Christ in Flanders

As we gather to commemorate the outbreak of the Great War 100 years ago, here is a poem by Lucy Whitmell first published in 1915 that Rev Tim read out at the service at St Michael’s yesterday.

We had forgotten You, or very nearly—
You did not seem to touch us very nearly—
Of course we thought about You now and then;
Especially in any time of trouble—
We knew that You were good in time of trouble—
But we are very ordinary men.

And there were always other things to think of—
There’s lots of things a man has got to think of—
His work, his home, his pleasure, and his wife;
And so we only thought of You on Sunday—
Sometimes, perhaps, not even on a Sunday—
Because there’s always lots to fill one’s life.

And, all the while, in street or lane or byway—
In country lane, in city street, or byway—
You walked among us, and we did not see.
Your feet were bleeding as You walked our pavements
How did we miss Your Footprints on our pavements?—
Can there be other folk as blind as we?

Now we remember: over here in Flanders—
(It isn’t strange to think of You in Flanders)—
This hideous warfare seems to make things clear.
We never thought about You much in England—
But now that we are far away from England—
We have no doubts, we know that You are here.

You helped us pass the jest along the trenches—
Where, in cold blood, we waited in the trenches—
You touched its ribaldry and made it fine.
You stood beside us in our pain and weakness—
We’re glad to think You understand our weakness—
Somehow it seems to help us not to whine.

We think about You kneeling in the Garden—
Ah! God! the agony of that dread Garden—
We know You prayed for us upon the Cross.
If anything could make us glad to bear it—
‘Twould be the knowledge that You willed to bear it—
Pain—death—the uttermost of human loss.

Though we forgot You—You will not forget us—
We feel so sure that You will not forget us—
But stay with us until this dream is past.
And so we ask for courage, strength, and pardon—
Especially, I think, we ask for pardon—
And that You’ll stand beside us to the last.

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