His robe was bordered with rich rose and gold,
Green, purple, silver out of sunsets old;
But o’er his face a great cloud edged with fire,
Because it covereth the world’s desire.
But as I gazed, a silent worshipper,
Methought the cloud began to faintly stir;
Then I fell flat, and screamed with grovelling head,
’If thou hast any lightning, strike me dead!
’But spare a brow where the clean sunlight fell,
The crown of a new sin that sickens hell.
Let me not look aloft and see mine own
Feature and form upon the Judgment-throne.’
Then my dream snapped: and with a heart that
I saw across the tavern where I slept,
The sight of all my life most full of grace,
A gin-damned drunkard’s wan half-witted face.
Before the grass grew over me,
I knew one good man through and through,
And knew a soul and body joined
Are stronger than the heavens are blue.
A wisdom worthy of thy joy,
O great heart, read I as I ran;
Now, though men smite me on the face,
I cannot curse the face of man.
I loved the man I saw yestreen
Hanged with his babe’s blood on his palms.
I loved the man I saw to-day
Who knocked not when he came with alms.
Hush!—for thy sake I even faced
The knowledge that is worse than hell;
And loved the man I saw but now
Hanging head downwards in the well.
Witness all: that unrepenting,
Feathers flying, music high,
I go down to death unshaken
By your mean philosophy.
For your wages, take my body,
That at least to you I leave;
Set the sulky plumes upon it,
Bid the grinning mummers grieve.
Stand in silence: steep your raiment
In the night that hath no star;
Don the mortal dress of devils,
Blacker than their spirits are.
Since ye may not, of your mercy,
Ere I lie on such a hearse,
Hurl me to the living jackals
God hath built for sepulchres.
This is the weird of a world-old folk,
That not till the last link breaks,
Not till the night is blackest,
The blood of Hengist wakes.
When the sun is black in heaven,
The moon as blood above,
And the earth is full of hatred,
This people tells its love.
In change, eclipse, and peril,
Under the whole world’s scorn,
By blood and death and darkness
The Saxon peace is sworn;
That all our fruit be gathered,
And all our race take hands,
And the sea be a Saxon river
That runs through Saxon lands.
Lo! not in vain we bore him;
Behold it! not in vain,
Four centuries’ dooms of torture
Choked in the throat of Spain,
Ere priest or tyrant triumph—
We know how well—we know—
Bone of that bone can whiten,
Blood of that blood can flow.