Sthephan G. Stephansson Poetry

ELOI LAMMA SABAHKTHANI

No horns were blown nor havoc made
When He was in the Manger laid.
No diary the date has shown;
His day of birth is still unknown.

And even yet our age is blind
To excellence in humankind.
But somewhere Nature's twirling Tide
Will tender payment, multiplied.

His Time, we know, would not agree
To name His anniversary,
And let each current Christmas lay
Acclaim, instead, the longer day.

His catechism was common toil,
His copy-book the living soil,
Where nature, old, yet all abloom,
In every knoll concealed a tomb

Of poet, whom the people spurned,
Or prophet, later stoned or burned;
Where fathers broke each others' bones,
And builded sons memorial stones.

Amid those scenes there came the call
That comes to leaders, one and all:
To mend the ills that cause decay
And cure the blunders of the day.

In whispers low the human flood
Said "Here's a prophet in the bud."
The mother-heart, that hoped and yearned.
The hallmark on His brow discerned.

He saw what ailed society.
That sin was not impiety;
Not penury that pinched the folk
In part, nor yet the Roman yoke.

He saw that narrow selfishness
Was searing all our happiness;
That the burden of each citizen
Was saddled on by fellowmen —

Men of craft and cruelty.
Who clamored for servility;
Who took on faith the favored guess
That faking may beget success.

He preached that human love, alone.
Could lead the way to Heaven's throne;
That all our deepest wisdom went
To waste, if lacking good intent.

His text upon the profiteer
And penny-slave had thin veneer;
But every sinner found defence
Whose fault was just incompetence.

He charged a cankered ministry,
With creed-enslaved mentality,
Who fear the light and sell their soul
For softer jobs and more control.

O'er the crowd lie cast a spell
That charmed the groping infidel;
For something in a soul divine
Can serve a thought that words confine.

And every truth His soul was sent
He seemed to think self-evident;
Forgetting that the mind of man
Is multi-cosmopolitan.

But how remiss the multitude
His message found, He understood,
When, after all His soul had sown,
They sought for Him the local throne.

For men believed that vision was
The work of schools, alone, because
Some brands, at least, were brought or sent
In book-form to the ignorant.

But she's your own soul, eloquent
With insight, hope and sentiment;
Like his, who sat beside her door
And served ten thousand years before.

II

To fail in building brotherhood
Embittered Him upon the rood.
It broke His heart of hearts to see
How hopeless such a task would be.

And His complaint upon the cross
Comes pealing down the years to us,
When Bigotry and blinded Hate
About His standard congregate.

III

But evermore the gods beget,
And gospel themes are written yet;
And from the self-same source is hurled
Each servant that improves the world.

And there are always mighty men;
And mundane culture, now and then,
And Fancy's bright, effulgent whole
Are focused in a godly soul.

But every martyr, man or saint,
Has made in turn the same complaint:
That when his heart and hope were spent
The harvest seemed a punishment.

That pain of mind the preacher draws
Who pleads for better faiths and laws,
And dies, with all his efforts banned,
An outcast in his fatherland.

And 'tis the leader's lot to see
His labors' sad futility,
When mankind, full of self-deceit,
Keep signing up their own defeat.

And the poet's portion is
To perish in the chrysalis,
And carry to the bier, unborn,
The budding visions of the morn.

And even the peasant pioneer,
Who plows the glebe beside the mere,
Succumbs ere he, himself, can see
His service to humanity.

Written in 1901

Translated by Paul Bjarnason.



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