25 March 2018
Illustration by Caroline Hopcraft
On such a day as this, Palm Sunday, what else could be so apt as this picture and this poem?
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
Of all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
Many of us will have had to learn GK Chesterton’s tear-jerker of a poem, The Donkey, at school in time for Palm Sunday. (It’s the “ears like errant wings” that get me.) Similarly we learned TS Eliot’s The Journey of the Magi in time for Christmas. One doesn’t forget these things.
The volte-face of Palm Sunday, for those of us who know the rest of the story, is acutely painful; until we remember that we would most likely have been hosanna-ing and waving palms with the rest of the crowd, then a day or two later yelling, “Crucify him!”