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{The Ballad of Mary the Mother 1897}










If I could worship in these Shrines at all,
Methinks that ’twould be yonder, where I see
The Holy Mother fair and virginal
Holding the radiant Child upon her knee:
For Rome, eternal foe of all things free,
Still quick tho’ stretch’d out cold ’neath Peter’s pall,
By this one gift of grace redeems her fall
And makes amends to poor Humanity.
Madonna, pure as mortal mothers are,
Type of them all, for ever calm and good,
Over thy Son thou shinest like a star
While at thy milky breasts his mouth finds food . . .
Holiest and best of all things, holier far
Than Godhead, is eternal Motherhood!


Nineteen sad centuries have passed away,
Madonna, since this Man thy Son was slain,
Since pillow’d on thy breast thy dead child lay                                    106
Nor heard thy moan of deep despair and pain:
So long! and all earth’s tears have fallen in vain
Upon the grave that covereth that sweet clay—
Thou, too, didst cease to watch and plead and pray,
And slept at last never to wake again.
Best of all living creatures, thou alone
Whom God Himself had chosen (saith the Screed!)
Thou, Virgin of the Lily, must have known
If he, thy Son, was Son of God indeed;
Yet thou (’tis written) didst that claim disown,
Denying godhead to this Man, thy Seed!


“His Mother and his Brethren stood without
And waited!”
Ah, poor Mother, full of tears
While men believed and gladden’d, thou couldst doubt
And to that cry of godhead close thine ears!
Thro’ the dark cloud of those forgotten years
I hear thee moaning yet, ring’d roundabout
With maniac faces, while the madmen shout
And high ’gainst Heaven the crimson Cross appears.                           107
Mother of God! and yet thou couldst deny
In thine excess of love the Godlike claim!
Chosen of God,—yet thy despairing cry
Rose up to God in passionate grief and shame,
While, wrapt in kingly robes thy Son went by,
Nor answer’d when thy lips did breathe his name!


His face was raised to Heaven, not turn’d to thee,
While thou didst call him back from that mad quest;
Taught by thy Mother’s heart, thine eyes could see
The piteous end of his divine unrest. . . .
Ah, well, God heard thy cry, and on thy breast
Again he sleeping lay, and thou and he,
United at God’s feet, eternally
Abide in peace, of all things last and best. . . .
And yet, God knows! We know not! Wherefore, then,
The weary strife, the fret that ceaseth never,
Wherefore the witless want which maddeneth men,
The cruel sleepless quest, the long endeavour,                                     108
If, having waken’d once, we sleep again,
And lose our heritage of Love for ever?


Our heritage of Love! . . Life and not Death,
Light and not Night, we seek from age to age;
The Spirit thou hast kindled with thy breath
To serve thee, Lord of Life, demands its wage!
Amid Thy tempests that for ever rage,
Man at thy conjuration travailleth:
“I did not crave to be, O God!” (he saith)
“But since I am, give me my heritage!
What thou hast quicken’d, what thy power hath taught
To serve thee through all moods of doubt and fear,—
The mystic mood that flashes back thy Thought,
The love that seeks thy Heaven, and finds it here,—
These are thy works, and what thy hand hath wrought
Claims service still, from sleepless year to year!”



And yet, alas, the ways of God are dark,
His purpose hid, His will a mystery,—
No sign or voice that man may see or hark
Hath ever broke His Law’s Eternity.
A little space we strive, then cease to be,
A day we smile, and then lie stiff and stark,
Forgotten ’neath the dust with none to mark,
Silent, Madonna, like thy Son and thee!
God gave no answer to our brother’s prayer,
The empty Heavens echoed back his cry;
He fainted ’neath the load we all must bear
That bitter day they led him forth to die,—
“Father,” he cried, in darkness and despair,
And drank the Cup no hand hath yet put by!


