The people wanted soldiers

An extraordinary new hymn for the Passion/Easter season by Graham Adams

This hymn, by Graham Adams, arose from an ‘Empire’ module at Luther King House in Manchester last week. Graham says, “feel free to use as you wish!’ It connects with the Passion/Easter season. It was particularly stimulated by a discussion around whether ‘the alternative realm’ (God’s basileia/kingdom/empire) is ‘a quaint dream’ or something more ‘threatening’ – and the destabilising language of poetry spoke to this”.

The people wanted soldiers
so hope might come as curse,
to smash the occupation –
but change turned up as Verse:
the poetry of yeasting,
the parabolic sword,
no match for Pax Romana*
and yet this Lamb still roared.

Although it claims possession
of mind and heart and soul,
the Empire’s grip has limits –
it can’t control the whole:
the surplus lives as Poem
for those with ears to hear,
resisting final closure,
declaring what is near:

This dream of re-creation,
this threat of life set free,
disturbing tame religion,
confounding how we see:
it won’t succumb to cliché
where purities abound,
but glimpsed in seeds’ potential,
it ruptures solid ground.

Where empires grow by violence,
where systems blame the last
and close down other futures
by editing the past,
the Poem can’t be silenced,
though quietly it dies,
and dances through the fissures
to teach us how to rise!

Graham Adams (2021) … prompted by the conversations during the Empire module

Potential tunes: Thornbury, Cruger…

*Pax Romana is ‘the peace of Rome’ secured through military violence; if it’s easier to replace this with ‘crucifixion’, the meaning still works.