Today we have a brilliant poem that, thanks to Rowan Williams, is finally available in English. The welsh poet David Gwenallt Jones was raised Catholic, but in the bright and hopeful optimism of the early twentieth century he became a Marxist. Like so many of those caught up in the bright possibilities of a godless future for humanity, he became completely overwhelmed with despair. The collective evils of the New Dream made him profoundly disillusioned. More importantly, though, he was struck by the darkness that he saw lying within every human heart. He eventually returned to the faith with a renewed sense of just how powerful the Christian Gospel is.
As I said a few days ago, on Maundy Thursday, after the Mass of the Last Supper, we will watch as the Church is stripped bare of all ornament. We too are stripped bare, and the first half of this sonnet describes the situation well, no airs are allowed into the Sacred Triduum: "Take off the business suit, the old-school tie, The gown, the cap, drop the reviews, awards, Certificates, stand naked in your sty."
The turn: "Lost in the wood, we sometimes glimpse the sky..." But despite the continual descent of the Word into our lives, "we cannot hear, the alien voices high." And once again on Good Friday we, "Like wolves, we lift our snouts: Blood, blood, we cry," ("Crucify him! Crucify him!"), and we condemn, and then adore, "The blood that bought us so we need not die."
By D. Gwenallt Jones
Translated from Welsh by Rowan Williams
Take off the business suit, the old-school tie,
The gown, the cap, drop the reviews, awards,
Certificates, stand naked in your sty,
A little carnivore, clothed in dried turds.
The snot that slowly fills our passages
Seeps up from hollows where the dead beasts lie;
Dumb stamping dances spell our messages,
We only know what makes our arrows fly.
Lost in the wood, we sometimes glimpse the sky
Between the branches, and the words drop down
We cannot hear, the alien voices high
And hard, singing salvation, grace, life, dawn.
Like wolves, we lift our snouts: Blood, blood, we cry,
The blood that bought us so we need not die.