A Ballad of Suicide

It seemed appropriate that my final lecture last week before Easter was on Nietzsche.

The only answer to nihilism is resurrection.

If man, as Kansas sang, is only “dust in the wind” then we should “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Surely, anyone who accepts this proposition should have  little problem eating or drinking. It is the being merry part most find difficult. It seems the seventeenth century philosopher Pascal was right. Nothing but God can fill the void in our hearts.

I came across this poem by literary heavy-weight G.K. Chesterton that illustrates man’s despair in contrast to his longing for joy.

“A Ballad of Suicide”

The gallows in my garden, people say,

Is new and neat and adequately tall;
I tie the noose on in a knowing way

As one that knots his necktie for a ball;
But just as all the neighbours—on the wall—
Are drawing a long breath to shout “Hurray!”

The strangest whim has seized me. . . . After all
I think I will not hang myself to-day.
To-morrow is the time I get my pay—

My uncle’s sword is hanging in the hall—
I see a little cloud all pink and grey—

Perhaps the rector’s mother will not call— I fancy that I heard from Mr. Gall
That mushrooms could be cooked another way—

I never read the works of Juvenal—
I think I will not hang myself to-day.
The world will have another washing-day;

The decadents decay; the pedants pall;
And H.G. Wells has found that children play,

And Bernard Shaw discovered that they squall,
Rationalists are growing rational—
And through thick woods one finds a stream astray

So secret that the very sky seems small—
I think I will not hang myself to-day.

I find it interesting that Chesterton makes reference to two atheists in the poem—George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells—which seems to me to point to the aforementioned contrast.

There is a longing deep within the human heart for meaning and purpose.

Even in our despair—the “thick woods”— we find a “stream astray.”

Herein is our hope: Christ the fount of living water.