Sunday, April 1, 2012

Entry Into Jerusalem

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, Benjamin Robert Haydon

Note on Mr. Haydon's picture from the Web Gallery of Art: Haydon was impelled by strong personal faith to undertake his uncommissioned religious canvases. The years of labour he expended on them helped to ruin him. It was his aim to cast out doubt as well as win fame, and in Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, he addressed the issue of doubt directly, assembling past rationalists and sceptics like Voltaire and his own more devout friends like Wordsworth among the watching crowd. Their varied reactions to Christ's appearance amount to a debate on faith.

The Entry Into Jerusalem (Mr. Haydon's great picture)

The air is fill'd with shouts, and trumpets' sounding--
A host are at thy gates, Jerusalem.
Now is their van the Mount of Olives rounding;
Above them Judah's lion-banners gleam,
Twined with the palm and olives' peaceful stem:
Now swell the nearer sounds of voice and string,
As down the hillside pours the living stream;
And to the cloudless heaven Hosannas ring,
"He comes, the Son of David comes--the mighty King!"

The cuirass'd Roman heard; and grasp'd his shield,
And rushed in fiery haste to gate and tower;
The Pontiff from his battlement beheld
The host, and knew the falling of his power--
That shout gave sign of Sion's final hour.
Still down the marble road the myriads come,
Spreading the way with garment, branch, and flower,
And deeper sounds are mingling, "woe to Rome!
The day of freedom dawns--rise Israel from thy tomb!"

Temple of beauty--long that day is done;
Thy ark is dust, thy golden cherubim
In the fierce triumphs of the foe are gone:
The shades of ages on thy altars swim,
Yet still a light is there, tho' wavering dim,
And has its holy lamp been watch'd in vain?
Or lives it not until the finish'd time,
When he who fixed, shall break his people's chain;
And Sion be the lov'd, the crown'd of God again?

But then thou wast of earth the splendid wonder,
And matchless beauty sat upon thy walls.
At once, as with a peal of midnight thunder,
Startled the crowd within thy ivory halls;
The priests, with turban'd brows, and purple palls,
The son of Mammon, the pale usurer,
Like men that see the lightening ere it falls,
From their polluted seats sprang smote with fear--
That shout, like Judgement's Trumpet, burst upon their ear.

He comes, yet with the burning bolt unarmed;
Pale, pure, prophetic, God of Majesty!
Tho' thousands, tens of thousands, round him swarm'd,
None durst abide that depth divine of eye;
None durst his waving garments' hem draw nigh.
But at his feet was laid the Roman's sword:
There Lazarus bowed to see his King pass by;
There Jairus, with his age's child, adored.
"He comes, the King of Kings, Hosanna to the Lord!"

                                                             ~Reverend George Croly

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