Gentle and loving was this Man, thy Seed,
And innocent as any lamb at play,
For all the woes of man his heart did bleed,
Yea, till the wrath of God made dark his day,
Till with the whole world’s woe his soul grew grey,
As radiant as the morning was his creed:
To heal the sick, to succour folk in need,
To bless the poor and wipe their tears away . . .                                  110
Then, groping darkly, maddening in his place,
Vainly he sought to grasp what none may find,—
For never tongue can speak or eye may trace
The Mystery God keeps dark from humankind,
And he who seeks to front God face to face
Is, by that Sun of Wonder, stricken blind!


And lo! the issue! Of that loving Word
Thy dear one spoke, a multitudinous moan!
Not peace thy Son hath sent us, but a Sword
Shapen cross-wise, that flames from zone to zone!
And still the weary generations groan,
And still the vials of God’s wrath are poured
On innocent and guilty, and the Lord
Veileth the very footstool of His Throne!
And unto every man, as to thy Son,
Cometh, at last, the same dark dread and doom—
All that our hands have wrought, our prayers have won,
Endeth with him in utterness of gloom,
Our brief day endeth, and our Dream is done,
And lo! the woven shroud, the opening tomb!



Patient Madonna, with the heavenly eyes,
Not upward bent, but downward on thy Child,—
Within thy open arms is Paradise
Happy and innocent and undefiled!
Smile thus, as many a mother sweet hath smiled,
Forgetful of that Shadow in the skies,—
Hushing the whole worlds’ woe, and all the wild
Tumult of Nature, in thine Infant’s cries;
And there, beneath that ever-loving gaze,
Eternal Child, find peace and calm at last!
Deaf to thy passion, heedless of thy praise,
God dwelt afar off in the empty Vast,
But thou returnedst, after many days,
Unto the Heaven whence thy feet had passed!


*    *    *



And O Madonna mine! O dear grey-hair’d
     Mother, of human mothers first and best,
All that my soul hath sought, my dream hath dared,
     All that my youth and hope thought goodliest,
Depart, and leave me crying for thy breast!
     A child again, I see thy bosom bared,
And, lo! I falter to the place prepared
     Where, after life’s long fever, I may rest!
This gift alone, when the long day is done,
     I ask from Him who holds all gifts in store,—
After the weary battle, lost or won,
     To find thy love and blessing as before,
To be again thy little helpless son,
     And feel thy dear arms round me evermore!



Thou sleepest, Dear!—and yet a little space
     I stir above thee, waiting for a sign:
Colder than coldest marble is thy face,
     Shut are thine eyes, I cannot see them shine;
But thou wilt waken! and thine arms will twine
     Around me, in the dark and narrow place
Where thou art lying, and again God’s grace
     And blessing will be on us, Mother mine!
My hair is gray like yours, my faltering feet
     Are weary, and my heart grows chill and cold,
Faint is the prayer my feeble lips repeat,
     Sad is the soul that once was bright and bold,
But when at last thou wakenest, smiling sweet,
     I’ll be thy child again, not worn and old.








What is thy name?

                     ROBERT BUCHANAN.

Gave thee that name?

                                 Those from whose seed I grew;
He from whose loins I sprang, she in whose warm
Womb I grew shapen into flesh and form,—
Whereby I first did crawl, then walked upright,
A child, inheritor of Life and Light.

What did thy Father and Mother then for thee?

Three things they swore: firstly, to shelter me
From all things evil, teaching me to find,
Through love for them, due love for all Mankind;
Next, that through that first faith, made ripe and good
Through human motherhood and fatherhood,
My soul should learn to apprehend and know
The Parentage Divine whence all things flow;                                       118
Lastly, that, walking all my nights and days
In love and reverence, I should learn God’s ways
And His commandments. These things in my name,
They promised and fulfill’d, until I came
To full estate of all Life’s joys and woes;
And as the measure of my love for those
Who first made Earth a happy dwelling-place,
And ring’d me round with offices of grace,
So may my love for all things measured be
Now and for ever, through Eternity.

