I grasped the axe with shaking hands,
I stared at the grass I trod;
For I feared to see the whole bare heavens
Filled with the face of God.
I struck: the serpentine slow blood
In four arms soaked the moss—
Before me, by the living Christ,
The blood ran in a cross.
Therefore I toil in forests here
And pile the wood in stacks,
And take no fee from the shivering folk
Till I have cleansed the axe.
But for a curse God cleared my sight,
And where each tree doth grow
I see a life with awful eyes,
And I must lay it low.
On must we go: we search dead leaves,
We chase the sunset’s saddest flames,
The nameless hues that o’er and o’er
In lawless wedding lost their names.
God of the daybreak! Better be
Black savages; and grin to gird
Our limbs in gaudy rags of red,
The laughing-stock of brute and bird;
And feel again the fierce old feast,
Blue for seven heavens that had sufficed,
A gold like shining hoards, a red
Like roses from the blood of Christ.
THE TWO WOMEN
Lo! very fair is she who knows the ways
Of joy: in pleasure’s mocking wisdom old,
The eyes that might be cold to flattery, kind;
The hair that might be grey with knowledge, gold.
But thou art more than these things, O my queen,
For thou art clad in ancient wars and tears.
And looking forth, framed in the crown of thorns,
I saw the youngest face in all the spheres.
THE WILD KNIGHT
The wasting thistle whitens on my crest,
The barren grasses blow upon my spear,
A green, pale pennon: blazon of wild faith
And love of fruitless things: yea, of my love,
Among the golden loves of all the knights,
Alone: most hopeless, sweet, and blasphemous,
The love of God:
I hear the crumbling creeds
Like cliffs washed down by water, change, and pass;
I hear a noise of words, age after age,
A new cold wind that blows across the plains,
And all the shrines stand empty; and to me
All these are nothing: priests and schools may doubt
Who never have believed; but I have loved.
Ah friends, I know it passing well, the love
Wherewith I love; it shall not bring to me
Return or hire or any pleasant thing—
Ay, I have tried it: Ay, I know its roots.
Earthquake and plague have burst on it in vain
And rolled back shattered—
Blind, startled fools—think you I know it not?
Think you to teach me? Know I not His ways?
Strange-visaged blunders, mystic cruelties.
All! all! I know Him, for I love Him. Go!