The Goodly Fere

by Ezra Pound*
(Fere = mate, companion)

Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion.

HA’ we lost the goodliest fere o’ all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O’ ships and the open sea.

When they came wi’ a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
“First let these go!” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Or I’ll see ye damned,” says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
“Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?” says he.

Oh we drank his “Hale” in the good red wine
When we last made company.
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere,
But a man o’ men was he.

I ha’ seen him drive a hundred men
Wi’ a bundle o’ cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They’ll no’ get him a’ in a book, I think,
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha’ snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
“I’ll go to the feast,” quo’ our Goodly Fere,
“Though I go to the gallows tree.”

“Ye ha’ seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead,” says he.
“Ye shall see one thing to master all:
’Tis how a brave man dies on the tree.”

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free.
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue,
But never a cry cried he.

I ha’ seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o’ Galilee.
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi’ his eyes like the gray o’ the sea.

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging,
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi’ twey words spoke suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea.
If they think they ha’ slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha’ seen him eat o’ the honey-comb
Sin’ they nailed him to the tree.

*Note from the blogger:
I know Ezra Pound did not lead an exemplary life in many respects, but I cannot help but be moved by this depiction of Jesus and His “power under control” at the crucifixion. 

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the Good News

I cringed inwardly. “Even if you were the only person on earth, Jesus would have died just for you.” Why did this sit so poorly with me? The speaker was only reiterating things I have heard all my life. In the week that followed, Easter “media” echoed his message again and again. Facebook posts, blogs, worship songs. “Jesus died for me!”

Yet somehow this familiar refrain left me terribly uncomfortable. An inner voice kept crying, “This is all wrong. Jesus’ death was not primarily about ME. I am not the center of this story!”

My Sunday school training quickly kicked in, “No, of course not. It’s about Jesus.” But somehow even that answer didn’t satisfy.

Then it occurred to me that Jesus wasn’t even then center of His Own story.

A recent conversation with a friend echoed in my mind. “You know,” she said, “We have so personalized and individualized the gospel today. But it wasn’t always the case. The message of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples was that the Kingdom of God was coming. That was the good news.”

In describing His mission, Jesus often said that He must proclaim the Kingdom of God. Many of His parables began, “The kingdom of Heaven is like…”, and much of His teaching introduced a new way of living, a new way of thinking, that was out of step with the norms of his society—guidelines for citizens of a new Kingdom.

Jesus did not live to glorify Himself. He didn’t come to earth so that we could see the Father. Nor did He die so that I could be forgiven, have a personal relationship with Him, or live eternally.

He came, quite frankly, to turn the universe on its head; to bring about a new world order; to defeat evil once and for all and establish a Kingdom full of righteousness and peace.

In the process did He receive glory? Absolutely. Did those who saw him catch a glimpse of the Father? Of course. Did He provide a way for us to be cleansed of sin, live in loving relationship with Him, and never die? Thank God—yes, yes, and yes. But these are all small brush strokes in a bigger picture.

In His 33 years on earth, Jesus lived for something greater than His own personal story. In return, He invites each of us to live for something bigger than ourselves. The fact that we are given a part in the divine Story—invited to be citizens of this eternal Kingdom—should fill us with awe and wonder. It should make us feel small and humble and throw us to our knees in all-out worship.

Instead, we make Jesus’ time on earth about ourselves. This is understandable, in one sense, since His death is my only hope of life. But to distill the the mystery and magnificence of Jesus’ sacrifice down to simply what it means for me personally is to cheapen it, to miss the bigger picture, and to live small. Quite frankly, it is not Kingdom behavior.

As I walk away from Easter this year I am challenged to lift my eyes to something bigger than myself. I want this world to fade and become insubstantial, as I catch glimpses of the new Reality that Jesus brought about. I am hungry to learn more and more what it looks like to live each day as a citizen of this Kingdom.

Life

I recently read C. S. Lewis’ sermon/essay “The Weight of Glory,” which opens with these lines:

“If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.…”

His ideas were still rolling around in my head during a discussion at church this past Sunday.

We were studying Leviticus, and the focus was on blood and the regulations surrounding it. With broad brush strokes through the Old Testament, we concluded that, to the best of their understanding at the time, life resided in the blood. The literal Hebrew phrase in many passages is, “its life, its blood”—which led to the translation “lifeblood” in some cases. To lose blood meant to lose life—in other words, to die.

Of course the discussion propelled us forward into the New Testament, to Jesus, His death, the impact of His words as he held aloft the cup at the last supper, solemnly proclaiming it to be His blood, inviting us to partake.

I can’t adequately reproduce the breadth and richness of that discussion in these few lines, nor could our words then fully explore the depths of this holy mystery. But many were struck with the conviction that we, following Christ’s example, were called to death.

This is very true, and very biblical. Die to ourselves, to the world, to the flesh.

But something nagged at my mind. “This is my blood, poured out for you.” Lifeblood. Life. Life poured out for you.

What if we were to look at our Christian walk, not so much as dying, but as pouring out our lives. I know it might be semantics, two sides of the same coin, but what a difference it makes in my outlook.

One seems inward focused, the other outward. One seems like a truncation, an ending; the other a beginning with limitless potential.

Our lives are not, indeed, meant to be preserved, protected, held in reserve. Instead, we are to pour them out into others, into the world around us. Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t begin and end in His death at the cross. The gospels record again and again that He poured Himself out continually into the lives of those around Him. Yes, He gave His life, and that process began years before Calvary.

What’s more, we aren’t even called to give out of our own resources. The truth is, on our own we have nothing to offer. If we try to pour out life in our own strength and wisdom, we will ultimately be depleted, offering only death and disappointment. But Jesus, as the source of all life, once again offers His Life to flow through us to others. In relationship with Him we are tapped in to the limitless spring of Life, which will never run dry.

“This is My blood, poured out for you.” Take it in, drink deeply of My Life. Then pour out Life to others.

I think C. S. would back me up.