Dost thou still think that thou art bound in right
To keep those pledges?

                                 Yea, and morn and night
I keep them; if I stumble unawares,
The fault is on my head, and not on theirs
Who hold me dear for ever in their sight,
And turn’d my face to Heaven, to feel the Light.

Rehearse the articles of thy belief.

I do believe in God, supreme and chief
Of all things, first and last;—whose works proclaim
His glory, and the glories of His name;                                                119
I do believe in all the gods that shine
Beneath Him, humanized for eyes like mine
To images of loveliness divine;
I do believe that through my Father in Heaven
My sins (if Sin could be) would be forgiven,
And that, though Death for ever passes by,
Whate’er hath come to life can never die.

Thou saidst “If Sin could be?”

                               If Sin be blent
Into my nature as its element,
Then ’tis my God’s as surely as ’tis mine;
But since I know my Father is Divine,
I know that all which seemeth Sin in me
Is but an image and a mystery.

Who is the God of Earth and Sea and Sky,
All-living and all-knowing?

                                         He is I;
Impersonal in all that seems to be,
He first and last grew personal in me;
His inward essence shines behind these eyes;
His outer form in all they recognise.

Hath He no Being, then, apart from thee?                                       120


         Yet abideth through Eternity?

As I abide.

         Yet is He Lord of Death?

Yea, and if I should perish, perisheth.

Is He not more than thou?

                                       He is the Whole
Of which I am the part, yet this my Soul
Is He, and surely through this sight of mine
He sees Himself and knows Himself Divine.

Now, name His attributes?

                                       They have but one name,—
Love, which embracing all things grows the same
As that it contemplates.

                                 Lov’st thou the Lord?

Nay; tho’ I bow before His will and word.

How doth He manifest Himself?                                                     121

                                               In me,
And in mine other self, Humanity.

Name the Commandments!

                                         Ten. Thou shalt have one
God, and one only (may His will be done!)
Thou shalt not fashion graven images
Of Him, or any other, and to these
Give prayer or praise; nor shall thy faith be priced
By any priest of Christ or Antichrist,
In any Temple or in any Fane;
Thou shalt not take the Name of God in vain.
All days shalt thou keep holy, pure and blest,
Six shalt thou labour, on the seventh rest,
But every day shall as a Sabbath be
Of heavenly hope and love and charity.
Honour thy father and thy mother,—not
That God may lengthen and make bright thy lot,
But that the love thou bearest them may spring
Fountain-like to refresh each living thing
Which lives and loves like thee. Slay not at all,—
Neither to feed thy wrath, nor at the call
Of nations lusting in accurséd strife,                                                     122
Nor to appease the Law’s black lust for life;
But take the murderer by the hand, and bring
Pity and mercy for his comforting.
Tho’ thou must never an Adulterer be,
Deem not the deed of kind Adultery,
But reverence that function which keeps fair
The Earth, the Sea, the Ether, and the Air,
And peopling countless worlds with lives like thine,
Maketh all Nature fruitful and divine;
For as thou dost despise thy flesh and frame
Shalt thou despise the Lord thro’ whom they came,
And if one act of these thou deemest base
Thou spittest in the Fountain of all Grace.
Thou shalt not steal, nor any lie sustain
Against thy neighbour; covet not his gain,
His wife, or aught that’s his to have and hold,
For robbing him, thou rob’st thyself tenfold!

What dost thou learn from these Commandments?

For things around me, and for things above
Worship and reverence; hate of deeds that sin                                    123
Against the living God who dwells within
This Temple of my life; obedience
To that celestial Light which issues thence.

Swearest thou to renounce, reject, and shun
The Flesh and all the lusts thereof?

                                                     Not one;
For these are of the godhead, which is I,
And if this Flesh could pass, this Soul must die.

Shall not the Flesh dissolve and disappear?
Shall not this Body which surrounds thee here
Pass into nothingness?

                                 Never, since ’tis made
Of God’s own substance, which can never fade.

