Monday, 25 January 2010

Art and Christianity Part Five - Poem

This my final post on the Art and Christianity meme commenced by Jonathan Evens.

Artwork: Antony Gormley - 'Field for the British Isles'
Drama: Film 'Chariots of Fire' (1981)
Music: J S Bach - St Matthew Passion
Novel: Victoria Hislop - The Island
Poem: Wilfred Owen - The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

I remember hearing this poem for the first time in an English Literature lesson. Although initially I didn't fully understand the depth of the text I could clearly tell the link to Abraham and Isaac from the Bible narrative. Then the teacher went on to explain that Owen's technique was to use both the biblical text as an analogy and also, significantly, as a subversive weapon to get his message across about the massive loss of life in the first world war. Then last year at Greenbelt 2009  Maggi Dawn, during her talk on Lent, quoted the last two lines which triggered the memory banks...

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb, for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an Angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

I find this deeply moving in both the way Owen adopts the language and meaning of Scripture as well as having the courage to speak out so challengingly in an era when it would have been shunned...

Text copied from here.
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