And the midmost round of the garden was reddened
With pillars of fire in a great high ring—
One look—and our souls forever were deadened,
Though our feet yet move, and our dreams yet sting;
For we saw that each was a live man flaming,
Limbs that a human mother bore,
And a thing of horror was done, past naming,
And the crowd spun round, and we saw no more.
And he that ran in the midst, descrying,
Lifted his hand with a foul red sneer,
And smote us each and the other, crying,
“Thus we worship the new God here.
“The Caesar comes, and the peoples paeans
Hail his name for the new made light,
Pitch and the flesh of the Galileans,
Torches fit for a Roman night;”
And we fell down to the earth, and sickened,
Moaning, three of us, head by head,
“Where is He, whom the good God quickened?
Where is Jesus, the living bread?”
Yet ever we heard, in the foul mirth turning,
Man and woman and child go by,
And ever the yells of the charred men burning,
Piercing heavenward, cry on cry:
And we lay there, till the frightful revel,
Died in the dawn with a few short moans,
Of some that knelt in the wan and level
Shadows, that fell from the blackened bones.
Numb with horror and sick with pity,
The heart of each as an iron weight,
We crept in the dawn from the awful city,
Journeying out of the seaward gate.
The great sun came from the sea before us;
A soft wind blew from the scented south;
But our eyes knew not of the steps that bore us
Down to the ships at the Timber’s mouth;
And we prayed then, as we turned our faces
Over the sea to the living God,
That our ways might be in the fierce bare places,
Where never the foot of a live man trod:
And we set sail in the noon, not caring
Whether the prow of the dark ship came,
No more over the old ways faring;
For the sea was cold, but the land was flame:
And the keen ship sped, and a deadly coma
Blotted away from our eyes forever,
Tower on tower, the great city Roma,
Palace and temple and yellow river.
Out of the Northland sombre weirds are calling;
A shadow falleth southward day by day;
Sad summers arms grow cold; his fire is falling;
His feet draw back to give the stern one way.
It is the voice and shadow of the slayer,
Slayer of loves, sweet world, slayer of dreams;
Make sad thy voice with sombre plaint and prayer;
Make gray thy woods, and darken all they streams.
Black grows the river, blacker drifts the eddy:
The sky is grey; the woods are cold below:
Oh make the bosom, and thy sad lips ready,
For the cold kisses of the folding snow.