The Donkey

Yesterday was Palm Sunday, a celebration of Jesus’s entry toJerusalem.  There are many peculiar things about this entry; perhaps the most obvious thing is that he rode a donkey.  The peculiarity of his choice of steed (the Synoptic Gospels noted that he specifically asked for the donkey) may have escaped us, to whom the story has become too familiar.  But of course a king, or any leader, riding a donkey is a peculiar thing.  Can you imagine Aragorn entering Minas Tirith on a donkey’s back?  I guess the Council of Gondor would not approve.

Many preachers and writers have noted this peculiarity, and expounded that riding a donkey perfectly befits a king who pronounced himself the servant of all.  But one writer (who was famous for his own peculiarity) took an unusual point of view in his reflection: instead of writing about the king, he wrote about the poor beast.  The poem ends with an allusion to the king’s choice, and how that choice had become the highlight of the donkey’s life.

The Donkey

by G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked   
   And figs grew upon thorn,   
Some moment when the moon was blood   
   Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,   
The devil’s walking parody   
   On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,   
   I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:   
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.

Source: Poems for All Purposes, G.K. Chesterton (author), S. Medcalf (editor).


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