Today, however, I’m posting this, not because I understand it all. (Lowell is not the easiest.) But because I want to understand it all, because it feels significant for our preparation for Holy Week, and because it was written in 1945 and has the line: “The nineteen-hundred forty-fifth of grace,” which I love.
The Holy Innocentsby Robert Lowell
Listen, the hay-bells tinkle as the cart
Wavers on rubber tires along the tar
And cindered ice below the burlap mill
And ale-wife run. The oxen drool and start
In wonder at the fenders of a car,
And blunder hugely up St. Peter’s hill.
These are the undefiled by woman–their
Sorrow is not the sorrow of this world:
King Herod shrieking vengeance at the curled
Up knees of Jesus choking in the air,
A king of speechless clods and infants. Still
The world out-Herods Herod; and the year,
The nineteen-hundred forty-fifth of grace,
Lumbers with losses up the clinkered hill
Of our purgation; and the oxen near
The worn foundations of their resting-place,
The holy manger where their bed is corn
As Jesus, in the harness, who will mourn?
Lamb of the shepherds, Child, how still you lie.