R. S. Thomas, “Resurrection” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is R. S. Thomas’ poem “Resurrection” from Selected Poems. Thomas was an Anglican priest and a leading Anglo-Welsh poet of the 20th century.


Easter. The grave clothes of winter
are still here, but the sepulchre
is empty. A messenger
from the tomb tells us
how a stone has been rolled
from the mind, and a tree lightens
the darkness with its blossom.
There are travellers upon the road
who have heard music blown
from a bare bough, and a child
tells us how the accident
of last year, a machine stranded
beside the way for lack
of petrol, is crowned with flowers.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus

Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing

T. S. Eliot, “East Coker,” Stanza IV

Emily Dickinson, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers”

Emily Dickinson, “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is Emily Dickinson’s poem “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers.” While Emily Dickinson was anything but an orthodox Christian, many of her poems, such as this one, capture the power of religious themes and the deeper life. Living in the United States in the 18th-century, Dickinson spent the majority of her adult life as a recluse. Her first volume of poetry was published posthumously in 1890, enjoying immediate success and laying the groundwork for Dickinson to become one of the most important American poets.


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus

Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing

T. S. Eliot, “East Coker,” Stanza IV

T. S. Eliot, “East Coker” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is stanza IV of T. S. Eliot’s poem “East Coker,” which is from Four Quartets (1943). Thomas Stearns Eliot is probably the most famous twentieth-century English-language poet, renowned for his groundbreaking work typified in poems like “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1911) and The Wasteland (1922). Eliot was born in the United States but resided in England for most of his adult life.


The wounded surgeon plies the steel
That questions the distempered part;
Beneath the bleeding hands we feel
The sharp compassion of the healer’s art
Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

    Our only health is the disease
If we obey the dying nurse
Whose constant care is not to please
But to remind of our, and Adam’s curse,
And that, to be restored, our sickness must grow worse.

    The whole earth is our hospital
Endowed by the ruined millionaire,
Wherein, if we do well, we shall
Die of the absolute paternal care
That will not leave us, but prevents us everywhere.

    The chill ascends from feet to knees,
The fever sings in mental wires.
If to be warmed, then I must freeze
And quake in frigid purgatorial fires
Of which the flame is roses, and the smoke is briars.

    The dripping blood our only drink,
The bloody flesh our only food:
In spite of which we like to think
That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood—
Again, in spite of that, we call this Friday good.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus

Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing

Christian Wiman, “Every Riven Thing” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is Christian Wiman’s poem “Every Riven Thing,” which is from Every Riven Thing (2011). Christian Wiman is a contemporary poet and essayist who edited Poetry (2003-2013) and serves at Yale Divinity School as Professor of the Practice of Religion and Literature.


God goes, belonging to every riven thing He’s made
Sing his being simply by being
The thing it is:
Stone and tree and sky,
Man who sees and sings and wonders why

God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing He’s made,
Means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
Trying to will himself into the stillness where

God goes belonging. To every riven thing He’s made
There is given one shade
Shaped exactly to the thing itself:
Under the tree a darker tree;
Under the man the only man to see

God goes belonging to every riven thing. He’s made
The things that bring Him near,
Made the mind that makes Him go.
A part of what man knows,
Apart from what man knows,

God goes belonging to every riven thing He’s made.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus

Denise Levertov, “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus” [Poetry for Easter]

Each week during Eastertide I am posting a poem that helps me engage more meaningfully with Jesus’ resurrection. Here is Denise Levertov’s poem “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus,” from The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov. Denise Levertov was a twentieth century poet, born in England and later residing in the United States.


It is for all
‘literalists of the imagination,’
poets or not,
that miracle
is possible and essential.
Are some intricate minds
nourished on concept,
as epiphytes flourish
high in the canopy?
Can they
subsist on the light,
on the half
of metaphor that’s not
grounded in dust, grit,
heavy
carnal clay?
Do signs contain and utter,
for them
all the reality
that they need? Resurrection, for them,
an internal power, but not
a matter of flesh?
For the others,
of whom I am one,
miracles (ultimate need, bread
of life,) are miracles just because
people so tuned
to the humdrum laws:
gravity, mortality-
can’t open
to symbol’s power
unless convinced of its ground,
its roots
in bone and blood.
We must feel
the pulse in the wound
to believe
that ‘with God
all things
are possible,’
taste
bread at Emmaus
that warm hands
broke and blessed.


Previous poems in this series:

George Herbert, “Easter Wings”