Saturday, November 19, 2016

"Who is this Boy who Speaks such Things?" (A Poem about a Painting)

Boy Jesus in the Temple by Heinrich Hofmann (Luke 2:41-51)
At our son Nicholas' baby dedication, his grandfather, John Dean, presented us with a gift for Nicholas: a framed print of the above painting. As Nicholas grew, we kept the painting on display in our home, and to this day, I am still attracted to the earnest expressions of the five characters surrounding Jesus in the painting. Each one seems to be thinking something quite unique, and I have long wanted to attempt to write something about each of the subject's personal thoughts. Today I was so distracted by it, I felt driven to poetry! Below is my attempt to verbalize the expressions of those five men above. Each stanza is 30 lines long, and if you are intrigued enough by the painting to read the poem below, I encourage you to closely study and consider each man's face before reading the stanza about that man (you can click on the painting to enlarge it, and the stanzas begin with the man on the far-left).


I do not trust that boy.
How can a child so young
Speak of such things
As though he understands?
What trick is this?
How does he speak
As though he knows
Mysteries long hidden from
Our learned minds?
Surely he has been tutored
By someone
Hidden from us now;
Someone who has
Put these words upon his lips.
These words cannot be his,
As though he were our teacher.
Why do the others listen
With such rapt attention?
Do they not see through
This irreverent masquerade?
This boy pretends to be so holy
When truly he is nothing;
He must be some mere servant,

And he speaks his master's words
As though they were his own.
Why should I listen?
Why should I consider
What he has to say?
I do not wish to look upon him.
I do not trust that boy. 

I have never heard such a thing;
To hear a boy so young
Able to discuss such texts
With words of such clarity
Expressed with such certainty.
Who is this child?
What is his lineage?
Is his father here among us?
I must know how this lad
Will one day be employed,
For he could be of use to us.
But this is a thought
Too difficult to ascertain:
To know if this extraordinary boy
Could someday gather with us here

And somehow help us
Find our freedom 

From this wretched Roman rule.
Ah, but whatever be his fate,
I cannot help but feel
That I am but a shadow
Of the godly zeal I see in him.
I speak passionately of politics,
But he speaks so boldly
Of God's kingdom
That it causes me to ponder
If I have long been asking
The wrong questions,
And this boy knows the answers

That in my heart I truly seek.

Yes, yes,
This truly is a boy
After God's own heart.
He reminds me of David, who
As a brave young shepherd-boy
Must have been much like this.
I feel this boy's devotion,
His affection for his God,
His heart of tender worship.
What a delight to hear him
Speak of things of God.
I am blessed this day
To have heard him here,
And I cannot help but wonder
What our God may have
In store for him.
Will God choose to use him
To turn hearts
Back to Him?
Surely I wonder
How this boy,
Who is so wise 

And yet so humble,
Will be used of God
In these restless days.
Yes, yes,
Surely young David
Could not have been
Much different than
This son before me now. 

His questions are profound,
And then he gives the answers
That I have longed
To understand
Throughout a life of study.
He uncovers mysteries
As though they were
So simple;
Simple enough for
A mere child to understand.
I wish to discuss so much,
I have so many questions,
And am amazed at his understanding,
At the wisdom of this boy.
I have walked this earth
As though I thought
I was so wise;
As though I were
Some great counsellor,
A gift to God's children
Who esteem me so highly.
Yet now I feel
As though I am the child
In the presence of this boy,
And that he is my counsellor
Who teaches me so gladly.
He has awakened something
In my spirit,
And makes me hungry

To learn again.

I have read this book
From beginning to end
Many times over,
And I have not the insights
This boy possesses.
How did he come by
This knowledge?
Who is this lad?
He speaks as one who
Not only understands
These precious precepts
But knows the mighty One
Who spoke them
From the fire and the cloud
Upon the mountain.
And there is love and awe
For Him in his eyes
That remind me
Of a zeal I once had
In my youth.
His voice is a sweet melody
That I could listen to
For hours;
Like an ancient love song
That reaches into my heart
And calls me back
From dry and distant formalities
To affections I once felt,
And feel again in the presence
Of this mysterious child.

© 2016 by Ken Peters


Unknown said...

Wow, this piece of writing is good, my sister is analyzing these things, thus I am going to let know her. all of craigslist

Ken said...

Thank you! On February 26, 2017, I also posted an additional poem regarding the boy Jesus at the center of the painting.