Palm Sunday in the Poetry Corner

The Donkey

by G.K. Chesterton

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.

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6 Responses to “Palm Sunday in the Poetry Corner”

  1. Mark Esswein Says:

    It think Chesterton does the the donkey a disservice in this ditty. He redeems the donkey in the last stanza, but the first three set up the stereotype.

    Despite it’s reputation as recalcitrant and stubborn, the donkey is a steady dependable servant. Precisely why the scripture depicts Christ arriving in Jerusalem aback a donkey.

    The common folk understand – the city folk sneer.

  2. Mark Esswein Says:

    …But then again, maybe that’s his point. The first few readings didn’t lean that way though…

  3. jim walsh Says:

    Little-known fact: kings rode upon donkeys in the ancient Near East. The donkey was the royal beast of burden.

    • Mark Esswein Says:

      Interesting, I didn’t know that. I always assumed that the scriptural portend of The Messiah aback an ass was meant as a sort of warning that the King would appear in some unexpected way.

  4. David Fitzgerald Says:

    Even by Roman times? So Malachi (I think it was Malachi, or was it Joel?) when he promised that Judah’s king would come to them riding on an ass he was basically confirming their expectations. Similar to a news reporter today reporting that “the President will be arriving on Air Force One in London tomorrow for the G-20 summit….” Not the point about kingship we think is normally being made in the Gospels.

    By the time of Jesus of course, the expectation was that the Messiah would come on an ass, thanks to Malachi. The tradition has Jesus fulfilling that expectation. The question I have Jim, in light of your post, is whether for first century Christians, the entry into Jerusalem turns their notions of kingship on its head, ie that our Messiah is a very different king (as we normally assume) or whether it is simply reinforcing their preexisting notions, a la Malachi, ie of course that Messiah arrived on a donkey, that’s what kings do?

  5. Timothy Peach Says:

    I really liked it, Granulous. Thanks.


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