G. K. Chesterton’s poem, The Donkey, is one of my favorite pieces for Palm Sunday.
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
On 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.
I don’t presume to know all that went into Chesterton’s thinking, and I have not read all the literary analyses of this very interesting poem. Perhaps Chesterton meant nothing more than to write a whimsical and fanciful poem about an animal connected to Palm Sunday, much like some of the children’s Christmas songs we are all familiar with, like, for example, The Friendly Beasts. But I wonder if Chesterton might have had some insight here about human nature and the uncanny ability we have to take a narrative about Jesus and turn it into a narrative about us. This would be very interesting, and would capture some of our evangelical culture very well. What asses we are to think that the shouts about our ears and the palms beneath our feet are actually for us!
April 13, 2014