Once on a time, a Dawn, all red and bright
Leapt on the conquered ramparts of the Night,
And flamed, one brilliant instant, on the world,
Then back into the historic moat was hurled
And Night was King again, for many years.
- Once on a time the Rose of Spring blushed out
But Winter angrily withdrew it back
Into his rough new-bursten husk, and shut
The stern husk-leaves, and hid it many years.
- Once Famine tricked himself with ears of corn,
And Hate strung flowers on his spiked belt,
And glum Revenge in silver lilies pranked him,
And Lust put violets on his shameless front,
And all minced forth o' the street like holiday folk
That sally off afield on Summer morns.
- Once certain hounds that knew of many a chase,
And bare great wounds of antler and of tusk
That they had ta'en to give a lord some sport,
- Good hounds, that would have died to give lords sport -
Were so bewrayed and kicked by these same lords
That all the pack turned tooth o' the knights and bit
As knights had been no better things than boars,
And took revenge as bloody as a man's,
Unhoundlike, sudden, hot i' the chops, and sweet.
- Once sat a falcon on a lady's wrist,
Seeming to doze, with wrinkled eye-lid drawn,
But dreaming hard of hoods and slaveries
And of dim hungers in his heart and wings.
Then, while the mistress gazed above for game,
Sudden he flew into her painted face
And hooked his horn-claws in her lily throat
And drove his beak into her lips and eyes
In fierce and hawkish kissing that did scar
And mar the lady's beauty evermore.
- And once while Chivalry stood tall and lithe
And flashed his sword above the stricken eyes
Of all the simple peasant-folk of France:
While Thought was keen and hot and quick,
And did not play, as in these later days,
Like summer-lightning flickering in the west
- As little dreadful as if glow-worms lay
In the cool and watery clouds and glimmered weak -
But gleamed and struck at once or oak or man,
And left not space for Time to wave his wing
Betwixt the instantaneous flash and stroke:
While yet the needs of life were brave and fierce
And did not hide their deeds behind their words,
And logic came not 'twixt desire and act,
And Want-and-Take was the whole Form of life:
While Love had fires a-burning in his veins,
And hidden Hate could flash into revenge:
Ere yet young Trade was 'ware of his big thews
Or dreamed that in the bolder afterdays
He would hew down and bind old Chivalry
And drag him to the highest height of fame
And plunge him thence in the sea of still Romance
To lie for aye in never-rusted mail
Gleaming through quiet ripples of soft songs
And sheens of old traditionary tales; -
On such a time, a certain May arose
From out that blue Sea that between five lands
Lies like a violet midst of five large leaves,
Arose from out this violet and flew on
And stirred the spirits of the woods of France
And smoothed the brows of moody Auvergne hills,
And wrought warm sea-tints into maidens' eyes,
And calmed the wordy air of market-towns
With faint suggestions blown from distant buds,
Until the land seemed a mere dream of land,
And, in this dream-field Life sat like a dove
And cooed across unto her dove-mate Death,
Brooding, pathetic, by a river, lone.
Oh, sharper tangs pierced through this perfumed May.
Strange aches sailed by with odors on the wind
As when we kneel in flowers that grow on graves
Of friends who died unworthy of our love.
King John of France was proving such an ache
In English prisons wide and fair and grand,
Whose long expanses of green park and chace
Did ape large liberty with such success
As smiles of irony ape smiles of love.
Down from the oaks of Hertford Castle park,
Double with warm rose-breaths of southern Spring
Came rumors, as if odors too had thorns,
Sharp rumors, how the three Estates of France,
Like old Three-headed Cerberus of Hell
Had set upon the Duke of Normandy,
Their rightful Regent, snarled in his great face,
Snapped jagged teeth in inch-breadth of his throat,
And blown such hot and savage breath upon him,
That he had tossed great sops of royalty
Unto the clamorous, three-mawed baying beast.
And was not further on his way withal,
And had but changed a snarl into a growl:
How Arnold de Cervolles had ta'en the track
That war had burned along the unhappy land,
Shouting, `since France is then too poor to pay
The soldiers that have bloody devoir done,
And since needs must, pardie! a man must eat,
Arm, gentlemen! swords slice as well as knives!'
