Julia Ward Howe

(1819 - 1910 / United States)

The Dead Christ


Take the dead Christ to my chamber,
The Christ I brought from Rome;
Over all the tossing ocean,
He has reached his western home;
Bear him as in procession,
And lay him solemnly
Where, through weary night and morning,
He shall bear me company.

The name I bear is other
Than that I bore by birth,
And I've given life to children
Who'll grow and dwell on earth;
But the time comes swiftly towards me
(Nor do I bid it stay),
When the dead Christ will be more to me
Than all I hold to-day.

Lay the dead Christ beside me,
Oh, press him on my heart,
I would hold him long and painfully
Till the weary tears should start;
Till the divine contagion
Heal me of self and sin,
And the cold weight press wholly down
The pulse that chokes within.

Reproof and frost, they fret me,
Towards the free, the sunny lands,
From the chaos of existence
I stretch these feeble hands;
And, penitential, kneeling,
Pray God would not be wroth,
Who gave not the strength of feeling,
And strength of labor both.

Thou'rt but a wooden carving,
Defaced of worms, and old;
Yet more to me thou couldst not be
Wert thou all wrapt in gold,
Like the gem-bedizened baby
Which, at the Twelth-day noon,
They show from the Ara Coeli's steps,
To a merry dancing tune.

I ask of thee no wonders,
No changing white or red;
I dream not thou art living,
I love and prize thee dead.
That salutary deadness
I seek, through want and pain,
From which God's own high power can bid
Our virtue rise again.

Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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