A CRUSADER’S TOMB
Unnamed, unknown:—his hands across his
Set in sepulchral rest,
In yon low cave-like niche the warrior lies,
—A shrine within a shrine,—
Full of gray peace, while day to darkness dies.
Then the forgotten dead at midnight come
And throng their chieftain’s tomb,
Murmuring the toils o’er which they toil’d, alive,
The feats of sword and love;
And all the air thrills like a summer hive.
—How so, thou say’st!—This
is the poet’s right!
He looks with larger sight
Than they who hedge their view by present things,
The small, parochial world
Of sight and touch: and what he sees, he sings.
The steel-shell’d host, that, gleaming as it
Like autumn lightning burns,
A moment’s azure, the fresh flags that glance
As cornflowers o’er the corn,
Till war’s stern step show like a gala dance,
He also sees; and pierces to the heart,
Scanning the genuine part
Each Red-Cross pilgrim plays: Some, gold-enticed;
By love or lust or fame
Urged; or who yearn to kiss the grave of Christ
And find their own, life-wearied:—Motley
O! ere they quit the Land
How maim’d, how marr’d, how changed from all that pride
In which so late they left
Orwell or Thames, with sails out-swelling wide
And music tuneable with the timing oar
Clear heard from shore to shore;
All Europe streaming to the mystic East!
—Now on their sun-smit ranks
The dusky squadrons close in vulture-feast,
And that fierce Day-star’s blazing ball their
Sears with excess of light;
Or through dun sand-clouds the blue scimitar’s edge
Slopes down like fire from heaven,
Mowing them as the thatcher mows the sedge.
Then many a heart remember’d, as the skies
Grew dark on dying eyes,
Sweet England; her fresh fields and gardens trim;
Her tree-embower’d halls;
And the one face that was the world to him.
—And one who fought his fight and held
Through life’s long latter day
Moving among the green, green English meads,
Ere in this niche he took
His rest, oft ’mid his kinsfolk told the deeds
Of that gay passage through the Midland sea;
Cyprus and Sicily;
And how the Lion-Heart o’er the Moslem host
Triumph’d in Ascalon
Or Acre, by the tideless Tyrian coast,
Yet never saw the vast Imperial dome,
Nor the thrice-holy Tomb:—
—As that great vision of the hidden Grail
By bravest knights of old
Unseen:—seen only of pure Parcivale.