The Parable of the Old Man and the Young
So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
-- Wilfred Owen (1893 - 1918)
Wilfred Owen's "Parable of the Old Man and the Young" came up in recent conversations about Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," so we thought we'd post it here.
Owen's version of Abraham becomes a parable of World War I: the slaying of "half the seed of Europe" for the sake of a war that did not need to be fought. Owen's Abram differs from Abraham in Genesis inasmuch as the former does not go forth in response to a divine summons, and he disobeys the rescuing angel. Formally, Abram's betrayal is enacted in the last two lines attached to the fourteen-line poem preceding it: the sonnet is busted, and the rich biblical language gives way to a tidy couplet.