The Writer

By John McNeil


A dramatic poem which is an allegory on John 1:1-12. It is particularly suitable - but not exclusively so - for Easter.
"The Writer" was originally presented as a dance-drama, with a Narrator, Dancers, and music compiled for the performance.

Bible Reference

"The Writer" is based on John 1:1-12, which could be read before the performance.

Production Note: A narrated version of The Writer, with backing music, is available for a small charge, either on CD or as an MP3.


There was a space.

At first it was a nothing space,
or so it seemed.
No walls or barriers limiting it,
no beginning nor end to it.
And yet came the feeling
that beginning and end
both began here.

But nothing is at it seems,
and little by little it could be seen
that the space
and had colour -
not colour such as the eye could distinguish
or try to define.
It was the colour
of not having no colour.
It shifted and changed,
and took slow dances through the space it ranged,
until it could be said
that space had ceased to be space,
but simply was.

As the colour danced
it shifted and changed
to reveal slowly the shadow of a figure.
The figure had not been there before,
nor yet had it arrived.
The light had simply rearranged itself
to reveal the form.

The figure was tranquil,
a still point in the midst of the dance,
no victim of chance,
but as certain of its existence
as in the certainty
that beginning and end
had their being one with each other
at this point of eternity.

The figure appeared to be seated -
not on anything,
nor at anything,
yet seated.
His features carried the air
of thoughtful

And JOY.

Solemn Joy,
bubbling within,
till the Joy flowed out
and mixed with the colour,
danced with it,
and gave the colour its life.

The figure was alone.

And he took a fragment of colour,
moulded it,
shaped it,
till it became a pen of light.
And he laid flat another swirl of colour,
smoothed out hidden wrinkles with careful gesture,
and with the pen of light
began to write.

A poem.

The writer poured into his poem
his heart of love,
his heart of joy,
and his longing.
He spoke of the light
and of its joining,
of liquid light
and its pouring.
And how the stream took shape and form,
and how the form found boundary and mooring.

He brought to his poem a new thought -
of dividing,
of space being empty and full.
And he told of a fullness new to the light,
around which it moved,
and to which it gave life &-
a new world taking shape in day's dawning.

As the writer wrote his poem,
under him formed a hillside,
and as he spoke of trees,
they budded around him.

He spoke of fruit and flowers,
of plum and cherry,
of sun and showers,
and ripening berry.
He wrote of wheat,
and fresh-scented heather,
of storm clouds and heat,
and of calm, and of breath.

As his pen moved on the page,
the words took life,
and Joy found shape.
Joy sang,
and in the singing
found its winging to the light.
Flight of bird,
flick of fin,
all shapes, colours,
serious, absurd,
squat and thin.

Living Joy.

Down the hillside and further than eye could see
danced Joy
and filled the world.
And the writer laughed
in Joy found form.

The writer would have stopped his poem,
but he was still alone.
So he bent his pen
and wrote again.
A new song this,
filled of more of himself
than he had ever written before.
He fashioned words with care,
and signed them with his heart.

He wrote words of pageantry
and simple pleasantry,
of fellowship,
of toddling footstep,
of growing and learning,
of knowing and yearning.
And as his pen moved,
again danced the words
and took shape.

Away down the hill to a flautist's gay trill
the cavalcade moved in its dance.
They chatted and sang and passed in a throng
to the plain at the foot of the hill.

The writer smiled as they flowed from his page,
then laughed with quickening delight.
He threw down his pen and jumped to his feet,
and started off down in pursuit.

Those down on the plain had leaped as they came,
with great circles of whirl and of spin.
But they slowed at his laugh, and stopped as he neared,
and over their faces came change.
Scarcely fresh from the page,
yet some smiles became rage,
and strange hush began to descend.
They clenched hands the more tightly,
drew their figures uprightly,
and so they would not let him in.

The writer stopped.
Near ones turned their back.
He held out his arms.
The timid drew back.
"I can show you a new dance," he offered.
They replied, "We'll not be bothered,"
and some found boldness to scorn.
"I can write you a song, filled with life."
But they yawned, "We've our own,
and we'll trouble you not to bring yours."

They danced once again,
but around him this time,
and they mocked as they laughed at his words.
One mustered up boldness to step in and trip him,
and the writer lay sprawled on the ground.
A child cried,
but too few echoed fear,
and a motherly apron soon stifled a tear.
Some dancers showed doubt
as he didn't cry out.
But the rest called them names
as they hid from the shame
of the man lying still on the dirt.

The crowd surged and came forward,
kicked his face,
pulled him sykward,
and rushed with him back up the hill.

As they got to the top
they slowed,
and then stopped,
uncertain about their next action.
Then searching hands
found the pen on the ground,
and the crowd chorused huge satisfaction.

His cloak ripped apart,
the writer hung
as the dart of light
sped to his heart,

and he died.

As he fell,
so the colours started turning to water,
and great smears smudged the sky and the earth.
In the found appeared holes,
trees began to dissolve,
and great sobs now replaced the crowd's mirth.
The colours all ran
down the hill to the plain in a flood,
like a great rainbow melted.
And the trees became tears
as the hills disappeared,
and the people searched vainly for shelter.

The flood swirled around
the dead form on the ground,
washing out the world's wasted debris.
In the milling confusion
of doubt,
death seemed the only reality.

Those who had earlier hung back
from the taunts of the dance
now spent their last moments to find him.
As they scrambled and forced their way to his side,
the flood gathered up the crowd in its grip.
They reached him,
then fell exhausted.
Alongside they lay,
lifeless and grey,
as the last of the colour drained past them.

There was a space.

At first it was a nothing space.
Or so it seemed.

But the nothing space
again pulsated,
shifted and changed,
shifted and changed,
slow-motion waves of shifting and change,
as what's taken
becomes what is given.

And the dark image flees
in the light rearranged
as the shifting reveals
not one form but many.

Those who reached out
in love to the writer
now bear the title
of Son,
and of Daughter.

With light at their head
they form a great company,
dancing and weaving
to the Joy born again.

"Death is thrown captive"
is the writer's new song.
"Come join my new dance,
My Daughter,
My Son."

© John McNeil 1979, All rights reserved
This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged. In exchange for free performance, the author would appreciate being notified of when and for what purpose the play is performed. He may be contacted at:
Or at: 36B Stourbridge St, Christchurch 8024, New Zealand.