Dost thou believe in Jesus Christ, God’s Son?

In Him, and in my Brethren every one:
The child of Mary who was crucified,
The gods of Hellas fair and radiant-eyed,
Brahm, Balder, Guatama, and Mahomet,
All who have pledged their gains to pay my debt
Of sorrows,—all who through this world of dream
Breathe mystery and ecstasy supreme;                                               124
The greater and the less: the wise, the good,
Inheritors of Nature’s godlike mood;
In these I do believe eternally,
Knowing them deathless, like the God in me.

How many sacraments hath God ordained
Whereby the strength of man may be sustained?

None; since all sacraments in Man are blent,
And I myself am daily sacrament.

Dost thou not realise that, being base,
Thou art lost for ever, if no saving grace
Were sent in pity out of yonder sky?
Dost thou not know that, answering man’s cry
For help and aid, thy God who is Divine
Put on a human likeness such as thine,—
Knew all thy doubts and fears, was foully slain,
Died, rose a space, and shall arise again?

Death cannot touch the Lord my God. I know
That in a dream of death long years ago
Mine Elder Brother beautiful and fair
Inherited life’s sorrow and despair,
And being weary of the garish day
Died, blessing me. He hath not passed away,                                      125
But filling all the world with his sweet breath
Walks, watch’d by two pale Angels, Sleep and Death.

Dost thou not in thine inmost heart believe,
Despite the lies which faithless sophists weave,
In Holy Church?

                       All Churches, great or small!
But most, that roof’d with blue celestial,
And fairer far than Temples built by hands,
Which, while all others fall, survives and stands!
More, I believe in Hell, and hope for Heaven!
Yea, also, that my fears may be forgiven,
And that this Body shall arise again
To Light and Everlasting Life. AMEN.










How can I love Thee, God that madeth me?                                       [1:i]
     Who saith he loves Thee, lies!
Behold him, mouthing on his bended knee,
     Upgazing to the skies!

Thy works, thy wonders, thine Omnipotence?
     Shall these awake my love?
Nay, these are only phantoms of the sense
     Whereby I live and move!

Thy mercies and thy gifts?—thy large delight
     In making living things?
Love is not born of any token bright
     Imperial Nature brings.

I love my fellow men, I love this hound
     Who gently licks my hand,
I love the land around me, and the sound
     Of children in the land.

But Thee? I love not Thee!—Stoop down, come near                         130
     To me whom thou hast made,
Then I may know Thee close, and hold Thee dear,—
     But now I shrink afraid.

There’s never a helpless thing surrounding me,
     No timid bird or beast,
I love not better far, O God, than Thee,
     Tho’ Thou be first, these least.

I love the maid I woo, the mother whose touch
     I feel upon my brow,
The friend who grips my hand!—for these are such
     As I, and not as Thou.

Thou Vision of my Thought! Thou Mystery
     Of which men preach and rave!
I would not look, if Heaven held only Thee,
     One foot beyond the grave!

I seek the gentle ones who once were near,
     Not Thee, O Light above,—
I crave for all who learn’d to love me here
     And whom I learn’d to love!

Out of thy Darkness to this Light I came,                                            131
     Thro’ whim or wish of thine,
O Miracle! O God Unknown! O Name
     Eternal and Divine!

And since Thy glory fills these nights and days
     That are so fugitive,
I give thee thanks, O God, I give thee praise,
     But love I cannot give!




No Mediator, none! If thou art God,
     Thy torments were self-wrought;
If thou wast Man, despised and undertrod,
     Thy sorrows teach me nought.

I look within and find my godhead there,
     Not yonder on the Cross;
Sharer of my soul’s doubt, my heart’s despair,
     My daily gain and loss.

How shouldst thou mediate for me and mine                                        132
     Who art thyself not free?
If thou thyself wast deathless and Divine,
     What part hast thou with me?

