High and Lifted Up
by G.A. Studdert Kennedy
Seated on the throne of power with a sceptre in Thine hand,
While a host of eager angels ready for Thy Service stand.
So it was the prophet saw Thee, in his agony of prayer,
While the sound of many waters swelled in music on the air,
Swelled until it burst like thunder in a shout of perfect praise,
“Holy,Holy,Holy Father, Potentate of years and days.
Thine the Kingdom, Thine the glory, Thine the splendour of the sun,
Thine the wisdom, Thine the honour, Thine the crown of victory won.”
So it was the prophet saw Thee,so this artist saw Thee too,
Flung his vision into colour, mystery of gold and blue.
But I stand in woe and wonder; God my God, I cannot see,
Darkness deep and deeper darkness – all the world is dark to me.
Where is Power? Where is Glory? Where is any victory won?
Where is wisdom? Where is honour? Where the splendour of the sun?
God, I hate this splendid vision – all its splendour is a lie,
Splendid fools see splendid folly, splendid mirage born to die.
As imaginary waters to an agony of thirst,
As the vision of a banquet to a body hunger-cursed,
As the thought of anaesthetic to a soldier mad with pain,
While his torn and tortured body turns and twists and writhes again,
So this splendid lying vision turns within my doubting heart,
Like a bit of rusty bayonet in a torn and festering part.
Preachers give it me for comfort, and I curse them to their face,
Puny, petty-minded priestlings prate to me of power and grace;
Prate of power and boundless wisdom that takes count of little birds,
Sentimental poisoned sugar in a sickening stream of words.
Platitudinously pious far beyond all doubts and fears,
They will patter of God’s mercy that can wipe away our tears.
All their speech is drowned in sobbing, and I hear the great world groan,
As I see a million mothers sitting weeping all alone,
See a host of English maidens making pictures in the fire,
While a host of broken bodies quiver still on German wire.
And I hate the God of Power on His hellish heavenly throne,
Looking down on rape and murder, hearing little children moan.
Though a million angels hail Thee King of kings, yet cannot I.
There is nought can break the silence of my sorrow save the cry,
“Thou who rul’st this world of sinners with Thy heavy iron rod,
Was there ever any sinner who has sinned the sin of God?
Was there ever any dastard who would stand and watch a Hun
Ram his bayonet through the bowels of a baby just for fun?
Praise to God in Heaven’s highest and in all the depths be praise,
Who in all His works is brutal,like a beast in all His ways.”
God, the God I love and worship, reigns in sorrow on the Tree,
Broken, bleeding, but unconquered, very God of God to me.
All that showy pomp of splendour, all that sheen of angel wings,
Was but borrowed from the baubles that surround our earthly kings.
Thought is weak and speech is weaker, and the vision that he sees
Strikes with dumbness any preacher, brings him humbly to his knees.
But the Word that Thou hast spoken borrows nought from kings and thrones,
Vain to rack a royal palace for the echo of Thy tones.
In a manger, in a cottage, in an honest workman’s shed,
In the homes of humble peasants, and the simple lifes they led,
In the life of one an outcast and a vagabond on earth,
In the common things He valued, and proclaimed of priceless worth,
And above all in the horror of the cruel death He died,
Thou hast bid us seek Thy glory, in a criminal crucified.
And we find it – for Thy glory is the glory of Love’s loss,
And Thou hast no other splendour but the splendour of the Cross.
For in Christ I see the martyrs and the beauty of their pain,
And in Him I hear the promise that my dead shall rise again.
High and lifted up, I see Him on the eternal Calvary,
And two piercèd hands are stretching east and west o’er land and sea.
On my knees I fall and worship that great Cross that shines above,
For the very God of Heaven is not Power, but Power of Love.