Monday, September 11, 2023

Edward Shillito

Edward Shillito (1872―1948) is an English poet and writer who was born in Hull, and was educated in Manchester and Oxford late in the 19th century. He served as a Congregational minister in many places across England, including in London coming up to and during the First World War. He served as a chaplain in the trenches, but was dismissed from service due to injuries he received on the battlefield.

Some of his poetry collections include: The Omega and other poems (Blackwell, 1916) Jesus of the Scars and other poems (1919, Hodder and Stoughton), and Poetry and Prayer (SCM, 1931).

I discovered this poem in an anthology called A Treasury of Christian Verse (SCM Press) which a friend of mine Anne Laidlaw found in a UK bookshop.

The following poem might be better understood by considering what Shillito must have witnessed during WWI, and the pain that that war and its aftermath caused.

Jesus of the Scars

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.