And so had tempted stout men from the ranks,
And now was adding robbers' waste to war's,
Stealing the leavings of remorseless battle,
And making gaunter the gaunt bones of want:
How this Cervolles (called "Arch-priest" by the mass)
Through warm Provence had marched and menace made
Against Pope Innocent at Avignon,
And how the Pope nor ate nor drank nor slept,
Through godly fear concerning his red wines.
For if these knaves should sack his holy house
And all the blessed casks be knocked o' the head,
HORRENDUM! all his Holiness' drink to be
Profanely guzzled down the reeking throats
Of scoundrels, and inflame them on to seize
The massy coffers of the Church's gold,
And steal, mayhap, the carven silver shrine
And all the golden crucifixes? No! -
And so the holy father Pope made stir
And had sent forth a legate to Cervolles,
And treated with him, and made compromise,
And, last, had bidden all the Arch-priest's troop
To come and banquet with him in his house,
Where they did wassail high by night and day
And Father Pope sat at the board and carved
Midst jokes that flowed full greasily,
And priest and soldier trolled good songs for mass,
And all the prayers the Priests made were, `pray, drink,'
And all the oaths the Soldiers swore were, `drink!'
Till Mirth sat like a jaunty postillon
Upon the back of Time and urged him on
With piquant spur, past chapel and past cross:
How Charles, King of Navarre, in long duress
By mandate of King John within the walls
Of Crevacoeur and then of strong Alleres,
In faithful ward of Sir Tristan du Bois,
Was now escaped, had supped with Guy Kyrec,
Had now a pardon of the Regent Duke
By half compulsion of a Paris mob,
Had turned the people's love upon himself
By smooth harangues, and now was bold to claim
That France was not the Kingdom of King John,
But, By our Lady, his, by right and worth,
And so was plotting treason in the State,
And laughing at weak Charles of Normandy.
Nay, these had been like good news to the King,
Were any man but bold enough to tell
The King what [bitter] sayings men had made
And hawked augmenting up and down the land
Against the barons and great lords of France
That fled from English arrows at Poictiers.
POICTIERS, POICTIERS: this grain i' the eye of France
Had swelled it to a big and bloodshot ball
That looked with rage upon a world askew.
Poictiers' disgrace was now but two years old,
Yet so outrageous rank and full was grown
That France was wholly overspread with shade,
And bitter fruits lay on the untilled ground
That stank and bred so foul contagious smells
That not a nose in France but stood awry,
Nor boor that cried not FAUGH! upon the air.
Franciscan friar John de Rochetaillade
With gentle gesture lifted up his hand
And poised it high above the steady eyes
Of a great crowd that thronged the market-place
In fair Clermont to hear him prophesy.
Midst of the crowd old Gris Grillon, the maimed,
- A wretched wreck that fate had floated out
From the drear storm of battle at Poictiers.
A living man whose larger moiety
Was dead and buried on the battle-field -
A grisly trunk, without or arms or legs,
And scarred with hoof-cuts over cheek and brow,
Lay in his wicker-cradle, smiling.
Quoth he, "My son, I would behold this priest
That is not fat, and loves not wine, and fasts,
And stills the folk with waving of his hand,
And threats the knights and thunders at the Pope.
Make way for Gris, ye who are whole of limb!
Set me on yonder ledge, that I may see."
Forthwith a dozen horny hands reached out
And lifted Gris Grillon upon the ledge,
Whereon he lay and overlooked the crowd,
And from the gray-grown hedges of his brows
Shot forth a glance against the friar's eye
That struck him like an arrow.
Then the friar,
With voice as low as if a maiden hummed
Love-songs of Provence in a mild day-dream:
"And when he broke the second seal, I heard
The second beast say, Come and see.
Went out another horse, and he was red.
And unto him that sat thereon was given
To take the peace of earth away, and set
Men killing one another: and they gave
To him a mighty sword."
The friar paused
And pointed round the circle of sad eyes.
"There is no face of man or woman here
But showeth print of the hard hoof of war.
