Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Jack O' Lent

Where are you running to, Jack o'Lent,
Your yellow coat so ruined and rent?

I'm going to the seashore as fast as I can,
To try and find the Galilee man.


What will you have from him, Jack o'Lent,
Before your thirty of silver is spent?

I'll have some fish and I'll have some bread
And some words to cure the pain in my head.


How long will it take you, Jack o'Lent,
Your legs all crooked, your body all bent?

With the help of prayer and the help of praise,
It'll take me forty nights and days.


Should you not find him, Jack o'Lent,
What will then be your intent?

I'll find the hungry and find the poor
And scatter my silver at their door.


What will you do then, Jack o'Lent,
If nobody takes a single cent?

I'll go to the rope-maker cunning and old
And buy me a collar against the cold.


Where will your lodging be, Jack o'Lent,
If house and home give no content?

I'll climb as high as heaven's hem
And take my rest on a sycamore stem.


What can we do for you, Jack o'Lent,
If in the fire the tree is pent?

Take the fire and the flame
And burn the curse from off my name.


What shall we do then, Jack o'Lent,
If all to ashes you are sent?

Take the cinders you can see.
Cross your brow. Remember me.



Charles Causley
from Collected Poems 1951-2000
London: Picador, 2000

Poet's Note: In Cornwall, figures representing Judas Iscariot, and called "Jack o'Lent," were once paraded round towns and villages on Ash Wednesday, and were later burnt on bonfires.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the very cool Jack O'Lent poem...I found your blog via a comment on my profile on LibraryThing.com (SaintSunniva)
Amy