St. Vincent de Paul
An earthly king doth question who,
Be the man who dost such things.
Be he a prophet or Elijah of old,
Or the one whose neck made sword to ring?
The king's perplexed,
His vision blurred,
His past and future vexed.
Can bone and sinew,
Join the spirit,
And the living flesh?
Tis not a prophet from of old,
Nor the bane of Baal he sees.
Tis not the Voice,
No, none of these,
Tis the everlasting King.
Author's Note: I realize that not everyone appreciates poetry. In speaking with friends and family, this disdain for poetry often arises from confusion or the inability to understand exactly what the poem is getting at. I completely understand this situation. I too struggle and find myself reading a poem or even a stanza over and over trying to catch the meaning. I believe it's taboo for a poet to explain his or her work. That, so the thought carries, should be done by scholars and students in the years to come.
I think that's a load of you know what. I developed a love for poetry when I understood what the poet was saying. I fell in love with Gerald Manley Hopkins after taking a class in college where I learned how to read his work and many others. I was trained to see the words used, meter, style, and pace. G.K. Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse was a pleasure to read once I got into the story behind the lines. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by J.R.R. Tolkien is still one of my all time favorites. There is a simple beauty in poetry than cannot be found in traditional styles of writing.
Below you will find my explanation of what I have written above and why. I want you to enjoy my poems. I want you to understand the poetry and fall in love with the art. Soon, God willing, I'll be publishing a book of poetry that follows this style. The front of the book with be filled with my poetry. Some of it with be about personal events I have experienced and some of it will be stories and lessons about life, love, and family. Much of it is my interpretation of certain Scripture passages in a poetic form like what you just read. In the back of the book, each poem will have some commentary that explains the words used, the context, and why it was written the way it was written. My hope is that you, the reader, will be lifted up to another level of seeing, of understanding. It is my hope that you too will fall in love with the poetic form and it's power. Thanks for reading! If you'd like to be the first to know when the book is available, send me an email and you'll be the first to know!
1st Stanza - In this poem the earthly king is Herod who is wondering who this man Jesus really is that he's been hearing so much about. Some were saying he was a prophet while others were saying Jesus was actually Elijah returned. The earthly king is worried that perhaps John the Baptist, the one whose neck made sword to ring, had come back from the dead. This line gives the power to John's neck rather than the sword and it hints at the reason for his beheading, the defense of marriage, with the word ring.
2nd Stanza - Herod had lived a life of debauchery and now in his mind he is coming face to face with his past sins and future punishment. He is reeling at the thought of John, whom he beheaded, coming back to life.
3rd Stanza - Here we find out the identity of the everlasting King. He is not a prophet from the Old Testament. Nor is he Elijah who destroy the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:40). Bane is an old English word that means something that causes death. Finally, the person in question is not John the Baptist or the Voice, a reference to John's statement about himself, "I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” (John 1:23) The one Herod is hearing about is the true King, the King of Kings, the Everlasting King, Jesus.
More poetry by James M. Hahn available in The Last Dragon and other Poems, available soon!
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