet;
’T was the soul of Judas Iscariot
Stole in, and fell at his feet.

“The Holy Supper is spread within,
And the many candles shine,
And I have waited long for thee
Before I pour’d the wine!”

The supper wine is pour’d at last,
The lights burn bright and fair,
Iscariot washes the Bridegroom’s feet,
And dries them with his hair.

--William Cosmo Monkhouse

I'm not sure why this poem is called "Robert Buchanan". It's also sometimes called "The Ballad of Judas Iscariot" though sometimes that's a subtitle. It's sometimes attributed to Robert Buchanan, who was a poet around the same time as Monkhouse, but I think that's an error. He did write a poem called "The Wandering Jew" and perhaps this is a reference to that.

At any rate, I meant to post this poem for Easter -- I had been saving it for months -- but as you'll see below, I didn't get much done that day. I like the idea behind this poem more than the poem itself, which I think is overlong. I think that we punish ourselves much more harshly than God would punish us for most things. I also think that Christ's mercy is infinite, and that he would, of course, forgive a truly repentant Judas. It is an idea that has helped me forgive both myself and others -- if He could forgive that, then He can forgive this, and so should I.

On the personal side, I had big plans for Easter weekend. Peter and I were going to color eggs, then have a little hunt so that I could "find" the candy I'd bought for myself (Peter doesn't eat candy). We'd then turn the hard boiled eggs into devilled eggs (one of Peter's favorites). Sunday, after church, we'd head down to G&G Stay's where I'd make Easter Dinner: Au Gratin Potatoes and Fried Ham. We'd eat more eggs, and visit and be happy.

Well, I did get the candy into plastic eggs on Saturday, and I boiled the ones we were going to color, but with one thing and another, we never got around to doing it. On Sunday, I put Elizabeth into her Ducky dress and fuzzy sweater and First Easter bib. I gave her the matching Velveteen Rabbit toy and book I'd bought and she was unimpressed (I hope she'll like it later on). We took some pictures of her cuteness (The fuzzy sweater makes her look like a little chicky herself), then Peter had to go off to choir practice. Church was OK, but I was feeling sleep deprived, and struggled to get through. Somebody had locked the Mother's room, and I forgot to bring a bottle to church, so I ended up nursing her in the closet during RS.

By the time we got home, my body was completely worn out, and I couldn't even get my arms to pick Elizabeth up anymore. I collapsed into bed and left Peter to fend for himself in feeding and diapering and entertaining her. When I woke up at about 5, they had both survived, so I didn't feel too bad. It was far too late at that point to start for Huntington Beach, or make a big dinner, so I just heated up some leftovers. It was pretty anti-climactic.

Peter's parents came to visit the next week -- Kathey is seeing a doctor out here. They planned to stay for a couple of days, but their flight was delayed for something like 5 hours (evidently the FAA found out that week that airlines were fudging on maintenance, so everybody grounded half their fleets to check them over), and that pretty much cut out the first day. The next day, Kirsten stayed with me while Kathey and Jim went to the Doctor. We decorated eggs, did puzzles, and watched old episodes of The Electric Company (It's funny to see very young Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Bill Cosby at work). That evening, we all went out to Claim Jumper. The food was very tasty (at least mine was -- I got a pot roast with vegetables) but the portion sizes were huge (and so were the chunks -- there was a giant piece of meat, a quarter of an onion, two half potatoes, a couple of whole carrots, and a hunk of some kind of squash which, when covered in beef gravy, was the tastiest I've ever eaten -- and I generally don't eat squash at all!). We took home lots of leftovers, and when you consider that Peter and I each got three big meals out of it, the price becomes more economical than many fast food places :) Unfortunately, they had to go home the very next day, so it was a short visit indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Aww, sweet little chickie!

    We weren't allowed to watch Electric Company (I think Mom found the urban hipness off-putting) but I used to sneak and watch it when I could. I vividly recall the "I like fish food, you do too" song. (Which I just found on youtube--ha!)

    Deviled eggs... Mmmm....