“Ballad of the Goodly Fere” by Ezra Pound

This is a poem by Ezra Pound. It has some poor, imprecise theology. It also has manly imagery describing Jesus. Read it and tell me what you think:

Simon Zelotes speaking after the Crucifixion.
Fere=Mate, Companion.

Ha' we lost the goodliest fere o' all
For the priests and the gallows tree?
Aye lover he was of brawny men,
O' ships and the open sea.

When they came wi' a host to take Our Man
His smile was good to see,
"First let these go!" quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Or I'll see ye damned," says he.

Aye he sent us out through the crossed high spears
And the scorn of his laugh rang free,
"Why took ye not me when I walked about
Alone in the town?" says he.

Oh we drank his "Hale" in the good red wine
When we last made company,
No capon priest was the Goodly Fere
But a man o' men was he.

I ha' seen him drive a hundred men
Wi' a bundle o' cords swung free,
That they took the high and holy house
For their pawn and treasury.

They'll no' get him a' in a book I think
Though they write it cunningly;
No mouse of the scrolls was the Goodly Fere
But aye loved the open sea.

If they think they ha' snared our Goodly Fere
They are fools to the last degree.
"I'll go to the feast," quo' our Goodly Fere,
"Though I go to the gallows tree."

"Ye ha' seen me heal the lame and blind,
And wake the dead," says he,
"Ye shall see one thing to master all:
'Tis how a brave man dies on the tree."

A son of God was the Goodly Fere
That bade us his brothers be.
I ha' seen him cow a thousand men.
I have seen him upon the tree.

He cried no cry when they drave the nails
And the blood gushed hot and free,
The hounds of the crimson sky gave tongue
But never a cry cried he.

I ha' seen him cow a thousand men
On the hills o' Galilee,
They whined as he walked out calm between,
Wi' his eyes like the grey o' the sea,

Like the sea that brooks no voyaging
With the winds unleashed and free,
Like the sea that he cowed at Genseret
Wi' twey words spoke' suddently.

A master of men was the Goodly Fere,
A mate of the wind and sea,
If they think they ha' slain our Goodly Fere
They are fools eternally.

I ha' seen him eat o' the honey-comb
Sin' they nailed him to the tree.



About Danny Slavich

I am a Christian husband, father, pastor, and poet. I lead Pembroke Road Baptist Church a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in urban South Florida.
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7 Responses to “Ballad of the Goodly Fere” by Ezra Pound

  1. Ben says:

    Hm. Yeah, I don’t think anything with poor, imprecise theology could be of any value.

  2. Ben says:

    Sorry, just had to get that out.

    Imprecise is not always such a bad thing. What about it is poor, though? I guess not every attribution is accurate, or even relevant to the actual person of Christ, but it paints a different side of Christ, which I think is the point of the poem.

    Equally imprecise is the typical characterization of a Jesus who comes to earth merely to dispense some doctrines (which will really only be fully explained by Paul) and then die. Christ came to demonstrate who God is by His person, no?

    I have to tell you that I have loved this poem for years. I wrote a terrible song once that plagiarized much of its lyrics from this poem. Actually, come to think of it, chances are good you still have my book that contains this poem.

    I like it because it paints a picture of a courageous hero Jesus. Like the protagonist, I appreciate that “no capon priest was He” and I see the one who can “cow a thousand men” in the gospels. He’s almost a Robin Hood character in this poem, and I think it’s a good way to characterize the real Jesus because that, I think, is a big part of who He is that we maybe miss.

    Then again, Ezra Pound was a bigamist, a traitor, and an anti-semite. Always a problem when appreciating his work.

  3. Danny Slavich says:

    I don’t still have the book, but it’s probably in my parents house somewhere. I read this poem at your house. I love it. I mostly wanted to convey that I don’t take this as a biblical picture of Jesus so much as a helpful and artful picture of Jesus as a man of men.

  4. Ben says:

    Yeah, I see what you mean, and I agree with you. Thanks for posting this.

  5. dad says:

    With most of my exposure to poetry coming from limericks written on the wall in felt pen, I really appreciated this.
    Thanks for opening my eyes to such a great work.

  6. Duane Miller says:

    A brilliant poem. And a biblical one at that, I think. The only other two poems I would maybe compare it to are Eliot’s Journey of the Magi and Updike’s Seven Stanzas at Easter.

    Thanks for posting this.


  7. Brook says:

    Thanks for posting this. Art that reminds me of Christ’s humanity helps me in my faith.

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