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The Wild Knight and Other Poems
G. K. Chesterton
_Another tattered rhymster in the ring,
With but the old plea to the sneering schools,
That on him too, some secret night in spring
Came the old frenzy of a hundred fools
To make some thing: the old want dark and deep,
The thirst of men, the hunger of the stars,
Since first it tinged even the Eternal's sleep,
With monstrous dreams of trees and towns and mars.
When all He made for the first time He saw,
Scattering stars as misers shake their pelf.
Then in the last strange wrath broke His own law,
And made a graven image of Himself._
BY THE BABE UNBORN
If trees were tall and grasses short,
As in some crazy tale,
If here and there a sea were blue
Beyond the breaking pale,
If a fixed fire hung in the air
To warm me one day through,
If deep green hair grew on great hills,
I know what I should do.
In dark I lie: dreaming that there
Are great eyes cold or kind,
And twisted streets and silent doors,
And living men behind.
Let storm-clouds come: better an hour,
And leave to weep and fight,
Than all the ages I have ruled
The empires of the night.
I think that if they gave me leave
Within that world to stand,
I would be good through all the day
I spent in fairyland.
They should not hear a word from me
Of selfishness or scorn,
If only I could find the door,
If only I were born.
THE WORLD'S LOVER
My eyes are full of lonely mirth:
Reeling with want and worn with scars,
For pride of every stone on earth,
I shake my spear at all the stars.
A live bat beats my crest above,
Lean foxes nose where I have trod,
And on my naked face the love
Which is the loneliness of God.
Outlawed: since that great day gone by—
When before prince and pope and queen
I stood and spoke a blasphemy—
'Behold the summer leaves are green.'
They cursed me: what was that to me
Who in that summer darkness furled,
With but an owl and snail to see,
Had blessed and conquered all the world?
They bound me to the scourging-stake,
They laid their whips of thorn on me;
I wept to see the green rods break,
Though blood be beautiful to see.
Beneath the gallows' foot abhorred
The crowds cry 'Crucify!' and 'Kill!'
Higher the priests sing, 'Praise the Lord,
The warlock dies'; and higher still
Shall heaven and earth hear one cry sent
Even from the hideous gibbet height,
'Praise to the Lord Omnipotent,
The vultures have a feast to-night.'
Chattering finch and water-fly
Are not merrier than I;
Here among the flowers I lie
No: I may not tell the best;
Surely, friends, I might have guessed
Death was but the good King's jest,
It was hid so carefully.
A CHORD OF COLOUR
My Lady clad herself in grey,
That caught and clung about her throat;
Then all the long grey winter day
On me a living splendour smote;
And why grey palmers holy are,
And why grey minsters great in story,
And grey skies ring the morning star,
And grey hairs are a crown of glory.
My Lady clad herself in green,
Like meadows where the wind-waves pass;
Then round my spirit spread, I ween,
A splendour of forgotten grass.
Then all that dropped of stem or sod,
Hoarded as emeralds might be,
I bowed to every bush, and trod
Amid the live grass fearfully.
My Lady clad herself in blue,
Then on me, like the seer long gone,
The likeness of a sapphire grew,
The throne of him that sat thereon.
Then knew I why the Fashioner
Splashed reckless blue on sky and sea;
And ere 'twas good enough for her,
He tried it on Eternity.
Beneath the gnarled old Knowledge-tree
Sat, like an owl, the evil sage:
'The World's a bubble,' solemnly
He read, and turned a second page.
'A bubble, then, old crow,' I cried,
'God keep you in your weary wit!
'A bubble—have you ever spied
'The colours I have seen on it?'
THE HAPPY MAN
To teach the grey earth like a child,
To bid the heavens repent,
I only ask from Fate the gift
Of one man well content.
Him will I find: though when in vain
I search the feast and mart,
The fading flowers of liberty,
The painted masks of art.
I only find him at the last,
On one old hill where nod
Golgotha's ghastly trinity—
Three persons and one god.
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN
I do not cry, beloved, neither curse.
Silence and strength, these two at least are good.
He gave me sun and stars and ought He could,
But not a woman's love; for that is hers.
He sealed her heart from sage and questioner—
Yea, with seven seals, as he has sealed the grave.
And if she give it to a drunken slave,
The Day of Judgment shall not challenge her.
Only this much: if one, deserving well,
Touching your thin young hands and making suit,
Feel not himself a crawling thing, a brute,
Buried and bricked in a forgotten hell;
Prophet and poet be he over sod,
Prince among angels in the highest place,
God help me, I will smite him on the face,
Before the glory of the face of God.
Why should I care for the Ages
Because they are old and grey?
To me, like sudden laughter,
The stars are fresh and gay;
The world is a daring fancy,
And finished yesterday.
Why should I bow to the Ages
Because they were drear and dry?
Slow trees and ripening meadows
For me go roaring by,
A living charge, a struggle
To escalade the sky.
The eternal suns and systems,
Solid and silent all,
To me are stars of an instant,
Only the fires that fall
From God's good rocket, rising
On this night of carnival.
The vision of a haloed host
That weep around an empty throne;
And, aureoles dark and angels dead,
Man with his own life stands alone.
'I am,' he says his bankrupt creed:
'I am,' and is again a clod:
The sparrow starts, the grasses stir,
For he has said the name of God.
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
THE BEATIFIC VISION
Through what fierce incarnations, furled
In fire and darkness, did I go,
Ere I was worthy in the world
To see a dandelion grow?
Well, if in any woes or wars
I bought my naked right to be,
Grew worthy of the grass, nor gave
The wren, my brother, shame for me.
But what shall God not ask of him
In the last time when all is told,
Who saw her stand beside the hearth,
The firelight garbing her in gold?
THE HOPE OF THE STREETS
The still sweet meadows shimmered: and I stood