Saturday, May 10, 2008

Smyrna the Martyred City

In reading over a recent Ph.D thesis I came upon this moving poem:

“What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” (Revelation 1.11)


Glory and Queen of Island Sea
Was Smyrna, the beautiful city,
And fairest pearl of the Orient she—
O Smyrna the beautiful city!
Heiress of countless storied ages,
Mother of poets, saints and sages,
Was Smyrna, the beautiful city!

One of the ancient, glorious Seven
Was Smyrna, the sacred city,
Whose candles all were alight in Heaven—
O Smyrna the sacred city!
One of the Seven hopes and desires,
One of the seven Holy Fires
Was Smyrna, the Sacred City.

And six fared out in the long ago-
O Smyrna, the Christian city!
But hers shone on with a constant glow—
O Smyrna, the Christian city!
The others died down and passed away,
But hers gleamed on until yesterday—
O Smyrna, the Christian city!

Silent and dead are churchbell ringers
Of Smyrna, the Christian city,
The music silent and dead the singers
Of Smyrna, the happy city;
And her maidens, pearls of the Island seas
Are gone from the marble palaces
Of Smyrna, enchanting city!

She is dead and rots by the Orient’s gate,
Does Smyrna, the murdered city,
Her artisans gone, her streets desolate—
O Smyrna, the murdered city!
Her children made orphans, widows her wives
While under her stones the foul rat thrives—
O Smyrna, the murdered city!

They crowned with a halo her bishop there,
In Smyrna, the martyred city,
Though dabbled with blood was his long white hair—
O Smyrna, the martyred city!
So she kept the faith in Christendom
From Polycarp to St. Chrysostom,
Did Smyrna, the glorified city!

The provenance of this poem (from what I understand) is the genocide of non-Turks in northern Turkey in the 1920s. The Ottoman Turks enacted a brtual policy of ethnic cleansing of Christians and especially Armenians in the early twentieth century which has been mostly forgotten in the anals of modern history. In fact, it is theorized that the international ignorance and apathy towards the Turkish massacres was one of the reasons why Adolf Hitler thought that he could get away with a similar extermination of the Jews in Europe. This is why I'm a Calvinist - human beings suck - O Come Lord Jesus, Come!


Research said...

A new book on what happened to Smyrna and the Christians within the city will be out in a couple of months. It is entitled Paradise Lost: Smyrna, 1922 by Giles Milton (2008). It is on my reading list.

J. B. Hood said...


"the anals of modern history"?!? Annals might be more correct, but 'anals' is certainly more interesting, esp. given the presence of Herr Hitler in the next sentence...