On First Looking at Rodin’s “Christ and Magdalene”

by Sjef Frenken

With thanks to Eric Jensen, SJ for giving me the idea.

In all the Roman churches, above the altar
He hangs, in classic style or crude
In a pose that doesn’t go against the senses
His privates covered; a respectful nude

It would not do to have Him hang there
On two crossed beams beneath sardonic name;
Naked, without a modest loincloth:
Crucifixion a lesser punishment than shame.

Rodin was there, those last few moments,
And fixed it in that cold stone pose
Saw Magdalene for love, divine or earthly;
Saw her, disciple there, shed all her clothes

And press her flesh against the one she loved
To cover His nakedness with her own
Perhaps to show the crowd of gawkers
That in the end He was not alone.

With Him forsaken by His Father, and rabble at His feet
She made her mystic gesture and laid claim
To be His desperate robe and shield,
And more than that, to share His shame.

Nailed through His hands to a slab of marble
The figures smooth; the stone cross rough
It would seem Rodin has left his work unfinished
But no, he’s done; he’s said more than enough.

3 October 2015


Sjef Frenken is a relatively contented retired civil servant who has been toying with musical notes and the written word since his teenage years, a very long time ago.