Ah, yonder leaneth limbless Gris Grillon.
Friends, Gris Grillon is France.
Good France; my France,
Wilt never walk on glory's hills again?
Wilt never work among thy vines again?
Art footless and art handless evermore?
- Thou felon, War, I do arraign thee now
Of mayhem of the four main limbs of France!
Thou old red criminal, stand forth; I charge
- But O, I am too utter sorrowful
To urge large accusation now.
My work to-day, is still more grievous. Hear!
The stains that war hath wrought upon the land
Show but as faint white flecks, if seen o' the side
Of those blood-covered images that stalk
Through yon cold chambers of the future, as
The prophet-mood, now stealing on my soul,
Reveals them, marching, marching, marching. See!
There go the kings of France, in piteous file.
The deadly diamonds shining in their crowns
Do wound the foreheads of their Majesties
And glitter through a setting of blood-gouts
As if they smiled to think how men are slain
By the sharp facets of the gem of power,
And how the kings of men are slaves of stones.
But look! The long procession of the kings
Wavers and stops; the world is full of noise,
The ragged peoples storm the palaces,
They rave, they laugh, they thirst, they lap the stream
That trickles from the regal vestments down,
And, lapping, smack their heated chaps for more,
And ply their daggers for it, till the kings
All die and lie in a crooked sprawl of death,
Ungainly, foul, and stiff as any heap
Of villeins rotting on a battle-field.
'Tis true, that when these things have come to pass
Then never a king shall rule again in France,
For every villein shall be king in France:
And who hath lordship in him, whether born
In hedge or silken bed, shall be a lord:
And queens shall be as thick i' the land as wives,
And all the maids shall maids of honor be:
And high and low shall commune solemnly:
And stars and stones shall have free interview.
But woe is me, 'tis also piteous true
That ere this gracious time shall visit France,
Your graves, Beloved, shall be some centuries old,
And so your children's, and their children's graves
And many generations'.
Ye, O ye
Shall grieve, and ye shall grieve, and ye shall grieve.
Your Life shall bend and o'er his shuttle toil,
A weaver weaving at the loom of grief.
Your Life shall sweat 'twixt anvil and hot forge,
An armorer working at the sword of grief.
Your Life shall moil i' the ground, and plant his seed,
A farmer foisoning a huge crop of grief.
Your Life shall chaffer in the market-place,
A merchant trading in the goods of grief.
Your Life shall go to battle with his bow,
A soldier fighting in defence of grief.
By every rudder that divides the seas,
Tall Grief shall stand, the helmsman of the ship.
By every wain that jolts along the roads,
Stout Grief shall walk, the driver of the team.
Midst every herd of cattle on the hills,
Dull Grief shall lie, the herdsman of the drove.
Oh Grief shall grind your bread and play your lutes
And marry you and bury you.
- How else?
Who's here in France, can win her people's faith
And stand in front and lead the people on?
Where is the Church?
The Church is far too fat.
Not, mark, by robust swelling of the thews,
But puffed and flabby large with gross increase
Of wine-fat, plague-fat, dropsy-fat.
Thou Pope that cheatest God at Avignon,
Thou that shouldst be the Father of the world
And Regent of it whilst our God is gone;
Thou that shouldst blaze with conferred majesty
And smite old Lust-o'-the-Flesh so as by flame;
Thou that canst turn thy key and lock Grief up
Or turn thy key and unlock Heaven's Gate,
Thou that shouldst be the veritable hand
That Christ down-stretcheth out of heaven yet
To draw up him that fainteth to His heart,
Thou that shouldst bear thy fruit, yet virgin live,
As she that bore a man yet sinned not,
Thou that shouldst challenge the most special eyes
Of Heaven and Earth and Hell to mark thee, since
Thou shouldst be Heaven's best captain, Earth's best friend,
And Hell's best enemy - false Pope, false Pope,
The world, thy child, is sick and like to die,
But thou art dinner-drowsy and cannot come:
And Life is sore beset and crieth `help!'
But thou brook'st not disturbance at thy wine:
And France is wild for one to lead her souls;
But thou art huge and fat and laggest back
Among the remnants of forsaken camps.