If thou art but the Son, and like the rest
     Fell slain before God’s Throne,
Then will I love thee (lo! my hand is prest,
     Dear Comrade, in thine own!)

But if thou art the Father in disguise,
     I snatch my hand away—
Back to thy realm, back to thy silent skies,—
     I’ll wait thy Judgment Day!

I search within, I find my one God still.
     What answereth He? “Had I
Been God all powerful, fashioning to my will
     All things that creep or fly,

I had not built their glory or their gain
     On endless suffering,
I had not blent my Godhead with the pain
     Of any living thing.”

Can the all Powerful be all Pitiful?                                                       133
     The All-cruel be All-kind?                                                             [8:ii]
If this be so, then thou, my God, art null,
     Then thou, my Soul, art blind!

No Mediator, then! Soul of my Soul,
     God of my Thought, rest free:
Sure of myself while the long ages roll,
     I turn in peace to Thee.




Like to a Leper clings this man to me,
     I strike at him in vain;
My soul is haunted by mine enemy
     In endless forms of pain.

I would forget him, turning in delight
     To those my soul holds dear.
I cannot. Like my shadow, day and night,
     Mine enemy is here.

My very being, blighted with his breath,                                               134
     Droops like a thing forlorn,
Yea, with his presence, dim and dread as Death,
     My living force is worn.

I scorn him as the dust beneath my feet,
     I curse him loud or low—
God hears me yonder on His Judgment Seat,
     And yet he doth not go.

Yea, even more firmly than the first and best
     Of mortals loved by me,
Clingeth with fierce hands on my wounded breast,
     This man, mine enemy!

Sometimes, when fiercely struggling throat to throat,
     Like snakes that intertwine,
Our eyes meet, and within his eyes I note
     An agony like mine.

Sometimes, when God doth beckon from his skies
     And bids me climb or soar,
I see great tear-drops in the hated eyes
     That mock me ever more.

And now I know that neither I nor he                                                 135
     Can ever part at all,—
If I arise, I lift mine enemy,
     And if he falls, I fall!

Nay, then, we two must down or upward move
     With the like end and aim,—
The links of Hate are as the links of Love,
     Nay (Nature saith) the same!

The same? Nay then, I hold mine enemy
     Too near for hate or scorn,
For what I hate in him is born of me,—
     Like his own hate, self-born.

At last I pray for him, and praying know
     That he and I are one,—
United at God’s feet we fall, and lo!
     Our foolish strife is done!




Scorner of Flesh, thou who wouldst plunge in gloom
     This radiant thing God made,
What shall abide if this should cease to bloom,
     This Flesh Divine should fade?

The Soul? A Flower of which this Flesh is seed?
     Nay, Flesh and Soul are one!
Thou who wouldst part this one in twain, take heed,
     Lest all should be undone!

This eye of Flesh, to see and apprehend,
     Is thy Soul’s eye! This clay,
That adumbrates thy Soul, shall find no end
     Till that, too, fades away!

Lo, lying with a lily in her hand,
     Thy dear one slumbereth,—
Yet on a day she shall arise and stand
     Smiling on vanquish’d Death.

All Flesh, all Form, all that was pure and fair                                        137
     Here on Life’s crowded road,
She shall arise,—nay, not one little hair
     Shall pass away, saith God!

All that was beautiful, all thine eyes and sense
     Saw beautiful and whole,
The Form, the Flesh, no part shall vanish hence,
     Since these things are the Soul!

Nought that is beautiful can die,—no form
     That once grew fair can fade,—
This flesh shall still be radiant, sweet, and warm,
     Form of the soul God made!

From the unconscious to the conscious life
     Man hath emerged, to know
Self-knowledge, Sight, victorious o’er the strife
     Of Nature’s ebb and flow.

The day God can divide this life in twain
     Its length of day is done,
But both, be sure, will rise and live again,
     If Flesh and Soul are one!




Nought is so sure as this, that Nature strives
     Reckless of human pain,
That on the hecatomb of slaughtered lives
     She looks with large disdain.

