“If Death Ends All” or “If Christ Rose Not” — A Poem

—Unknown soldier, killed in World War I

If it all be for naught, for nothingness at last,
Why does God make the world so fair?
Why spill this golden splendor out across the western hills,
And light the silver land of eve?
Why give me eyes to see, and soul to love so strong and deep?

Then, with a pang this brightness stabs me through,
And makes within rebellious voice to cry against all death?
Why set this hunger for eternity to gnaw my heartstrings through,
If death ends all?

If death ends all, then evil must be good,
Wrong must be right, and beauty ugliness.
God is Judas who betrays His Son,
And with a kiss, damns all the world to Hell, —
If Christ rose not again.

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2 thoughts on ““If Death Ends All” or “If Christ Rose Not” — A Poem

  1. Your version of this wonderful poem has two incorrect words, probably transcribed wrong by “hearing” a plausible word which is actually different from the original. The copy I have was published in 1954. Here they are:
    1) “light the silver LAMP of eve” should be “light the silver LAND of eve”. Check the context: the previous line is speaking about the golden beauty of the world at sunset – “spill this golden splendor out across the western hills”, and the next line is speaking about the silver beauty of the world in moonlight – “the silver land of eve”. I imagine that, because of the common image of the moon as a “silver lamp”, someone misheard the phrase and so transcribed “lamp” instead of “land”. BUT look at the context to see that the 1954 printing fits the poet’s picture better. He is describing the landscape that he sees and not the moon itself.
    2) “WAKES within rebellious voice to cry against all death” should be “MAKES within rebellious voice to cry against all death”. Again, look at the context: “this brightness stabs and makes [forces] rebellious voice to cry” fits the meaning of being forced to cry out against death rather than that of the brightness “awakening within” some previously sleeping voice. Again the common image of a voice being awakened was easily misheard and so “wakes” was transcribed instead of “makes”. BUT again the 1954 printing fits the poet’s sense better of forcing a voice to cry (makes) rather than awakening one (wakes).
    I commend you for making the poem “If Christ Rose Not” available online, but I hope you will be willing to correct these two mistaken words. (By the way, I have no way of knowing whether the original was given a title by the unknown author, but I think that the title on the 1954 printing fits better the shocking image of God as a Judas who betrayed Christ followed by the main claim of the poem found in the last line: “If Christ rose not again”.
    [By the way, I was a young Christian, having come to know Christ two years before as a freshman at Harvard, when I read the poem in the April 1954 issue of HIS magazine, published by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. I still have my copy after 63 years!]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Joe, for your comment and your corrections. I have updated the poem to correct the two mistaken words. Concerning the title, I don’t remember if I saw it with a title and used the one I saw, or if I saw it without a title and just gave it one. I’m undecided on which title I like best so I’ve included both in the title of this post.

      I love hearing about how God uses things like this in the lives of his children, so thank you for sharing your experiences with this poem. It sounds like it had an impact on you 63 years ago and that it still does now. I think this short poem is a powerful testimony of how our Lord worked in the life of this unknown soldier, also. We serve a wonderful God, amen?

      Thanks again!

      Like

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