He took a step, and stopped, and said “It’s true. It’s Heaven. I’ve died!”
Around him stretched a library, as broad as any sea,
The shelves held all the books there are, and all the books to be,
The lost books of the ancient world, the books of future time,
The books the saints have writ in Heaven, and books of heathen rhyme,
With orange spines, and green, and blue, clay tablets, vellum scrolls,
In leather bindings tooled with gold, or cut from pulp-print rolls.
Jerome reached out a longing hand, then snatched his fingers back.
“This is temptation, Lord!” he cried. “Trust that I do not lack!
Though in my youth I loved to read, loved Cicero the most,
Loved to taste words as words on tongue, but I don’t mean to boast,
I put that pagan love away, read only sacred text,
Torment me, Lord, for I am yours, teach me what happens next!
For thirty years I did your will, no poetry but Psalms–”
He broke off, for a man stood near, with nail-holes through his palms.
And Jesus wept. “Jerome,” he said, “That harshness was not mine.
To bend your nature in that way was human, not divine.
You could have read it all for me, read Tully in my name.
But now Jerome, you stand in Heaven, and here there is no blame.
Your great translations well I know, they stand here by your grace,
Your letters too, upon our shelves may truly take their place.
Jerome, my saint, be welcome here, you’ve suffered for your creed.
There’s always time to talk, but now, for my sake, sit and read!”
7th December 2006