Canst thou appease her hunger? For a space,
     But surely not for long;—
She strews Life’s Deep with wreckage of our race
     For she alone is strong.

Behind her footsteps crawl Calamity,
     Sorrow, Disease, and Death;
And yet she shareth in the agony
     Of these, who are her breath.

Gladsome and beautiful, divinely fair,
     Eager to blight or bless,
She carries in her heart all life’s despair,
     Yet still is pitiless.

How then escape her? Summon to thine aid                                         139
     Thy God, all gods that be,—
Inexorable, silent, undismayed,
     She smiles on them and thee.

Fringe of her raiment, dewdrops on her feet,
     Gleams of her own surmise,
Thy gods go with her, fading as they meet
     The flashing of her eyes.

Dying yet deathless, changeful yet unchanged,
     Still here, though all are gone,
All Love, all Hate, avenging and avenged,
     She passeth slowly on.

Yet be of comfort,—let her wend her way!
     Watch as she goeth by!
The power which slayeth all things cannot slay
     Herself,—who cannot die;

And thou, my Soul, art deathless, being part
     Of her who is Divine,—
Pulse of that great and ever-beating Heart,
     Its length of life is thine!

Destroying all things, she destroyeth nought,                                        140
     (Wherefore, be comforted!)
For if her life could fail within thy thought,
     She would herself be dead!







         Think not that I blaspheme
Because I worship not this God of thine;
Because I bend not, either in deed or dream,
         To that dread Force Divine.

         Atheist thou callest me,


he who stands apart from God

While priests and poets name Him fearfully
         And tremble at His nod!

         Poets and priests have lied
From immemorial Time, and still they lie;
Close to the ground they watch, dull-soul’d, dull-eyed,
         The Lord of Hosts go by!

         Not thus in far off days
The Titan stood, fronting the stars and sun—
Erect he watch’d, with neither prayer nor praise,
         The inevitable One!


too, was he                                                            144

Who everywhere the Soul of Pity saw—
The God he prayed to, yonder in Galilee,
         Was not your God of Law!

         He dream’d as atheists do
Of Love that triumphs on, tho’ undertrod;
He worshipt not the gloomy God o’ the Jew,
         Nor even Nature’s God!

         The Law, the Might, the Lord,
Won not the worship of the Crucified,—
Murmuring another name, a gentler word,
         The last Great Dreamer died.

         Alas he could not heal
The woes of Nature, or subdue her strife,—
But in sublime revolt he made men feel
         The piteousness of Life! . . .

         It is not reverence
To kneel in Temples priests and slaves upraise:
The Law which sweeps us hither and sweeps us hence
         Heeds not our prayer or praise.

         It is not blasphemy                                                                  145
To front, Prometheus-like, Eternal Fate!
The God to whom your priests now bend the knee
Left Jesus desolate!

                                                                   So died he,


Seeking in vain to break the Tyrant’s rod;
Tormented, like Prometheus, on his Cross,
         By all the slaves of God!


Alterations in the 1901 edition of The Complete Poetical Works of Robert Buchanan:
Antiphones: I: The Love of God
v.1, l.i: How can I love Thee, God that madest me?
II: Contra Christum
v.8, l.ii: The all-Cruel be all-Kind?
The Prose Note is omitted.]










I HAVE thought myself justified, while trying to realise how Jesus of Nazareth may have struck a contemporary, in using as my dramatic mouthpiece his own Mother, the wife of Joseph the Carpenter. All the phases of my conception can be supported, if necessary, by the existing Christian documents; and if they could not be so supported, they are still justifiable, since the imagination of a modern Poet is fully as reliable as the imagination of a mediæval Monk.
     Goethe, in his old age, foresaw the time when Christianity might become a subject for Poetry; a subject, that is to  say, to be treated without reference of any kind to existing dogma or superstition. Thanks to modern scientific thought, the time has come sooner than was anticipated. We have reached the ’vantage-ground where the story of Jesus can be taken out of the realm of Supernaturalism and viewed humanly, in the domain of sympathetic Art. To even so late an observer as Rénan such a point of view was difficult, not to say impossible. Now, for the first time, human Science has actually uttered its fiat and written it on the rock. That fiat is, “The Law of God is never broken! Whosoever professes to break the Eternal Order is ignorant of the Divine Method— the true Atheist—


