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Dialogue at Christmas

by Amos N. Wilder

Amos N. Wilder, whom in 1923 won the Yale Series of Younger Poets annual prize, in 1991 at age ninety-five published his book, The Bible and the Literary Critic. Hollis Professor of Divinity Emeritus of Harvard Divinity School, he is the oldest living person to have played center court at Wimbledon. This poem appeared in Christianity and Crisis December 11, 1967. Copyright by Christianity and Crisis, used by permission. This text was prepared for Religion Online by John R. Bushell.


One of the minim burst in on the Rabbi and exclaimed: "The Messiah has come!" The Rabbi went to the window and looked out, and demurred: "Nothing has changed."

"As of old,
seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, day and night;
a generation goes and a generation comes
but the earth remaineth the same
What is crooked is not made straight.

As of old,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace;
there is nothing new under the sun.

The king tarrieth.
What is wanting is not made up."
Nevertheless, the Kingdom has come;
Behind the scenes, a clandestine irruption;
A fission in the world’s grain,
A benign conflagration.

O Lord, open the eyes of thy servant:
Behold, the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire.
Nothing has changed? But listen:
Tellurian tremors,
Convulsions at the earth’s core,
The silent collapse of parapets.

Moorings have parted
And we are carried away into new latitudes.
The Kingdom cometh not with observation,
But it has overtaken us
Dispelling old obsessions.
Therefore this dancing through iron doors,
This singing our way through blind walls,
This mocking of old hierarchic dooms,
Levitation across impassable wastes.

Therefore these hilarities, against all reason
and charities welling up for no cause,
Righteousness appears from nowhere, like dew,
The earth opens and springs in the furrow
And the angels acclaim it from pole to pole.’


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