“Resurrection” by W. R. Rodgers (poem)

Kuziv, Kateryna_Mary
Kateryna Kuziv (Ukrainian, 1993–), Mary!, 2022. Egg tempera and gilding on gessoed wood, 40 × 40 cm.

In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene.

The tomb, the tomb, that 
Was her core and care, her one sore.
The light had hardly scarleted the dark
Or the first bird sung when Mary came in sight
With eager feet. Grief, like last night’s frost,
Whitened her face and tightened all her tears.
It was there, then, there at the blinding turn
Of the bare future that she met her past.
She only heard his Angel tell her how
The holding stone broke open and gave birth
To her dear Lord, and how his shadow ran
To meet him like a dog.
And as the sun
Burns through the simmering muslins of the mist,
Slowly his darkened voice, that seemed like doubt,
Morninged into noon; the summering bees
Mounted and boiled over in the bell-flowers.
‘Come out of your jail, Mary,’ he said, ‘the doors are open
And joy has its ear cocked for your coming.
Earth now is no place to mope in. So throw away
Your doubt, cast every clout of care,
Hang all your hallelujahs out
This airy day.’

This is the last of fourteen untitled, epigraphed poems from “Resurrection: An Easter Sequence” by W. R. Rodgers, originally published in Europa and the Bull and Other Poems (Farrar, Straus and Young, 1952) and compiled posthumously in Collected Poems (Oxford University Press, 1971) and later Poems, ed. Michael Longley (The Gallery Press, 1993). Used with permission of The Gallery Press.

William Robert “Bertie” Rodgers (1909–1969) was an Irish poet, essayist, radio broadcaster and scriptwriter, lecturer, and (for eleven years) a pastor. Born, raised, and educated in Belfast, he studied literature as an undergraduate and then entered theological college, becoming ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1935 and taking a post at Loughgall parish in County Armagh. He began writing poetry three years later, after a friend lent him books by contemporary poets, of whom Auden made the biggest impact. In 1946 he left pastoral ministry to work for the BBC in London and later to freelance, creating radio portraits of Irish writers using a pioneering sound mosaic technique that is now a staple of radio documentaries. He joined a community of writer friends that included Dylan Thomas and Louis MacNeice. During his lifetime he published two books of original verse, with themes including the landscape of Northern Ireland, war, myth, erotic love, and the life of Christ.