The Enigma of the Divine
Divine Inspiration: The Life of Jesus in World PoetryRobert Atwan, George Dardess and Peggy Rosenthal, eds. (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998) 580 pp., $35.00 (hardback)
Jesus has a peculiar and persistent life in world poetry. Thousands of poets have dared to approach the topic, hoping to grasp a piece of it. But whether He is the subject of praise or abuse, there is always a divide between Jesus and the poet, as though this subject were the one subject that cannot be the topic of a poem. Even in this recent anthology of 300 poems, spanning a thousand years or more, and coming from many countries and cultures, we are reminded most of the enigma of Jesus.
The most successful poems about Jesus glance at their subject from an angle, like T.S. Eliot’s “The Journey of the Magi” (not included in this collection), in which the magi never speak directly of Jesus but only allude to their journey toward an undefined something that was “satisfactory” but that continues to torment them.