But ere I struck, my soul’s grey deserts through
A voice cried, ‘Know at least what thing you do.’
’This is a common man: knowest thou, O soul,
What this thing is? somewhere where seasons roll
There is some living thing for whom this man
Is as seven heavens girt into a span,
For some one soul you take the world away—
Now know you well your deed and purpose. Slay!’
Then I cast down the knife upon the ground
And saw that mean man for one moment crowned.
I turned and laughed: for there was no one by—
The man that I had sought to slay was I.
A CERTAIN EVENING
That night the whole world mingled,
The souls were babes at play,
And angel danced with devil.
And God cried, ‘Holiday!’
The sea had climbed the mountain peaks,
And shouted to the stars
To come to play: and down they came
Splashing in happy wars.
The pine grew apples for a whim,
The cart-horse built a nest;
The oxen flew, the flowers sang,
The sun rose in the west.
And ’neath the load of many worlds,
The lowest life God made
Lifted his huge and heavy limbs
And into heaven strayed.
To where the highest life God made
Before His presence stands;
But God himself cried, ‘Holiday!’
And she gave me both her hands.
A MAN AND HIS IMAGE
All day the nations climb and crawl and pray
In one long pilgrimage to one white shrine,
Where sleeps a saint whose pardon, like his peace,
Is wide as death, as common, as divine.
His statue in an aureole fills the shrine,
The reckless nightingale, the roaming fawn,
Share the broad blessing of his lifted hands,
Under the canopy, above the lawn.
But one strange night, a night of gale and flood,
A sound came louder than the wild wind’s tone;
The grave-gates shook and opened: and one stood
Blue in the moonlight, rotten to the bone.
Then on the statue, graven with holy smiles,
There came another smile—tremendous—one
Of an Egyptian god. ’Why should you rise?
’Do I not guard your secret from the sun?
The nations come; they kneel among the flowers
Sprung from your blood, blossoms of May and June,
Which do not poison them—is it not strange?
Speak!’ And the dead man shuddered in the moon.
Shall I not cry the truth?’—the dead
Is it not sad, with life so tame and cold,
What earth should fade into the sun’s white fires
With the best jest in all its tales untold?
’If I should cry that in this shrine lie hid
Stories that Satan from his mouth would spew;
Wild tales that men in hell tell hoarsely—speak!
Saint and Deliverer! Should I slander you?’