A. E. Housman’s “Easter Hymn”

A. E. Housman (d 1936) was a British classical scholar and poet (best known for his cycle of poems entitled A Shropshire Lad) of whom I’m quite fond.  (I’ve even made a pilgrimage to St. Laurence’s Church in Ludlow, England, to visit his tomb.)

Housman was also an agnostic, religiously, and I find the yearning but faithless hope of his “Easter Hymn” quite moving:

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,

You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,

At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.

On the Saturday following the crucifixion of Christ, the disciples hadn’t yet heard the stunning news of the Resurrection.  Disheartened, they may perhaps have hoped, but they almost certainly also despaired.

On this Saturday, we too live in hope, waiting for the promises of salvation and of deliverance from death to be fully realized.

One fact is virtually undisputed, though, whether by believers or by responsible and informed skeptics:  Jesus doesn’t sleep in that Syrian garden.  On the Sunday morning after his death, his tomb was definitely empty.

They disagree as to the explanation, but the fact that the grave was unoccupied is pretty much universally accepted by historians.

Posted from Seattle, Washington.

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