apart from God.” It seems a paradox to say so, but in this respect—ignorance of the Divine Law, assumption of powers to break it or suspend it—Jesus 150 of Nazareth was an unbeliever, perhaps the most audacious unbeliever who has ever lived.
     He led the war against Nature, against the God of Nature, and that unhappy war is not over yet. But he, the new Prometheus, urging on his legions of despairing Titans, adopted a new system of attack—he assumed that the God of Nature did not exist; and he substituted in his imagination a new Personality, his own. History has furnished the answer to his pretensions, and the God of Nature, the great unknown God who is at once the master and servant of His own inexorable Will, has conquered all along the line. God reigns—Jesus and the Titans have failed; and their failure has deluged the world with innocent blood.
     In saying so much, I do not wish to infer that my sympathy is with the Conqueror. No; it is with the fallen Atheists, not with the ever-victorious Deity whom they have one by one denied; with Prometheus, with Jesus; with the Dreamers who would fain dry the weeping eyes of men. Though they turn from the living God and substitute the gentle Phantom of their own desire; though they utter a promise which is ever broken, assume a hope which can never be realised: they are still, in the sweetest and surest meaning of the word, our Brethren, and we forgive them their sins against the eternal Law, because we, too, would fain dream as they do. Alas, that the time should come when we must dream no more!
     Meantime, let it be clearly understood that the Poets have ever been on the losing side, on the side, that is to say, of Jesus and the Titan-Dreamers: and hence the proof of a Poet is still to be found in his temperamental antagonism to the God of Nature.



