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“The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” – By Wilfred Owen

November 16, 2013

try meSo Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
and builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretchèd forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him, thy son.
Behold! Caught in a thicket by its horns,
A Ram. Offer the Ram of Pride instead.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.


Thank you to Gisela Ironside for sharing this powerful poem by Wilfred Owen with us after our Wednesday morning Holy Eucharist on November 13. One of the most respected poets of World War I, Owen was wounded in combat in 1917, and spent several months convalescing in hospital after being diagnosed with shell shock. He rejoined his regiment in Scarborough, in June 1918, and in August returned to France. He was awarded the Military Cross for bravery at Amiens. Owen was killed on November 4 of that year while attempting to lead his men across the Sambre Canal at Ors. He was 25 years old. The news reached his parents on November 11, the day of the Armistice.

Wilfred Owen’s poem alludes to Genesis 22:1-14. Christians have often seen in this story a foreshadowing of Jesus’ sacrifice of himself on the Cross, as the Lamb of God, to bring peace in our hearts and peace in our world. 

The image at the top of this posting is of the graveyard at Passchendaele, one of 173 British Military Cemeteries in West Flanders.

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