The young viper grows as it sits,
Always in a great rage
With a shield on its knees.
The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
— Book of Genesis, 49:10
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.
—"Seven Stanzas at Easter",
John Updike, 1960.
Those playgrounds of my youth I long to see;
But the routine of my day bids fancy wait
Until the canyon's call shall find me free.
Today I heard the call and came at last.
The spell of sweet nostalgia held me fast,
And, giving in to pleasant reverie,
I mingled with the ghosts of Zion past.
I turned and said, "Greetings, old Flanigan Peak."
A voice came back, "Take to whom you speak,"
Brash upstart, you will not find here
The gift of immortality you seek."
“In tales you tell and pictures that you paint,
Your forebears oft appear without a taint;
But while you venerate ancestral lore,
Antiquity alone does not make one a saint.
“Those ghosts of yesterday with whom you talk
Are merely squatters in this land, and mock
The sanctity of these enduring shrines;
For flesh is not as durable as rock.
“Frail man, look quickly at my alpenglow;
For you shall pass, much as the winter snow.
Long after you have gone I’ll keep my watch.
I saw the Anasazi come and go.”
“Great Watchman, I look up to you.” I said,
“But let me also love my kindred dead,
And all whose sweat and toil built thoroughfares
On which the feet of all the world now tread.
“I’ll worship at these temples, not built by man,
And sing about their splendor while I can.
But I would give the pioneer his due.”
And the mountain smiled approval of my plan.
Then as I left I thought about my day;
And all my friends of now and yesterday.
I know their deeds are graven in the stone;
Instead of lightly scribbled in the clay.
As long as I can feel and hear and see
I’ll come here oft, just save a nook for me.
And when these senses dim, I’ll take my place
Among the ghosts of Zion yet to be.
—"The Ghosts of Zion" (excerpted),
The blossom’s almost done,
It falls without a sigh, my love,
Like mist dies in the sun.
The wind is blowing wild, my love,
It rattles the window pane,
It cries like a lost child, my love,
Her tears fall like the rain.
A child you’ll never know, my love,
For I could not make you stay,
You followed the high tide’s flow, my love,
And a ship took you away.
Our tears could fill the sea, my love,
Beneath this cruel sky,
For you’ll not come back to me, my love,
Though the tide is running high.
—"The running tide",
Past our devisal
(O filigree petal!)
Fashioned so purely,
From what Paradisal
Too costly for cost?
Who hammered you, wrought you,
From argentine vapor? –
“God was my shaper.
He hammered, He wrought me,
From curled silver vapor,
To lust of His mind –
Thou could'st not have thought me!
So purely, so palely,
Insculped and embossed,
With His hammer of wind,
And His graver of frost.
—"To a Snowflake",
taking Christopher down with me,
Bitter and wild is the wind tonight,
tossing the tresses of the sea to white.
On such a night as this I lie at ease;
fierce Northmen only course the quiet seas.
—Early Irish poem (unattributed)