Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A poem for the season

Leave it to Arnold Schnabel to leave his inimitable stamp on even such a shopworn subject as the Sunday before Easter.

This dour little sonnet, rescued from the Schnabel Archives in the basement of the Oak Lane Library, first appeared in the Olney Times of April 21, 1962, the year before Arnold’s mental breakdown.

(Rebroadcast courtesy of the Arnold Schnabel Society, all rights reserved. Nihil Obstat, The Most Reverend John J. “Black Jack” Graham, D.D.)

"That First Palm Sunday"

Cheering people laid palm fronds in his path;
Later that week they nailed him to a cross;
Such are the ways of men, such is their wrath;
Each gift is followed by a tenfold loss;
Surely he knew this as he rode his horse
Into Jerusalem; he was the son
Of God, thus omniscient; he knew of course
That death begins as soon as life’s begun.
After mass the ushers go to the Green
for a beer and a whiskey pour
Amid the shouts of drunken louts obscene;
Cigarettes and palm fronds litter the floor.
How soon we forget, how soon but not odd:
Thus the ways of man, thus the ways of God.

(Kindly turn to the right hand side of this page for listings of links to many other Arnold Schnabel poems, as well as to our serialization of his Schaefer Award-winning memoir, Railroad Train to Heaven.)


Anonymous said...

"Cigarettes and palm fronds litter the floor."

a very big phrase

Dan Leo said...

On behalf of Arnold: thanks, Anon.

Unknown said...


Maybe I don't read enough sonnets. But I've never read a poem like this. Nothing close.

It's difficult not to repeat urgent pleas that go constantly ignored.

"That death begins as soon as life’s begun."

Some of us can never forget that and others, though they're told and told, never notice.

Dan Leo said...

Yeah, Kathleen, as old Arnold says, "Thus the ways of man..."