Thou'rt not God's Pope, thou art the Devil's Pope.
Thou art first Squire to that most puissant knight,
Lord Satan, who thy faithful squireship long
Hath watched and well shall guerdon.
Ye sad souls,
So faint with work ye love not, so thin-worn
With miseries ye wrought not, so outraged
By strokes of ill that pass th' ill-doers' heads
And cleave the innocent, so desperate tired
Of insult that doth day by day abuse
The humblest dignity of humblest men,
Ye cannot call toward the Church for help.
The Church already is o'erworked with care
Of its dyspeptic stomach.
Ha, the Church
Forgets about eternity.
A vision of forgetfulness.
Born of a dream, as yonder cloud is born
Of water which is born of cloud!
I saw the moonlight lying large and calm
Upon the unthrobbing bosom of the earth,
As a great diamond glittering on a shroud.
A sense of breathlessness stilled all the world.
Motion stood dreaming he was changed to Rest,
And Life asleep did fancy he was Death.
A quick small shadow spotted the white world;
Then instantly 'twas huge, and huger grew
By instants till it did o'ergloom all space.
I lifted up mine eyes - O thou just God!
I saw a spectre with a million heads
Come frantic downward through the universe,
And all the mouths of it were uttering cries,
Wherein was a sharp agony, and yet
The cries were much like laughs: as if Pain laughed.
Its myriad lips were blue, and sometimes they
Closed fast and only moaned dim sounds that shaped
Themselves to one word, `Homeless', and the stars
Did utter back the moan, and the great hills
Did bellow it, and then the stars and hills
Bandied the grief o' the ghost 'twixt heaven and earth.
The spectre sank, and lay upon the air,
And brooded, level, close upon the earth,
With all the myriad heads just over me.
I glanced in all the eyes and marked that some
Did glitter with a flame of lunacy,
And some were soft and false as feigning love,
And some were blinking with hypocrisy,
And some were overfilmed by sense, and some
Blazed with ambition's wild, unsteady fire,
And some were burnt i' the sockets black, and some
Were dead as embers when the fire is out.
A curious zone circled the Spectre's waist,
Which seemed with strange device to symbol Time.
It was a silver-gleaming thread of day
Spiral about a jet-black band of night.
This zone seemed ever to contract and all
The frame with momentary spasms heaved
In the strangling traction which did never cease.
I cried unto the spectre, `Time hath bound
Thy body with the fibre of his hours.'
Then rose a multitude of mocking sounds,
And some mouths spat at me and cried `thou fool',
And some, `thou liest', and some, `he dreams': and then
Some hands uplifted certain bowls they bore
To lips that writhed but drank with eagerness.
And some played curious viols, shaped like hearts
And stringed with loves, to light and ribald tunes,
And other hands slit throats with knives,
And others patted all the painted cheeks
In reach, and others stole what others had
Unseen, or boldly snatched at alien rights,
And some o' the heads did vie in a foolish game
OF WHICH COULD HOLD ITSELF THE HIGHEST, and
OF WHICH ONE'S NECK WAS STIFF THE LONGEST TIME.
And then the sea in silence wove a veil
Of mist, and breathed it upward and about,
And waved and wound it softly round the world,
And meshed my dream i' the vague and endless folds,
And a light wind arose and blew these off,
And I awoke.
The many heads are priests
That have forgot eternity: and Time
Hath caught and bound them with a withe
Into a fagot huge, to burn in hell.
- Now if the priesthood put such shame upon
Your cry for leadership, can better help
Come out of knighthood?
Lo! you smile, you boors?
You villeins smile at knighthood?
Now, thou France
That wert the mother of fair chivalry,
Unclose thine eyes, unclose thine eyes, here, see,
Here stand a herd of knaves that laugh to scorn
O contumely hard,
O bitterness of last disgrace, O sting
That stings the coward knights of lost Poictiers!
I would - " but now a murmur rose i' the crowd
Of angry voices, and the friar leapt
From where he stood to preach and pressed a path
Betwixt the mass that way the voices came.
