Autobiography of William Butler Yeats

IStock_000005761016XSmall Jack reads selected passages
from his favorite books

Unscripted. Unrehearsed. Unedited.


Autobiography of William Butler Yeats, 1914. 


I began reading W. B. Yeats after coming across a favorable recommendation from another author I admire, C. S. Lewis. Of his fellow Irishman, in a letter to a friend, Lewis wrote: “I have here discovered an author exactly after my own heart, whom I am sure you would delight in, W. B. Yeats. He writes plays and poems of rare spirit and beauty about our old Irish mythology.”


Someone at the Young Ireland Society gave me a newspaper that I might read some article or letter. I began idly reading verses describing the shore of Ireland as seen by a returning, dying emigrant. My eyes filled with tears and yet I knew the verses were badly written — vague, abstract words such as one finds in a newspaper. I looked at the end and saw the name of some political exile who had died but a few days after his return to Ireland. They had moved me because they contained the actual thoughts of a man at a passionate moment of life, and when I met my father I was full of the discovery. We should write out our own thoughts in as nearly as possible the language we thought them in, as though in a letter to an intimate friend. We should not disguise them in any way; for our lives give them force as the lives of people in plays give force to their words. Personal utterance, which had almost ceased in English literature, could be as fine an escape from rhetoric and abstraction as drama itself. But my father would hear nothing but drama; personal utterance was only egotism. I knew it was not, but as yet did not know how to explain the difference. I tried from that on to write out of my emotions exactly as they came to me in life, not changing them to make them more beautiful. “If I can be sincere and make my language natural, and without becoming discursive, like a novelist, and so indiscreet and prosaic,” I said to myself, “I shall, if good luck or bad luck make my life interesting, be a great poet; for it will be no longer a matter of literature at all.” Yet when I re-read those early poems which gave me so much trouble, I find little but romantic convention, unconscious drama. It is so many years before one can believe enough in what one feels even to know what the feeling is. (p. 62)


If Jesus Had Not Come

Empty manger
An Alternative History of Christmas

Christmas—the day God’s son entered the stream of human history and changed forever mankind’s destiny. Every year we read Bible verses and sing songs to celebrate this wondrous event.

But what if Jesus never came?

What if, instead of announcing Christ’s birth, the angel Gabriel appeared in the skies over Bethlehem and delivered the following announcement:

 Greetings, you who once were highly favored.
This is what the sovereign Lord says:

In the past I spoke to your forefathers through the prophets.
I revealed myself to those
who did not seek me;
to a nation that did not call out my name, I said, "Here am I, here am
All day long I held out my hands to you,
and you turned away to pursue your own

Because you broke our covenant, its prophecies will not be fulfilled.
Those living in the land of the
shadow of death will not see a great light;
for to you, a child will not be born, a son not
The One who is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of
Peace will not appear
as foretold by the prophets. 

From this day forth, God will no longer hear your prayers.

He is not your God; you are not His people.

And the angel was gone.

The sky was empty.

And the people sang a new song:

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
And thinking of their home,
The vigil of the night wore on,
They sat there all alone.

If Jesus had not come.

Salzburg, Austria
December, MMDLXXI a.u.c.

On a dark winter night, Joseph Mohr reflects on the bitter Napoleonic Wars that have ravaged the European countryside with a staggering death toll. Taking pen to paper, he writes: 

Silent night, darkest night,
Filled with fear, there’s no light.
God’s in heaven, not on earth;
How we long for a Savior’s birth.
Sleep without dreams of peace.
Sleep without dreams of peace.

If Jesus had not come.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
December, MMDCXXI  a.u.c.

Philips Brooks, a university professor of philosophy, reminisces about a trip he made to Bethlehem three years earlier, where he’d hoped to find a measure of peace following four bitter years of civil war in America and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln who, for Brooks, embodied the hope of the nation.

Lamenting the unfulfilled prophecy of an obscure Jewish prophet named Micah, Brooks composes a dirge.

O little town of Bethlehem, how ill we see thee lie.
Above they deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by;
And in thy dark streets gloomy, where evil wins the fight,
The pain and fears of all the years, has reigned supreme tonight.

If Jesus had not come.

Cologny, Switzerland
September, MMDCCV a.u.c.

A papyrologist hired by antiquities collector Martin Bodmer hunches over a recently acquired manuscript discovered in Jabal Aba Mana, Egypt. The acquisition includes copies of books V and VI of Homer’s Iliad; three comedies by the Greek dramatist Menander; and p66, a manuscript of questionable value containing the writings of an obscure Galilean fisherman named John. Like so many Jewish writers of his time, the fisherman’s discourse is a fatalistic view of life. The papyrologist translates the third chapter, the sixteenth verse:

For God did not love the world enough to send his only son,
so all mankind will perish and never know everlasting life.

If Jesus had not come.

Jerusalem, Judaea
5 Nisan 3821

Saul, one of the greatest post-covenant Rabbis, leads a Jewish uprising against Rome in an attempt to re-establish the throne of David on the abandoned temple mount. In a circular letter sent to synagogues throughout the Roman empire he describes the roads of Jerusalem lined with crosses bearing the bodies of martyrs to the cause. He issues a call for Jews everywhere to pledge their lives in support of the new kingdom of David:

Your attitude should not be that of God’s Son
who, being in the very nature of God
considered equality with God something to be grasped.
And He made himself something,
not taking the form of a servant,
not being made in human likeness;
He was not found in appearance of a man,
refusing to humble himself,
especially death on a cross.

If Jesus had not come.

Jerusalem, Judea
24 Iyyar 3841

A worldly tax collector named Matthew—hated by the Jews, loathed by his Roman employers—teaches his apprentice the realities of life in a God-forsaken world, telling him life’s only hope lies in the accumulation of wealth.

As you go into all the world
and see despair among the nations,
do not be swayed by the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit;
teach your sons to live only for themselves.
For lo, God will never be with us,
not even at the end of the age.

If Jesus had not come.

But Jesus did come! If only for a moment, savor the greatest announcement mankind has ever heard:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David,
a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Gloria in excelsis Deo


An Author’s World

Doorway to clouds   


A book is a


every word

a step

into the world

of the author.


– Jack Cavanaugh





You stand on the threshold to the worlds of Jack Cavanaugh

Each page is a doorway to a different world

Enter and enjoy the adventure



Bookmark this site and check back frequently for —

  • Short fiction and devotional stories
  • Blog entries featuring articles and commentary on the historical background of my novels
  • Announcements of upcoming releases
  • Jack's speaking appearances
  • Products: mugs, t-shirts, etc.

Follow me on — 


Standing on the Threshold

Medieval door with text smaller Threshold

The Times They Are A-Changin'


Who would have guessed a few short decades ago that storytelling would take such a momentous leap from bound pages to electronic books? Yet, here we are.
In his 1992 autobiography, storyteller James Michener said, "I cannot foresee what form the book, which has been so precious to me, will take in the next century. . . but I am positive that regardless of how the narrative is circulated, the men or women who can create it will continue to be invaluable."
Truth is, every society since the beginning of language has had its storytellers. And while the delivery system has varied over time, our craving for good stories remains constant.

 But with so many ways to communicate these days, which venue is best for me? While devices that use video and audio and pop-up links are currently the rage, I choose to tell stories with books—both bound and electronic—that engage  people in the reading experience that has been most dear to me.

These are my stories.


You stand on the threshold to the worlds of Jack Cavanaugh

Each page is a doorway to a different world

Enter and enjoy the adventure



Follow me on