Pilate and the Crowd: Lent Poems 14 and 15

The next two poems, I think, need to be published together, because they flow into each other and make less sense by themselves. Their titles comes from common Latin phrases – “Vivant Rex” meaning “Long live the King”, “Amicus Caesaris” meaning “Friend of Caesar” – and they continue the story of Pilate’s trial of Jesus, with a brief flashback to a time when Jesus was interrogated about correct conduct towards Caesar.

Vivant Rex
(John 19:1-16)
Long live
Long live the king
Long live King Caesar
Long live the king
Here is your king
Dressed in purple robes
Thorn-crown on his head
Here is your king
Bow before him
Here is your king, the
Tyrant governor said.
He’s not our king
We have no other king
We have no other king
But Caesar
What shall I do with him
Say what I shall do
Shall I set him free to you
Shall I set him free?
Crucify him
Free Barabbas
Crucify him
He’s no king
Crucify him, we have no
Other king but Caesar
What has he done
I find nothing
Wrong with him
What has he done
Have him whipped
Have him mocked
But let him go
I find no fault
If you free him
You are no
Friend of Caesar’s
You are no

Amicus Caesaris
(Matthew 22:15-22)
One day
They came to Him with a coin,
The standard Roman fare,
The face of Tiberius, the inscription of a god,
The pride of a tyrant all clearly displayed.
“Rabbi, what,” asked they, “should we do
For our taxes? Is it right for us to pay?”
The trap stretched out between them and Him,
A line of thread, so delicate,
So perfectly, expertly spread.
Perhaps he did not see the trap.
He showed no fear, no startled, darting
Eyes to say that he was stuck.
He took the coin and looked upon
The face, inscription, all its pride:
“Whose face is this upon the coin?
And this inscription: whose is it?”
The name stuck in their throats, a dry
Resentful lump: “Caesar’s,” said
The haughty ones. Their trap – so sure,
So sublime – what had it done?
His eyes, so certain, cut into theirs.
“Then give,” he said, “unto Caesar
What is Caesar’s. Give to God
What is God’s.”
He walked away, a line of thread
Dangling round his walking feet.

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