The Saviour of Society

A poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne


O son of man, but of what man who knows?
That broughtest healing on thy leathern wings
To priests, and under them didst gather kings,
And madest friends to thee of all man's foes;
Before thine incarnation, the tale goes,
Thy virgin mother, pure of sensual stings,
Communed by night with angels of chaste things,
And, full of grace, untimely felt the throes
Of motherhood upon her, and believed
The obscure annunciation made when late
A raven-feathered raven-throated dove
Croaked salutation to the mother of love
Whose misconception was immaculate,
And when her time was come she misconceived.


Thine incarnation was upon this wise,
Saviour; and out of east and west were led
To thy foul cradle by thy planet red
Shepherds of souls that feed their sheep with lies
Till the utter soul die as the body dies,
And the wise men that ask but to be fed
Though the hot shambles be their board and bed
And sleep on any dunghill shut their eyes,
So they lie warm and fatten in the mire:
And the high priest enthroned yet in thy name,
Judas, baptised thee with men's blood for hire;
And now thou hangest nailed to thine own shame
In sight of all time, but while heaven has flame
Shalt find no resurrection from hell-fire.

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