Beneath the vans of doom did men pass in.
Heroic who came out; for round them hung
A wavering phantom’s red volcano tongue,
With league-long lizard tail and fishy fin:
Old Earth’s original Dragon; there retired
To his last fastness; overthrown by few.
Him a laborious thrust of roadway slew.
Then man to play devorant straight was fired.
More intimate became the forest fear
While pillared darkness hatched malicious life
At either elbow, wolf or gnome or knife
And wary slid the glance from ear to ear.
In chillness, like a clouded lantern-ray,
The forest’s heart of fog on mossed morass,
On purple pool and silky cotton-grass,
Revealed where lured the swallower byway.
Dead outlook, flattened back with hard rebound
Off walls of distance, left each mounted height.
It seemed a giant hag-fiend, churning spite
Of humble human being, held the ground.
Through friendless wastes, through treacherous woodland,
The feet sustained by track of feet pursued
Pained steps, and found the common brotherhood
By sign of Heaven indifferent, Nature foe.
Anon a mason’s work amazed the sight,
And long-frocked men, called Brothers, there abode.
They pointed up, bowed head, and dug and sowed;
Whereof was shelter, loaf, and warm firelight.
What words they taught were nails to scratch the head.
Benignant works explained the chanting brood.
Their monastery lit black solitude,
As one might think a star that heavenward led.
Uprose a fairer nest for weary feet,
Like some gold flower nightly inward curled,
Where gentle maidens fled a roaring world,
Or played with it, and had their white retreat.
Into big books of metal clasps they pored.
They governed, even as men; they welcomed lays.
The treasures women are whose aim is praise,
Was shown in them: the Garden half restored.
A deluge billow scoured the land off seas,
With widened jaws, and slaughter was its foam.
For food, for clothing, ambush, refuge, home,
The lesser savage offered bogs and trees.
Whence reverence round grey-haired story grew:
And inmost spots of ancient horror shone
As temples under beams of trials bygone;
For in them sang brave times with God in view.