The Eternal Plaything

An excerpt from The Divine Tragedy (1922) by Arthur St. John Adcock.

How could it ever all be otherwise?
There is no place in our philosophies
For Christ, as when His story did begin
At Nazareth there was no room at the Inn.
If He could come and force us to fulfil
His Law, which now we play with as we will,
So that we did those things humane and true
Our Churches tell us that we ought to do
(Setting us no example), all our scheme
Of being would unravel like a dream,
The gauds that please us now we should despise,
Nor tread each other down that we might rise,
Religion, business, politics would preen
Their leprosies away and be made clean:
So, loving one another more and more,
How could we bear to see our brethren poor—
How, if the great were brother to the least,
Leave them a-cold and hungry while we feast?

It is far better He should only be
A tale we need not take too seriously,
An Ideal throned above our fallen state
For us to worship, not imitate.
The great Reality we praise in prayers
Could ne’er be fitted into our affairs;
If It came down, we must in self-defence
Reject It, and restrain Its influence,
Harden our hearts, and warn It from our bowers
With, “No admittance during business hours.”

When a blithe infant, lapt in careless joy,
Sports with a woollen lion—if the toy
Should come to life, the child, so direly crost,
Faced with this Actuality were lost. …
Leave us our toys, then; happier we shall stay
While they remain but toys and we can play
With them and do with them as suits us best;
Reality would add to our unrest,
Disturb our game, our pleasures intermit—
We could not play with It! …
We want no living Christ, whose truth intense
Pretends to no belief in our pretence
And, flashing on all folly and deceit,
Would blast our world to ashes at His feet.
Since if he came, a presence to be seen,
We could not hide our hearts from His serene
Regard and play with Him and His decree,
We do but ask to see
No more of Him below than is displayed
In the dead plaything our own hands have made
To lull our fears and comfort us in loss—
The wooden Christ upon a wooden Cross!


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