Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Taken in Adultery

 A crowd of scribes and Pharisees, dragging a woman distraught,
now burst into the temple, where Jesus sat and taught.

"This wench was taken in the act  of foul adultery.
 The law of Moses says she dies. Now you – What's she to thee?

With frowning brow and vaguely straying hand
he doodled idle figures in the sand.

Impatient at his silence, they renewed to taunt and try him,
their faces flushed with righteousness, as were they flushed with wine.

"They coupled there like weasels,  like pitch her lust waxed hot!
 The Law of Iron in wrath demands  the vengeance: stone the slut!"

He gazed down at the lines that he had drawn,
his eyes though focussed on another plane.

At length he lifted up his eyes, and said, on even tone,
"Let him of you who hath no sin  step forth, and cast a stone."

Like reeds at streamside, when the breezes  set their heads to sway,
the upright crowd there wavered, and murmuring went their way.

            The day drew on to noon without a sound,
            and Jesus drawing traces on the ground.

Then up he looked and saw the woman standing there alone.
"The ones who would condemn thee, lo, where are they gone?"

Apart she stood, and hung her head, whom they had called a whore.
"Neither do I condemn thee.   Go, and sin no more."

She left, and vanished into life; and there we lose her trail.
What vows she kept, or did she slip, we can no wise retail.

The shadows lengthened over him, they cloaked him like a robe
They spread to the horizons, till they covered all the globe.

Then all was black, till only stars  the striving sight might see.
His eyes then sought the zenith.  "My God, forgive thou me."

[Note:  For the psycho-theology of this, cf. The Secret of Father Brown – "You see, it was I who killed all those people."]

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