National Poetry Month 2023: Day 9

Happy Easter, if you’re celebrating it. I have been, with my extended family and some friends, and it has been a lot of fun. No religious services were involved, though.

As with many holidays, I can recognize the religious or cultural origins of the occasion and also appreciate how the holiday has evolved for my particular circle of loved ones. Some still view it as a religious observance, and hey, more power to them! But for some of us, the day is also, importantly, a chance to reconnect with the people we need and crave in our lives, to share good food (it’s after 8:30 p.m. and I’m still full from lunch), and to just enjoy being all together again for a few hours. This observance is important, too.

I chose A.E. Housman’s poem tonight for a couple of reasons: first, it’s an empirically good poem; second, he was an atheist but wanted to believe, and I think there’s something powerful in acknowledging a person’s spiritual longings. I don’t share his views or his emptiness, but I honor them as valid.

In his poem, he calls on Christ to come back and fix things in the world. Let me be perfectly clear: I do not share this sentiment at all.

However, I do want people to fix the messes they’ve created — and those messes are legion. I think people should take responsibility for the way they act, the way they treat others, the way they influence their sphere, and even their thoughts. So if everyone could please do that, well, splendid.

Otherwise, I hope you’ve had a really lovely weekend and that you enjoy this poem.

Easter Hymn

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.


The poet A. E. Housman (1859-1936) published just two volumes of poems in his lifetime: A Shropshire Lad (1896) and Last Poems (1922). Yet he remains one of the most widely-read poets of his era, on the strength of these two books and a selection of posthumously published poems. “Easter Hymn” opens More Poems, which was published shortly after Housman’s death in 1936.

Biographical information respectfully quoted from the Interesting Literature blog.

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