‘Judas in Modern Dress’, by Judith Wright

A Human PatternNot like those men they tell of, who just as suddenly
walk out of life, from wife and fire and cooking-pot
and the whole confusion, to sit alone and naked
and move past motion; gaze through dark and day
with eyes that answer neither. Having completed their journey
they are free to travel past the end of journeys.
But I stepped out alone.
“I reject the journey; it was not I who chose it.
I worked for one end only,
to find the key that lets me through the door
marked Exit. I have found it and I use it.”

There is a tale I heard a wise man tell,
how, tattered with age, beneath a fruiting tree
a seeker sat, and heard in God’s great silence
another traveller, caught in the nets of self,
weeping between anguish and ecstasy,
and over a thousand miles stretched out one hand
to pluck him back again into the Way.

But I was one the saints knew not at all.
A mocking man, a sad man-animal
rejecting world and sense
not for God’s love, but man’s intelligence;
as though a hog looked through a human eye
and saw the human world as dunged as its own sty,
foul ante-room to death. Like that I saw
the abattoir ahead, and smelt the soil
soaked under me with blood. No place for me.

And wise in my own way I worked to find
the weak place in the palings of the Real—
the gap between the Word
and its Creation, the act and the conception—
and forced my way between those married two,
set time against eternity, struggled through,
slipped through annihilation, still being I.

What violence those great powers did to me
as I escaped between, I have forgotten.
But swinging clear I saw the world spin by
and leave me, empty as an insect-shell,
beyond the chance of death, and outside time.

I had the choice. Once I had infinite choices—
all the variety of light and shadow
that sprang to being when Choice first was made.
Now I have knowledge only. Knowledge, and eyes
to watch the worlds cross their eternities.

Times after times the saving word is spoken.
Times after times I feel it wither me.
The fools of time live on and never hear,
and I who hear have chosen not to answer.
It beats against me till my ears are broken.
Times after times I see my death go by
and cannot reach it even with a prayer.
Indeed, since I am neither Here nor There
I cannot live, and therefore cannot die.

Times after times my lips begin to form
the word that I renounced, and close again.
The worlds pass jostling, and their makers dream
immortal life betrayed to daily pain—
the pain that I denied.

I still deny it.

O sweet, sweet, sweet the love in human eyes—
the tree of blossom dressed to meet the bee,
all white, all radiant, golden at the heart.
Halt there, at your Creation! And it dies,
dies into rotting fruit, and tyrannous seed.
If it spring up again, so much the worse.
That was the curse on Eden, Adam’s curse.
The curse by which my heart will not abide.

If I am Judas, still my cause is good.
I will not move my lips to answer God.

– Judith Wright, ‘Judas in Modern Dress’, in A Human Pattern: Selected Poems (North Ryde: Angus and Robertson, 1990), 115–17.

4 thoughts on “‘Judas in Modern Dress’, by Judith Wright

  1. Certainly we all lean towards the Judas approach, Bruce, but if we’re only Judas, then we’ve given up on Christ. I think Peter is a better role model: a sinner but one who is capable of receiving forgiveness, which Judas appears not to have been.

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