Lord Raoul was riding castleward from field.
At left hand rode his lady and at right
His fool whom he loved better; and his bird,
His fine ger-falcon best beloved of all,
Sat hooded on his wrist and gently swayed
To the undulating amble of the horse.
Guest-knights and huntsmen and a noisy train
Of loyal-stomached flatterers and their squires
Clattered in retinue, and aped his pace,
And timed their talk by his, and worked their eyes
By intimation of his glance, with great
And drilled precision.
Then said the fool:
"'Twas a brave flight, my lord, that last one! brave.
Didst note the heron once did turn about,
And show a certain anger with his wing,
And make as if he almost dared, not quite,
To strike the falcon, ere the falcon him?
A foolish damnable advised bird,
Yon heron! What? Shall herons grapple hawks?
God made the herons for the hawks to strike,
And hawk and heron made he for lords' sport."
"What then, my honey-tongued Fool, that knowest
God's purposes, what made he fools for?"
To counsel lords, my lord. Wilt hear me prove
Fools' counsel better than wise men's advice?"
"Aye, prove it. If thy logic fail, wise fool,
I'll cause two wise men whip thee soundly."
`Wise men are prudent: prudent men have care
For their own proper interest; therefore they
Advise their own advantage, not another's.
But fools are careless: careless men care not
For their own proper interest; therefore they
Advise their friend's advantage, not their own.'
Now hear the commentary, Cousin Raoul.
This fool, unselfish, counsels thee, his lord,
Go not through yonder square, where, as thou see'st
Yon herd of villeins, crick-necked all with strain
Of gazing upward, stand, and gaze, and take
With open mouth and eye and ear, the quips
And heresies of John de Rochetaillade."
Lord Raoul half turned him in his saddle round,
And looked upon his fool and vouchsafed him
What moiety of fastidious wonderment
A generous nobleness could deign to give
To such humility, with eye superb
Where languor and surprise both showed themselves,
Each deprecating t'other.
"Now, dear knave,
Be kind and tell me - tell me quickly, too, -
Some proper reasonable ground or cause,
Nay, tell me but some shadow of some cause,
Nay, hint me but a thin ghost's dream of cause,
(So will I thee absolve from being whipped)
Why I, Lord Raoul, should turn my horse aside
From riding by yon pitiful villein gang,
Or ay, by God, from riding o'er their heads
If so my humor serve, or through their bodies,
Or miring fetlocks in their nasty brains,
Or doing aught else I will in my Clermont?
Do me this grace, mine Idiot."
"Please thy Wisdom
An thou dost ride through this same gang of boors,
'Tis my fool's-prophecy, some ill shall fall.
Lord Raoul, yon mass of various flesh is fused
And melted quite in one by white-hot words
The friar speaks. Sir, sawest thou ne'er, sometimes,
Thine armorer spit on iron when 'twas hot,
And how the iron flung the insult back,
Hissing? So this contempt now in thine eye,
If it shall fall on yonder heated surface
May bounce back upward. Well: and then? What then?
Why, if thou cause thy folk to crop some villein's ears,
So, evil falls, and a fool foretells the truth.
Or if some erring crossbow-bolt should break
Thine unarmed head, shot from behind a house,
So, evil falls, and a fool foretells the truth."
"Well," quoth Lord Raoul, with languid utterance,
"'Tis very well - and thou'rt a foolish fool,
Nay, thou art Folly's perfect witless man,
Stupidity doth madly dote on thee,
And Idiocy doth fight her for thy love,
Yet Silliness doth love thee best of all,
And while they quarrel, snatcheth thee to her
And saith `Ah! 'tis my sweetest No-brains: mine!'
- And 'tis my mood to-day some ill shall fall."
And there right suddenly Lord Raoul gave rein
And galloped straightway to the crowded square,
- What time a strange light flickered in the eyes
Of the calm fool, that was not folly's gleam,
But more like wisdom's smile at plan well laid
And end well compassed. In the noise of hoofs
Secure, the fool low-muttered: "`Folly's love!'
So: `Silliness' sweetheart: no-brains:' quoth my Lord.
