Stevie Smith
How Do You See

How do you see the Holy Spirit of God?
I see him as the holy spirit of good,
But I do not think we should talk about spirits, I think
We should call good, good.
But it is a beautiful idea, is it not?
And productive of good?

Yes, that is the problem, it is productive of good,
As Christianity now is productive of good,
So that a person who does not believe the Christian faith
Feels he must keep silent, in case good suffers,
In case what good there is in the word diminishes.

But must we allow good to be hitched to a lie,
A beautiful cruel lie, a beautiful fairy story,
A beautiful idea, made up in a loving moment?

Yes, it is a beautiful idea, one of the most
Beautiful ideas Christianity has ever had,
The idea of the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost,
My heart goes out to this beautiful Holy Ghost,
He is so beautifully inhuman, he is like the fresh air
They represent him as a bird, I dislike that,
A bird is parochial to our world, rooted as we are
In pain and cruelty.  Better the fresh fresh air.

But before we take a Christian idea to alter it
We should see what the idea is, we should read in their books
Of holy instruction what the Christians say.  What do they say
Of the beautiful Holy Ghost?  They say

That the beautiful Holy Ghost brooded on chaos
And chaos gave birth to form.  As this we cannot know
It can only be told as a fairy story.
Told as a fact it is harmful, for it is not a fact.

But it is a beautiful fairy story.  I feel so much
The pleasure of the bird on the dark and powerful waters,
And here I like to think of him as a bird, I like to feel
The masterful bird’s great pleasure in his breast
Touching the water.  Like!  Like!  What else do the say?

Oh I know we must put away the beautiful fairy stories
And learn to be good in a dull way without enchantment,
Yes, we must.  What else do they say?  They say

That the beautiful Holy Spirit burning intensely,
Alight as never was anything in this world alight,
Inspired the scriptures.  But they are wrong,
Often the scriptures are wrong.  For I see the Pope
Has forbidden the verse in Mark ever to be discussed again
And I see some doctor of Catholic divinity saying
That some verses in the New Testament are pious forgeries
Interpolated by eager clerks avid for good.

Ah good, what is good, is it good
To leave in scripture the spurious verses and not print
A footnote saying they are spurious, an erratum slip?

And the penal sentences of Christ:  He that believeth
And is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not
Shall be damned.  Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire
Prepared for the devil and his angels.  And then
Saddest of all the words in scripture, the words,
They went away into everlasting punishment.  Is this good?

Yes, nowadays certainly it is very necessary before we take
The ideas of Christianity, the words of our Lord,
To make them good, when often they are not very good,
To see what the ideas are and the words; to look at them.

Does the beautiful Holy Ghost endorse the doctrine of eternal hell?
Love cruelty, enjoin the sweet comforts of religion?
Oh yes, Christianity, yes, he must do his
For he is your God, and in your books

You say he informs, gives form, gives life, instructs.
Instructs, that us the bitterest part.  For what does he instruct
As to the dreadful bargain, that God would take and offer
The death of his Son to buy our faults away,
The faults of the faulty creatures of the Trinity?
Oh Christianity, instructed by the Holy Ghost,
What do you mean?  As to Christ, what do you mean?

It was a child of Europe who cried this cry,
Oh Holy Ghost what do you mean as to Christ?
I heard him cry.  Ah me, the poor child,
Tearing away his heart to be good
Without enchantment.  I heard him cry:

Oh Christianity, Christianity,
Why do you not answer our difficulties?
If He was God He was not like us
He could not lose.

Can Perfection be less than perfection?
Can the creator of the Devil be bested by him? 
What can the temptation to possess the earth have meant to Him
Who made and possessed it?  What do you mean?

And Sin, how could He take our sins upon Him?  What does it mean?
To take sin upon one is not the same
As to have sin inside one and feel guilty.

It is horrible to feel guilty,
We feel guilty because we are.
Was He horrible?  Did He feel guilty?

You say he was born humble – but he was not,
He was born God – 

Taking our nature upon Him.  But then you say
He was perfect Man.  Do you mean
Perfect Man, meaning wholly?  Or Man without sin?  Ah
Perfect Man without sin is not what we are.

Do you mean He did not know that He was God,
Did not know He was the Second Person of the Trinity?
(Oh if he knew this and was,
It was a source of strength for Him we do not have)
But this theology of emptying you preach sometimes –
That He emptied Himself of knowing He was God – seems
A theology of false appearances
To mock your facts, as He was God whether He knew it or not.

Oh what do you mean, what do you mean?
You never answer our difficulties.

You say, Christianity, you say
That the Trinity is unchanging from eternity,
At the incarnation He took
Our Manhood into the Godhead
That did not have it before
So it must have altered it, having it.

Oh what do you mean, what do you mean?
You never answer our questions.

So I heard the child of Europe cry,
Tearing his heart away
To be good without enchantment,
Going away bleeding.

Oh how sad it is to give up the Holy Ghost
He is so beautiful, but not when you look close,
And the consolations of religion are so beautiful,
But not when you look close.
Is it beautiful, for instance, is it productive of good
That the Roman Catholic hierarchy should be endlessly discussing at this moment
Their shifty theology of birth control, the Vatican
Claiming the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?  No it is not good
Or productive of good.  It is productive of
Contempt and disgust.  Yet
On the whole I suppose Christianity is kinder than it was,
Helped to it, I fear, by the power of the Civil Arm.

Oh Christianity, Christianity,
That has grown kinder now, as in the political world
The colonial system grows kinder before it vanishes, are you vanishing?
Is it not time for you to vanish?

I do not think we will be able to bear much longer the dishonesty
Of clinging for comfort to beliefs we do not believe in,
For comfort, and to be comfortably free of the fear
Of diminishing good, as if truth were a convenience.
I think if we do not learn quickly, and learn to teach children, 
To be good without enchantment, without the help
Of beautiful painted fairy stories pretending to be true,
Then I think it will be too much for us, the dishonesty,
And, armed as we are now, we shall kill everybody
It will be too much for us, we shall kill everybody.

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