Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Oscar Wilde on The Massacre of the Christians in Bulgaria

Given the recent mass killings and public murders of Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and now Libya, I thought it would be relevant to post Wilde's 1881 sonnet. (It's also featured in the "Catholics on Islam" section of this blog--see above) The poem refers to a specific atrocity--well-reported in Europe at the time--the "Batak Massacre" of perhaps 5,000 men, women and children by Muslim troops during the so-called April Uprising against the Ottoman Empire. But of course at its base it is a skeptical (though, in my view, very human) piece, asking the general question of why God allows violence against the innocent.
On the Massacre of the Christians in Bulgaria:
CHRIST, dost thou live indeed? or are thy bones
Still straightened in their rock-hewn sepulchre?
And was thy Rising only dreamed by Her
Whose love of thee for all her sin atones?
For here the air is horrid with men’s groans,
The priests who call upon thy name are slain,
Dost thou not hear the bitter wail of pain
From those whose children lie upon the stones?
Come down, O Son of God! incestuous gloom
Curtains the land, and through the starless night
Over thy Cross the Crescent moon I see!
If thou in very truth didst burst the tomb
Come down, O Son of Man! and show thy might,
Lest Mahomet be crowned instead of Thee!
For a fascinating biography of this oft quoted but greatly misunderstood artist, see The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde by Joseph Pearce. Pearce writes biographies of Catholics. Wilde just made it into the club before the clock ran out.

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