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Poem by Arthur Hugh Clough

Easter Day. Naples, 1849

Through the great sinful streets of Naples as I past,
With fiercer heat than flamed above my head
My heart was hot within me; till at last
My brain was lightened, when my tongue had said
Christ is not risen!

Christ is not risen, no,
He lies and moulders low;
Christ is not risen.

What though the stone were rolled away, and though
The grave found empty there?
If not there, then elsewhere;
If not where Joseph laid Him first, why then
Where other men
Translaid Him after; in some humbler clay
Long ere to-day
Corruption that sad perfect work hath done,
Which here she scarcely, lightly had begun.
The foul engendered worm
Feeds on the flesh of the life-giving form
Of our most Holy and Anointed One.

He is not risen, no,
He lies and moulders low;
Christ is not risen.

What if the women, ere the dawn was grey,
Saw one or more great angels, as they say,
(Angels, or Him himself)? Yet neither there, nor then,
Nor afterward, nor elsewhere, nor at all,
Hath He appeared to Peter or the Ten;
Nor, save in thunderous terror, to blind Saul;
Save in an after-Gospel and late Creed
He is not risen indeed,
Christ is not risen.

Or what if een, as runs the tale, the Ten
Saw, heard, and touched, again and yet again?
What if at Emmaüs inn and by Capernaums Lake
Came One the bread that brake
Came One that spake as never mortal spake,
And with them ate and drank and stood and walked about?
Ah! some did well to doubt!
Ah! the true Christ, while these things came to pass,
Nor heard, nor spake, nor walked, nor dreamt, alas!
He was not risen, no
He lay and moulder low,
Christ was not risen.

As circulates in some great city crowd
A rumour changeful, vague, importunate, and loud,
From no determined centre, or of fact,
Or authorship exact,
Which no man can deny
Nor verify;
So spread the wondrous fame;
He all the same
Lay senseless, mouldering, low.
He was not risen, no
Christ was not risen!

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
As of the unjust, also of the just
Yea, of that Just One too.
This is the one sad Gospel that is true
Christ is not risen.

Is He not risen, and shall we not rise?
Oh, we unwise!
What did we dream, what wake we to discover?
Ye hills, fall on us, and ye mountains, cover!
In darkness and great gloom
Come ere we thought it is our day of doom,
From the cursed world which is one tomb,
Christ is not risen!

Eat, drink, and play, and think that this is bliss:
There is no Heaven but this;
There is no Hell;
Save Earth, which serves the purpose doubly well,
Seeing it visits still
With equallest apportionment of ill
Both good and bad alike, and brings to one same dust
The unjust and the just
With Christ, who is not risen.

Eat, drink, and die, for we are souls bereaved
Of all the creatures under heavens wide cope
We are most hopeless, who had once most hope,
And most beliefless, that had most believed.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
As of the unjust, also of the just
Yea, of that just One too!
It is the one sad Gospel that is true
Christ is not risen!

Weep not beside the tomb,
Ye women, unto whom
He was great solace while ye tended Him;
Ye who with napkin oer the head
And folds of linen round each wounded limb
Laid out the Sacred Dead;

And thou that barst Him in thy wondering womb;
Yea, Daughters of Jerusalem, depart,
Bind up as best ye may your own sad bleeding heart:
Go to your homes, your living children tend,
Your earthly spouses love;
Set your affections not on things above,
Which moth and rust corrupt, which quickliest come to end:
Or pray, if pray ye must, and pray, if pray ye can,
For death; since dead is He whom ye deemed more than man,
Who is not risen: no
But lies and moulders low
Who is not risen!

Ye men of Galilee!
Why stand ye looking up to heaven, where Him ye neer may see,
Neither ascending hence, nor returning hither again?
Ye ignorant and idle fishermen!
Hence to your huts, and boats, and inland native shore,
And catch not men, but fish;
Whateer things ye might wish,
Him neither here nor there ye eer shall meet with more.
Ye poor deluded youths, go home,
Mend the old nets ye left to roam,
Tie the split oar, patch the torn sail:
It was indeed an idle tale
He was not risen!

And, oh, good men of ages yet to be,
Who shall believe because ye did not see
Oh, be ye warned, be wise!
No more with pleading eyes,
And sobs of strong desire,
Unto the empty vacant void aspire,
Seeking another and impossible birth
That is not of your own, and only mother earth.
But if there is no other life for you,
Sit down and be content, since this must even do:
He is not risen!

One look, and then depart,
Ye humble and ye holy men of heart;
And ye I ye ministers and stewards of a Word
Which ye would preach, because another heard
Ye worshippers of that ye do not know,
Take these things hence and go:
He is not risen!

Here, on our Easter Day
We rise, we come, and lo! we find Him not,
Gardener nor other, on the sacred spot:
Where they have laid Him there is none to say;
No sound, nor in, nor out no word
Of where to seek the dead or meet the living Lord.
There is no glistering of an angels wings,
There is no voice of heavenly clear behest:
Let us go hence, and think upon these things
In silence, which is best.
Is He not risen? No
But lies and moulders low?
Christ is not risen?

Arthur Hugh Clough

Arthur Hugh Clough's other poems:
  1. Currente Calamo
  2. The Song of Lamech
  3. O Thou of Llittle Faith
  4. Sic Itur
  5. An Evening Walk in Spring

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