     In what he chooses to call “A Modern View of Jesus Christ,” and which he describes as a picture “in no way concerned with the disputed question of the Divinity of Jesus,” Mr. G. B. Crozier, author of a work on “Civilisation and Progress,” betrays the usual indifference to logic which seems to beset all men who trim and tinker the bewildering popular religion. His account of the moral evolution of Jesus, from the period when the Nazarene postulated a Judaic God of Justice, until the period when he postulated instead a cosmic God of Love, is framed in the familiar manner of light-hearted amateur historians and light-headed Broad-Church divines. In the discussion of any other subject, save this creed of formulas and cobwebs, a writer of Mr. Crozier’s intelligence would first marshall his facts and then frame his theories; but the invariable method of Christian theologians and historians is to frame the theories first, and then marshall the facts to support them. “For when John,” says Mr. Crozier, “sent his disciples to ask Jesus whether or not he were really the Messiah, Jesus simply (sic!) said, ‘Go and show John these things which ye hear and see,—the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.’” “Indeed,” adds Mr. Crozier, “the more he, Jesus, pondered, the more he was convinced that the only kind of Messiah that could possibly be sent by a God of Love must be a comforter of the poor and weak, the lowly, the broken-hearted: a healer of the deaf, the lame, the blind, etc.” In other words, the only possible method by which a God of Love could reveal Himself to his creatures would be the method adopted by 152 every God of Wrath,— the breaking of His own laws, the revelation of His own caprice,—the method, in short, of popular Thaumaturgy! Thus a fairly intelligent and eclectic writer, beset by the insincerity of his hopeless subject, begins by telling us that his picture has nothing to do with the question of the Divinity of Jesus, and then accepts en bloc the signs, portents, and miracles which, if established by rational evidence, would put the quœstio vexata at rest for ever!
In this connection, therefore, it is necessary to repeat with emphasis that it is on the truth or falsehood of the supernatural pretension that the moral character of Jesus must finally stand or fall. It was by Miracles that he attested his divine sovereignty; it was by Miracles that he won his first following; it was by Miracles that he proclaimed himself the Son of God; and without the historical belief in the Miracles Christianity would have died a natural death in its first  infancy. It is not, indeed, a creed of Love which has fascinated Humanity. “God is Love,” cried Jesus; “and my proof that God is Love is this,—I can heal the sick, and I can raise the dead.” The whole question, therefore, is reduced to one of facts, of proof. If we can believe that Jesus raised the dead, if we can even believe that any dead man since the world’s beginning has slipt his shroud and arisen, then we need not hesitate for a moment in accepting the pretensions of Christianity. If, on the other hand, we believe that the eternal Law is never broken, we need not pause to consider the moral character of Jesus. We may accept him (as we are bound to do) as a man of a supremely noble and loving nature, we may even believe that, in the assumption of supernatural power, he was merely self-deluded, not dishonest; but we cannot bow down before him as either the incarnate God or even the wisest of men.
153 The fit and only platform to discuss and examine this religion, this many coloured kaleidoscope which men call Christianity, is, consequently, our own experience of human and natural phenomena. In the light or darkness of our own dwellings, in the silence of our own thoughts, in the record of all we have seen, known, and felt, in the presence of our own beloved ones, and by the sleeping places of our own dead, we have to ask ourselves—has the God of Love, in whom we may otherwise believe, ever attested his being by any interruption of his own laws? Has he not, on the contrary, sealed up the eyes of the blind, left the leper to die of his disease, forborne to disturb, or even break, the sleep of Death? If it is borne in upon us, every day we live, that the laws of life are never broken, and that God has never vouchsafed us a sign, even a glimmer, of His personal presence, what shall we say of the folly, or the insanity, of the great Atheists who have perished miserably in the assumption of miraculous or God-like power?
     “Grant, indeed,” says the bewildered sentimentalist, “that the proof has failed, that no miracle was ever wrought, does not the divine spirit of Jesus remain secure to pervade creation?” By no means. The spirit was that of a deluded sceptic who aspired to break, and who misinterpreted, the laws of God, and who perished, of necessity, like a fly on the wheel. How then, it is asked, has Christianity itself emerged to save and gladden the souls of men? Here, again, our opponents are arguing in a circle, for the religion of Jesus has never really triumphed at all, except in the area of priestly politics and popular superstition. Our time has been wasted, we have been made the sport of a kindly thaumaturgist, for nearly nineteen hundred years.
     Meantime we have constructed, out of the débris of 154 historical documents, an ideal Jesus, a fanciful and fictitious Son of God. All the hope and despair of Humanity, the blood of the Martyrs, the visions of the Prophets, the dreams of the Poets, have nurtured this imaginary Messiah, who sums up in his nebulous person all that we mortals are, or hope to be. He heals no sick, he raises no dead, it is true; we begin to realise at last that he can never have done so; but Jesus, like Mesopotamia, is a blessed word, and we cling to it with fond tenacity.
     In this poem, however, I at least acquit the Nazarene of his atheism—that is, I make him realise, after his momentary madness of supposed godhead, that the creature who endeavours to break the Divine Order must meet the Atheist’s doom. Cruel and inexplicable as that Order is, it is absolute and inevitable. Humanity will never free itself from its chains by assuming that they do not exist. The true believer in God is the man who discovers and recognises His pitiless  laws, from the first Law till the last. The true witness to God is the man who, much as he execrates the anarchy and cruelty of Nature, and as a consequence of the God of Nature, accepts things as they are and endeavours to lighten the burthen for his fellow-men. Jesus was a man of a beautiful temperament, carried beyond himself by a false and sentimental conception of the mechanism of Life. He uttered, no one so exquisitely, the human cry for a Divine Fatherhood. But unfortunately, he appealed to Nature for corroboration of his appeal. Nature never answered him; then as now, she kept God’s secret.

                                                                                                                                                                 R. B.



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