Why, how intolerable an ass is he
Whom Silliness' sweetheart drives so, by the ear!
Thou languid, lordly, most heart-breaking Nought!
Thou bastard zero, that hast come to power,
Nothing's right issue failing! Thou mere `pooh'
That Life hath uttered in some moment's pet,
And then forgot she uttered thee! Thou gap
In time, thou little notch in circumstance!"
Lord Raoul drew rein with all his company,
And urged his horse i' the crowd, to gain fair view
Of him that spoke, and stopped at last, and sat
Still, underneath where Gris Grillon was laid,
And heard, somewhile, with languid scornful gaze,
The friar putting blame on priest and knight.
But presently, as 'twere in weariness,
He gazed about, and then above, and so
Made mark of Gris Grillon.
"So, there, old man,
Thou hast more brows than legs!"
"I would," quoth Gris,
"That thou, upon a certain time I wot,
Hadst had less legs and bigger brows, my Lord!"
Then all the flatterers and their squires cried out
Solicitous, with various voice, "Go to,
Old Rogue," or "Shall I brain him, my good Lord?"
Or, "So, let me but chuck him from his perch,"
Or, "Slice his tongue to piece his leg withal,"
Or, "Send his eyes to look for his missing arms."
But my Lord Raoul was in the mood, to-day,
Which craves suggestions simply with a view
To flout them in the face, and so waved hand
Backward, and stayed the on-pressing sycophants
Eager to buy rich praise with bravery cheap.
"I would know why," - he said - "thou wishedst me
Less legs and bigger brows; and when?"
Learn then," cried Gris Grillon and stirred himself,
In a great spasm of passion mixed with pain;
"An thou hadst had more courage and less speed,
Then, ah my God! then could not I have been
That piteous gibe of a man thou see'st I am.
Sir, having no disease, nor any taint
Nor old hereditament of sin or shame,
- But, feeling the brave bound and energy
Of daring health that leaps along the veins -
As a hart upon his river banks at morn,
- Sir, wild with the urgings and hot strenuous beats
Of manhood's heart in this full-sinewed breast
Which thou may'st even now discern is mine,
- Sir, full aware, each instant in each day,
Of motions of great muscles, once were mine,
And thrill of tense thew-knots, and stinging sense
Of nerves, nice, capable and delicate:
- Sir, visited each hour by passions great
That lack all instrument of utterance,
Passion of love - that hath no arm to curve;
Passion of speed - that hath no limb to stretch;
Yea, even that poor feeling of desire
Simply to turn me from this side to that,
(Which brooded on, into wild passion grows
By reason of the impotence that broods)
Balked of its end and unachievable
Without assistance of some foreign arm,
- Sir, moved and thrilled like any perfect man,
O, trebly moved and thrilled, since poor desires
That are of small import to happy men
Who easily can compass them, to me
Become mere hopeless Heavens or actual Hells,
- Sir, strengthened so with manhood's seasoned soul,
I lie in this damned cradle day and night,
Still, still, so still, my Lord: less than a babe
In powers but more than any man in needs;
Dreaming, with open eye, of days when men
Have fallen cloven through steel and bone and flesh
At single strokes of this - of that big arm
Once wielded aught a mortal arm might wield,
Waking a prey to any foolish gnat
That wills to conquer my defenceless brow
And sit thereon in triumph; hounded ever
By small necessities of barest use
Which, since I cannot compass them alone,
Do snarl my helplessness into mine ear,
Howling behind me that I have no hands,
And yelping round me that I have no feet:
So that my heart is stretched by tiny ills
That are so much the larger that I knew
In bygone days how trifling small they were:
- Dungeoned in wicker, strong as 'twere in stone;
- Fast chained with nothing, firmer than with steel;
- Captive in limb, yet free in eye and ear,
Sole tenant of this puny Hell in Heaven:
- And this - all this - because I was a man!
For, in the battle - ha, thou know'st, pale-face!
