The Donkey

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

– G.K. Chesterton

It’s a poem about the donkey on which Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on what Christians now call Palm Sunday. The welcoming crowds laid down clothes and plants, including palm branches, for the donkey to walk on. Because I’m watching all of Robert Bresson’s films to start the year on a long-awaited cinematic adventure—I’ve been a neglectful cinephile, a very neglectful cinephile—it also suggests Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar to me, a film about suffering and a donkey, and one that I’m looking forward very much to finally seeing.


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