Holy Week Poetry 2016, Palm Sunday: “The Donkey” by G. K. Chesteron

Maybe you’ve noticed that the title of the blog is “Music and Poetry Countdowns,” but there’s been no poetry countdown yet. Time to change that. This is actually a reprise of the countdown I did for Easter 2013 before the blog had been born. If you followed it then, the poems are definitely worth another look.

Here’s my recommendation for taking in the poetry: read it out loud. Most good poetry is written at least partly for sound, and most of this poetry will come from a time where poems and ideas enjoyed circulation orally at least as much as in print. It’s meant to be heard.

Today turned out to be an important Palm Sunday for me biographically. Along with thousands of other people in Utah, I attended the dedication of the building where I will be married later this year, the Provo City Center Temple. Maybe someone has written or is writing a beautiful poem about that, and maybe someday I’ll find it and share it. For now, though, you get G. K. Chesterton’s “The Donkey.”

Who is G. K. Chesterton? Well, here’s an article from the ACS or American Chesterton Society that addresses that very question. The article wants to explain, just as Inigo Montoya does:

let_me_explain_princess_bride.gif

But the article admits that a figure such as G. K. Chesterton cannot be summed up in one sentence or even one paragraph. It does say, however, that Chesterton is both the greatest writer and the greatest thinker of the 20th century and that although he has been unfairly dropped from the standard literary canon, no one can be truly educated without reading Mr. G. K. Chesterton, Knight Commander with Star of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. Put that in your Easter bonnet.

Okay, so you still don’t know who Chesterton is. Well, he was a London-born writer/critic/thinker at the turn of the 20th century with a healthy dose of humor who was influenced Dickens and Aquinas and who, purportedly, influenced Žižek of all people. Enjoy “The Donkey.”

The Donkey

by G. K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

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