A few months ago I posted about modern poems about the Fathers. The commenters and I came up with at least enough to fill a chapbook — poems by Richard Wilbur (Chrysostom), Phyllis McGinley (Jerome), Percy Shelley (Polycarp), Bob Dylan (Augustine), John Henry Newman (Gregory Nazianzen), and Samuel Hazo (Tertullian).
My friend (and favorite living poet) Jane Greer has me reading Stevie Smith these days. In her Collected Poems I found this gem:
The lions who ate the Christians on the sands of the arena
By indulging native appetites played what has now been seen a
Not entirely negligible part
In consolidating at the very start
The position of the Early Christian Church.
Initiatory rights are always bloody
And the lions, it appears
From contemporary art, made a study
Of dyeing Coliseum sands a ruddy
Liturgically sacrificial hue
And if the Christians felt a little blue —
Well people being eaten often do.
Theirs was the death, and theirs the crown undying,
A state of things which must be satisfying.
My point which up to this has been obscured
Is that it was the lions who procured
By chewing up blood gristle flesh and bone
The martyrdoms on which the church has grown.
I only write this poem because I thought it rather looked
As if the part the lions played was being overlooked.
By lions’ jaws great benefits and blessings were begotten
And so our debt to Lionhood must never be forgotten.
One thought on “A Lion of Verse”
[…] Aquilina posts a rather delightful and whimsical poem I didn’t know by the wonderful Stevie Smith – Sunt Leones. (”I only write this poem […]
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