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Ballad Of Jesus Of Nazareth

Edgar Lee Masters 1868 (Garnett) – 1950 (Elkins Park)



I.

It matters not what place he drew
At first life's mortal breath,
Some say it was in Bethlehem,
And some in Nazareth.
But shame and sorrow were his lot
And shameful was his death.

The angels sang, and o'er the barn
Wherein the infant lay,
They hung a star, for they foresaw
The sad world's better day,
But well God knew what thyme and rue
Were planted by his way.

The children of the Pharisees
In hymn and orison
Worshipped the prophets, whom their sires
To cruel death had done,
And said, 'had we been there their death
We had not looked upon.'

While the star shone the angels saw
The tombs these children built
For those the world had driven out,
And smitten to the hilt,
God knew these wretched sons would bear
The self-same bloody guilt.

Always had he who strives for men
But done some other thing,
If he had not led a hermit life,
Or had not had his fling,
We would have followed him, they say,
And made him lord and King.

For John was clothed in camel's hair
And lived among the brutes;
But Jesus fared where the feast was spread
To the sound of shawms and lutes,
Where gathered knaves and publicans
And hapless prostitutes.

Like children in the market place
Who sullen sat and heard,
With John they would not mourn, nor yet
Rejoice at Jesus' word;
Had Jesus mourned, or John rejoiced,
He had been King and lord.

II.

From Bethlehem until the day
He came up to the feast
We hear no word, we only know
In wisdom he increased,
We know the marvelous boy did awe
The Pharisee and priest.

For wearied men wake to admire
A genius in the bud;
Before the passion of the world
Flows through him like a flood;
Ere he becomes a scourge to those
Who drink of mankind's blood.

Perhaps in him they saw an arm
To keep the people still;
And fool the meek and slay the weak
And give the King his will;
And put a wall for armŽd men
'Round every pleasant hill.

And this is why in after years
The Galilean wept;
The cup of youth was sweet with truth
But a green worm in it crept;
And that was dullness clothed in power,
And hate which never slept.

Through twenty years he drove the plane,
And shaped with ax and saw;
And dreamed upon the Hebrew writ
Unto a day of awe,
When he felt the world fit to his grasp
As by a mighty law.

He looked upon the sunny sky,
And 'round the flowering earth;
He heard the poor man's groan of woe,
And the prince's song of mirth;
Then Jesus vowed the life of man
Should have another birth.

And this is why the Son of Man
Wept when he knew the loss,
The toil and sacrifice to cleanse
A little earthly dross;
And that a god to save twelve men
Must die upon the cross.

III.

'Twas on a pleasant day in June
Beneath an azure sky
That 'round him stood the multitude
And saw within his eye
The light that from nor sun nor star
Ever was known to fly.

And some came out to scoff and laugh,
And some to lay a snare;
The rhetorician gaped to see:
The learnŽd carpenter.
The money changer, judge and priest,
And statesman all were there.

Some thought the Galilean mad;
Some asked, is he sincere?
Some said he played the demagogue
To gain the people's ear,
And raise a foe against the law
That lawful men should fear.

But all the while did C¾sar's might
Grow big with blood and lust;
And no one brooked his tyrant arm,
For the statesman said the crust
That paupers gnaw is by the law,
And that the law is just.

From hunger's hovel, from the streets;
From horror's blackened niche
Earth's mourners came and hands were stretched
To touch him from the ditch.
Then rose a Scribe and said he turned
The poor against the rich.

And those who hated C¾sar's rule,
Albeit sowed the lie
That Jesus stirred sedition up
That he might profit by
A revolution, which should clothe
Himself in monarchy.

Through twice a thousand years the world
Has missed the words he taught;
To forms and creeds and empty show
Christ never gave a thought,
But wrongs that men do unto men
They were the wrongs he fought.

He did not eat with washen hands,
Nor keep the Sabbath day;
He did not to the Synagogue
Repair to sing and pray.
Nor for to-morrow take a thought,
To mar life's
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:57 min read
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Edgar Lee Masters

Edgar Lee Masters was an American poet, biographer, and dramatist. more…

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