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Eighteen Sonnets About Jesus
by [?]


So, as Thou wert the seed and not the flower,
Having no form or comeliness, in chief
Sharing thy thoughts with thine acquaintance Grief;
Thou wert despised, rejected in thine hour
Of loneliness and God-triumphant power.
Oh, not three days alone, glad slumber brief,
That from thy travail brought Thee sweet relief,
Lay’st Thou, outworn, beneath thy stony bower;
But three and thirty years, a living seed,
Thy body lay as in a grave indeed;
A heavenly germ dropt in a desert wide;
Buried in fallow soil of grief and need;
‘Mid earthquake-storms of fiercest hate and pride,
By woman’s tears bedewed and glorified.


All divine artists, humble, filial,
Turn therefore unto Thee, the poet’s sun;
First-born of God’s creation, only done
When from Thee, centre-form, the veil did fall,
And Thou, symbol of all, heart, coronal,
The highest Life with noblest Form made one,
To do thy Father’s bidding hadst begun;
The living germ in this strange planet-ball,
Even as thy form in mind of striving saint.
So, as the one Ideal, beyond taint,
Thy radiance unto all some shade doth yield,
In every splendour shadowy revealed:
But when, by word or hand, Thee one would paint,
Power falls down straightway, speechless, dim-eyed, faint.


Men may pursue the Beautiful, while they
Love not the Good, the life of all the Fair;
Keen-eyed for beauty, they will find it where
The darkness of their eyes hath power to slay
The vision of the good in beauty’s ray,
Though fruits the same life-giving branches bear.
So in a statue they will see the rare
Beauty of thought moulded of dull crude clay,
While loving joys nor prayer their souls expand.
So Thou didst mould thy thoughts in Life not Art;
Teaching with human voice, and eye, and hand,
That none the beauty from the truth might part:
Their oneness in thy flesh we joyous hail–
The Holy of Holies’ cloud-illumined veil!


And yet I fear lest men who read these lines,
Should judge of them as if they wholly spake
The love I bear Thee and thy holy sake;
Saying: “He doth the high name wrong who twines
Earth’s highest aim with Him, and thus combines
Jesus and Art.” But I my refuge make
In what the Word said: “Man his life shall take
From every word:” in Art God first designs,–
He spoke the word. And let me humbly speak
My faith, that Art is nothing to the act,
Lowliest, that to the Truth bears witness meek,
Renownless, even unknown, but yet a fact:
The glory of thy childhood and thy youth,
Was not that Thou didst show, but didst the Truth.


The highest marble Sorrow vanishes
Before a weeping child.[2] The one doth seem,
The other is. And wherefore do we dream,
But that we live? So I rejoice in this,
That Thou didst cast Thyself, in all the bliss
Of conscious strength, into Life’s torrent stream,
(Thy deeds fresh life-springs that with blessings teem)
Acting, not painting rainbows o’er its hiss.
Forgive me, Lord, if in these verses lie
Mean thoughts, and stains of my infirmity;
Full well I know that if they were as high
In holy song as prophet’s ecstasy,
‘Tis more to Thee than this, if I, ah me!
Speak gently to a child for love of Thee.

[Footnote 2: John Sterling.]


Thou art before me, and I see no more
Pilate or soldiers, but the purple flung
Around the naked form the scourge had wrung,
To naked Truth thus witnessing, before
The False and trembling True. As on the shore
Of infinite Love and Truth, I kneel among
Thy footprints on that pavement; and my tongue
Would, but for reverence, cry: “If Thou set’st store
By feeble homage, Witness to the Truth,
Thou art the King, crowned by thy witnessing!”
I die in soul, and fall down worshipping.
Art glories vanish, vapours of the morn.
Never but Thee was there a man in sooth,
Never a true crown but thy crown of thorn.