Sydney Thompson Dobell

(1824-1874 / England)

The Olive - Poem by Sydney Thompson Dobell

I have heard a friar say
That the Olive learned to pray
In Gethsemane,-
A holy man was he,
Jacopo by name,-
All upon his bended knees
From Jerusalem
He crossed Kedron brook
And to the garden came
Of Gethsemane,
And the very olive-trees
Are there to this day.
And I would have you know,
For I loved to hear him speak,
Good Friar Jacopo!-
That on an Easter-week,
In the time long ago
Of bloody Pilate 'King of Rome,'
Lord Jesus
To the garden-gate did come
Of Gethsemane.
And as He came at the dear look
O' the Lord a sudden shudder shook
The wood, and wooden moans and groans
Allowed the silence of the stones.
(The stones that next day, as 'tis said,
Oped their mouths and spake the dead.)
And when He bent His sacred knees
The shame of limbs that could not bend
Suppled every bough's end
To a lythe
And pliant wythe.
But ere He spake a-silent stood
Every tree in all the wood,
And the silence began to fill
Inly, as the ears with blood
When the outer world is still.
And when He spake at the first
'Let this cup' did somewhat swell
Every twig and tip asunder,
Like the silence in the head
When the veins are nigh to burst;
And at the second was nothing seer
To stir, but all the swollen green
Blackened as a cloud with thunder;
But in the final agony,
When His anguish brake its bands
And the bloody sweat down-fell,
At the third 'Let this cup'
As He lifted up His hands
Black drops fell from every tree
And all the forest lifted up.


The Lord went to Calvary-
Well, perhaps, for you and me,
Brother, who being men are fain
To profit by the blessed loss
That quivers overhead while we
At the foot of the cross-mast
With the hereditary face
Reckon up our selfish gain,
Rend his sacred weeds and cast
Lots for the vesture of His grace,-
Aye, at the dabbled foot of the Cross
While that dear blood doth flow.
The Olive cannot chaffer so,
Not being a man, altho'
Since the pallors of that hour
It hath kept a human power
And is not quite a tree;
Now and then
Round the unbelief of men
It lifts up praying hands,
Because it is so much a tree
And cannot tell its tale
Nor reach
To clear its knowledge into speech.
And whether on that awful day
In Gethsemane
There was wind,
Or whether because day and night
And day again all winds that blew
From the City on the height
Shuddered with the things they knew
I know not, but you shall find
An Almighty Memory-
That yearly grows and flowers and fruits
And strikes the blindness of its roots
And suckers forth, but howsoe'er
It blindly beat itself beyond
Its planted first can do no more
Than stretch the measure of its bond
And shape as it had shaped before
The arborous passion that can ne'er
Be paroled into shriving air-
Sicken in the leafy blood
And turn it deadly pale.
And as when a strong malady
Of tertian and quatertian pain,
Turning the cause whence it began
Into the woe of man,
By loops and conduits else too fine
For an incarnadine,
Hath shaken, shaken it from the body into space,
When life and health again co-reign,
And all youth's rosy cheer
Tunes every nerve and summers every vein,
Some crucial habit of the brain
Sudden repeats the unforgotten throe-


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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010



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