Katharine Lee Bates

(1859-1929 / United States)

What Is Christ? - Poem by Katharine Lee Bates

OH, what is Christ, that we should call on Him?
Wasted Armenia, in her utter woe,
Dies in the mocking desert, calling so.
Hyænas tear her children limb from limb.
The clouds, soft dimpled once with cherubim,
Now screen the flight of Lucifers that strow
Their fiery seed where clustered households know
'Twixt sleep and death one flaring interim
Of agony, brief as the broken prayer.
What prayer? What Christ? Himself He could not save.
From first to last, when hath He saved His own?
Stephen's young body, battered stone by stone,
Edith Cavell in her most holy grave,
For His helpless host of martyrs witness bear.

Thought casts the challenge. Faith must lift the glove.
Most true it is Christ doth not save the flesh.
God's dreamy Nazarene, caught in the mesh
Of ignorance and malice, whitest dove
Net ever snared, took little care thereof.
Not His to plead with Pilate, nor to thresh
Those priestly lies. He died, to live afresh
Spirit, not body; not the Jew, but Love.
Love, the one Light in which all lusters meet,
Ultimate miracle, far goal of Time!
Even to-day, when all seems lost, they feel,
Those nations that like hooded sorrows kneel,
Their prayer's deep answer, loathing war as crime,
Longing to gather at Love's wounded feet.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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