Years ago, I saw an early edition, maybe even the first edition, of this book. The authors of many poems were indicated by name in the index in the back of the book. Maria Russell's name appeared as an author for several. Do these names appear in the 1912 edition? Or were they omitted? Maria Russell played a large role in this book, but 1912 was after their divorce trial.
There is a poem called "The True Church." It is one of the longest poems. The character is looking for the one true church and asks a Pilgrim ( who is actually Jesus) for the way. The Pilgrim answers,"the one true church is never found." They visit various church buildings, and attend church services, but the Pilgrim points out each church's failings. At the end the searcher recognizes it is Jesus, who tells him instead to seek "the one true Christ, its head."
This poem reflects the anti-church, anti-organization stance of the Russell period. However, although the seeker perhaps was wrong to look for the one true church, expecting perfection in this life, he yet did not have an answer for what church he should join. This poem is effective, yet leaves me unsatisfied. Certainly there is a middle ground between looking for one true church and communing alone with Christ, and although there might not be one true church, there could many that would be acceptable. I can't help but think that this black/white perspective on churches caused Russell and his followers to be naive about their own dark side. They thought they had left Babylon and lived in freedom apart from all human organizations, yet human society cannot seem to function without the social groups and organizations.