Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Summer 2002

This poem first appeared in The Freethinker in August 1977, and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. “We have reached a truly ludicrous state where atheists have to try to stop one religious faction from pounding another,” Maureen Duffy told the National Secular Society annual dinner in 1978, at which Denis Lemon was the guest of honour, “while at the same time we are accused of destroying that strange substance, the nation’s moral fibre. This substance, the nation’s moral fibre, I have always seen as a kind of potting compost in which the luscious weeds of persecution, repression and sanctimoniousness can be nurtured.”

The Ballad of the Blasphemy Trial

by Maureen Duffy

Oh there is a place on Parnassus
where all the world’s myths stand
rank on rank awaiting
the sign from a poet’s hand.

Some are long dust and forgotten
their papyrus mummy shroud
crumbled. They wait for a scholar
to call them out of the crowd.

But some have names of thunder
that echo the centuries through
Isis, Venus, Moloch
Thor and his hammer too.

Yet at the call of a poet
each must rise and come
and only one law is god here
they must be true to their name.

So up in the morning early
Lord Jesus came to the hill
and there again he laid him down
to do the poet’s will.

For love is Jesus’ forename
where he sits on Parnassus hill
and he came to do his best there
as any great myth will.

And when his task was over
he went back to take his place
and all the myths moved over
and smiled into his face.

Lord Jesus he was troubled
as he gazed at the world below.
He nudged Socrates beside him
and asked was it true or no.

He saw a court and dock there
he knew them well of old
he saw what was put on trial
and the vision made him cold.

“Oh I have stood in a courtroom
and now what’s this I see?
They are trying a man at the bar
and all in the name of me.

Oh I have hung between two thieves
so all my stories say
and shall the law that broke my limbs
be invoked for me today?”

Then Jesus stood on Parnassus side
and tore his long dark hair
but Socrates restrained him
and spelled it out with care.

“Although we must always follow
and be true to our stories’ truth
no such constraints can bind them.”
Lord Jesus gnashed his teeth.

“They have made me into a mockery
with their blasphemy of trial.
They have taken love, my given name
and broken it on a wheel.

I shall curse them in their blindness
I curse them in their pride.
They align themselves with Judas
and Pilate takes their side.”

Then Socrates gave him hemlock
as they sat on Parnassus hill
to soothe his deep affliction.
“Oh do not take it ill.

We both died condemned felons
though you by another’s hand
and we must forgive our children
who do not understand.

Some in the name of reason
do things I shudder for
others for love invoke you
and stand you at their bar.”

But Jesus answered him fiercely
“Reason is not my name.
You must do as you have answer
I will not play their game.

I will go down to the courtyard
and hang me on a cross
while the judge pronounces sentence
and they will see their loss.”

Socrates looked down sadly
and reached below with his hand
to pluck the dear Lord Jesus
out of his own grandstand.

“Come up, come up, dear Jesus
they must not see you there
they will only think you demonstrate
and drag you off by your hair.

Remember your name is love, lord
come up along with me.
In time myths of love and reason
may cause the blind to see.”
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Created : Sunday, 2002-09-01 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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