When that the four great English horsemen bore
So bloodily on thee, I leapt to front
To front of thee - of thee - and fought four blades,
Thinking to win thee time to snatch thy breath,
And, by a rearing fore-hoof stricken down,
Mine eyes, through blood, my brain, through pain,
- Midst of a dim hot uproar fainting down -
Were 'ware of thee, far rearward, fleeing! Hound!"
Then, as the passion of old Gris Grillon
A wave swift swelling, grew to highest height
And snapped a foaming consummation forth
With salty hissing, came the friar through
The mass. A stillness of white faces wrought
A transient death on all the hands and breasts
Of all the crowd, and men and women stood,
One instant, fixed, as they had died upright.
Then suddenly Lord Raoul rose up in selle
And thrust his dagger straight upon the breast
Of Gris Grillon, to pin him to the wall;
But ere steel-point met flesh, tall Jacques Grillon
Had leapt straight upward from the earth, and in
The self-same act had whirled his bow by end
With mighty whirr about his head, and struck
The dagger with so featly stroke and full
That blade flew up and hilt flew down, and left
Lord Raoul unfriended of his weapon.
The fool cried shrilly, "Shall a knight of France
Go stabbing his own cattle?" And Lord Raoul,
Calm with a changing mood, sat still and called:
"Here, huntsmen, 'tis my will ye seize the hind
That broke my dagger, bind him to this tree
And slice both ears to hair-breadth of his head,
To be his bloody token of regret
That he hath put them to so foul employ
As catching villainous breath of strolling priests
That mouth at knighthood and defile the Church."
The knife . . . . . [Rest of line lost.]
To place the edge . . . [Rest of line lost.]
Mary! the blood! it oozes sluggishly,
Scorning to come at call of blade so base.
Sathanas! He that cuts the ear has left
The blade sticking at midway, for to turn
And ask the Duke "if 'tis not done
Thus far with nice precision," and the Duke
Leans down to see, and cries, "'tis marvellous nice,
Shaved as thou wert ear-barber by profession!"
Whereat one witling cries, "'tis monstrous fit,
In sooth, a shaven-pated priest should have
A shaven-eared audience;" and another,
"Give thanks, thou Jacques, to this most gracious Duke
That rids thee of the life-long dread of loss
Of thy two ears, by cropping them at once;
And now henceforth full safely thou may'st dare
The powerfullest Lord in France to touch
An ear of thine;" and now the knave o' the knife
Seizes the handle to commence again, and saws
And . . ha! Lift up thine head, O Henry! Friend!
'Tis Marie, walking midway of the street,
As she had just stepped forth from out the gate
Of the very, very Heaven where God is,
Still glittering with the God-shine on her! Look!
And there right suddenly the fool looked up
And saw the crowd divided in two ranks.
Raoul pale-stricken as a man that waits
God's first remark when he hath died into
God's sudden presence, saw the cropping knave
A-pause with knife in hand, the wondering folk
All straining forward with round-ringed eyes,
And Gris Grillon calm smiling while he prayed
The Holy Virgin's blessing.
Down the lane
Betwixt the hedging bodies of the crowd,
[Part of line lost.] . . . . majesty
[Part of line lost.] . . a spirit pacing on the top
Of springy clouds, and bore straight on toward
The Duke. On him her eyes burned steadily
With such gray fires of heaven-hot command
As Dawn burns Night away with, and she held
Her white forefinger quivering aloft
At greatest arm's-length of her dainty arm,
In menace sweeter than a kiss could be
And terribler than sudden whispers are
That come from lips unseen, in sunlit room.
So with the spell of all the Powers of Sense
That e'er have swayed the savagery of hot blood
Raying from her whole body beautiful,
She held the eyes and wills of all the crowd.
Then from the numbed hand of him that cut,
The knife dropped down, and the quick fool stole in
And snatched and deftly severed all the withes
Unseen, and Jacques burst forth into the crowd,
And then the mass completed the long breath
They had forgot to draw, and surged upon
The centre where the maiden stood with sound
Of multitudes of blessings, and Lord Raoul
Rode homeward, silent and most pale and strange,
Deep-wrapt in moody fits of hot and cold.
(End of Chapter V.)
. . . . . . .
Macon, Georgia, 1868.