What Is Christ?

Katharine Lee Bates 1859 (Falmouth) – 1929 (Wellesley)



I
OH, what is Christ, that we should call on Him?
Wasted Armenia, in her utter woe,
Dies in the mocking desert, calling so.
Hyænas tear her children limb from limb.
The clouds, soft dimpled once with cherubim,
Now screen the flight of Lucifers that strow
Their fiery seed where clustered households know
'Twixt sleep and death one flaring interim
Of agony, brief as the broken prayer.
What prayer? What Christ? Himself He could not save.
From first to last, when hath He saved His own?
Stephen's young body, battered stone by stone,
Edith Cavell in her most holy grave,
For His helpless host of martyrs witness bear.

II
Thought casts the challenge. Faith must lift the glove.
Most true it is Christ doth not save the flesh.
God's dreamy Nazarene, caught in the mesh
Of ignorance and malice, whitest dove
Net ever snared, took little care thereof.
Not His to plead with Pilate, nor to thresh
Those priestly lies. He died, to live afresh
Spirit, not body; not the Jew, but Love.
Love, the one Light in which all lusters meet,
Ultimate miracle, far goal of Time!
Even to-day, when all seems lost, they feel,
Those nations that like hooded sorrows kneel,
Their prayer's deep answer, loathing war as crime,
Longing to gather at Love's wounded feet.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 10, 2023

1:07 min read
79

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABCCBBCCXDEFFED AGHHGGHHGIJKKJI
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 1,223
Words 220
Stanzas 2
Stanza Lengths 15, 15

Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Lee Bates is remembered as the author of the words to the anthem America the Beautiful Bates was born in Falmouth Massachusetts and lived as an adult on Centre Street in Newton Massachusetts An historic plaque marks the site of her home The daughter of a Congregational pastor she graduated from Wellesley College in 1880 and for many years was a professor of English literature at Wellesley While teaching there she was elected a member of the newly formed Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences because of her interest in history and politics for which she also studied She lived at Wellesley with Katharine Coman who herself was a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesley College Economics department The pair lived together for twenty-five years until Comans death in 1915 It is debated if this relationship was an intimate lesbian relationship as different sources maintain or a platonic relationship called sometimes Boston marriages as the local historical society of her birthplace maintain more…

All Katharine Lee Bates poems | Katharine Lee Bates Books

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