Good Friday

Good Friday: a Dramatic Poem by John Masefield

published 1915
good friday

[closing lines]

Only a penny, a penny,
Lilies brighter than any,
Lilies whiter than snow.
Beautiful lilies grow
Wherever the truth so sweet
Has trodden with bloody feet,
Has stood with a bloody brow.
Friend, it is over now,
The passion, the sweat, the pains.
Only the truth remains.
I cannot see what others see;
Wisdom alone is kind to me.
Wisdom that comes from Agony.
Wisdom that lives in the pure skies,
The untouched star, the spirit's eyes;
O Beauty, touch me, make me wise.

Today is Good Friday, one of the most important days in the Christian calendar

The lines above are the final words of a poetic drama based on the events of Good Friday.

John Masefield isn’t much remembered today: he was Poet Laureate from 1930 till 1967, and schoolchildren used to learn his poems Sea-Fever (‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky’) and the memorably rhythmic Cargoes (from ‘quinquereme of Ninevah’ to ‘Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack’). It’s even possible that what will live longest is his children’s book Box of Delights.

This play in verse is an oddity – it keeps switching between consciously poetic passages, and lines that might come from any passion play. Some parts of it work really well, and I think it could make a  great radio drama – written before radio was a possibility, in the middle of a World War.

Masefield was not a truly great poet, but he has his moments.

The picture is the Madonna of the Lilies by Maurice Denis from the Athenaeum website.


  1. What a lovely choice for Good Friday, Moira! And the 'photo is, too. Perhaps Masefield wasn't truly great, but still, he did create some evocative stuff.

    1. Thanks Margot - the play made interesting reading.

  2. He also wrote two books about Justinian and Theodora, BASILISSA and NIKE, which are keepers for me.

    1. Never heard of those, but I do know what fascinating subjects they must have been, so will try to find them - thanks.

  3. The sky is grey.
    Huge snowflakes gently alight.
    No lilies in Saskatchewan.
    Easter death and resurrection in the cold.

    1. Seasonally appropriate Bill. Good wishes to you.

  4. Not my thing - happy to be a Philistine!


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