The Spear of Lepanto, Books I & II

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Beyond all ends to all men given Our race is far and fell, We shall but wash our feet in heaven, And warm our hands in hell. Battles unborn and vast shall view Our faltered standards stream, New friends shall come and frenzies new. New troubles toil and teem; New friends shall pass and still renew One truth that does not seem, That I am I, and you are you, And Death a morning dream.


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Why should we reck of scorn or praise While we two ride together? The icy air of godless days Shall be but wintry weather. If hell were highest, if the heaven Were blue with devils blue, I should have guessed that all was even, If I had dreamed of you. Little I reck of empty prides, Of creeds more cold than clay; To nobler ends and longer rides, My lady rides to-day. To swing our swords and take our sides In that all-ending fray When stars fall down and darkness hides, When God shall turn to bay.

Why should we reck of grin and groan While we two ride together? The triple thunders of the throne Would be but stormy weather. For us the last great fight shall roar, Upon the ultimate plains, And we shall turn and tell once more Our love in English lanes. With leaves below and leaves above, And groping under tree and tree, I found the home of my true love, Who is a wandering home for me. Who, lost in ruined worlds aloof, Bore the dread dove wings like a roof; Who, past the last lost stars of space Carried the fire-light on her face.

Who, passing as in idle hours, Tamed the wild weeds to garden flowers; Stroked the strange whirlwind's whirring wings, And made the comets homely things. Where she went by upon her way The dark was dearer than the day; Where she paused in heaven or hell, The whole world's tale had ended well. With leaves below and leaves above. And groping under tree and tree, I found the home of my true love, Who is a wandering home for me. Where she was flung, above, beneath, By the rude dance of life and death, Grow she at Gotham—die at Rome, Between the pine trees is her home.

In some strange town, some silver morn, She may have wandered to be born; Stopped at some motley crowd impressed, And called them kinsfolk for a jest. If we again En goodness thrive, And the dead saints become alive, Then pedants bald and parchments brown May claim her blood for London town. But leaves below and leaves above. The great gravestone she may pass by, And without noticing, may die; The streets of silver Heaven may tread, With her grey awful eyes unfed. The city of great peace in pain May pass, until she find again This little house of holm and fir God built before the stars for her.

Here in the fallen leaves is furled Her secret centre of the world.


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  5. We sit and feel in dusk and dun The stars swing round us like a sun. For leaves below and leaves above. And groping under tree and tree, I found the home of my true love. Who is a wandering home for me. Step softly, under snow or rain, To find the place where men can pray; The way is all so very plain That we may lose the way. Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore On tortured puzzles from our youth, We know all labyrinthine lore, We are the three wise mert of yore, And we know all things but the truth.

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    We have gone round and round the hill, And lost the wood among the trees, And learnt long names for every ill, And served the mad gods, naming still The Furies the Eumenides. The gods of violence took the veil Of vision and philosophy, The Serpent that brought all men bale, He bites his own accursed tail, And calls himself Eternity. Go humbly With voices low and lanterns lit; So very simple is the road, That we may stray from it.

    The world grows terrible and white, And blinding white the breaking day; We walk bewildered in the light, For something is too large for sight, And something much too plain to say.

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    The Child that was ere worlds begun We need but walk a little way, We need but see a latch undone, The Child that played with moon and sun Is playing with a little hay. The house from which the heavens are fed, The old strange house that is our own, Where tricks of words are never said.

    And Mercy is as plain as bread, And Honour is as hard as stone. Go humbly; humble are the skies, And low and large and fierce the Star; So very near the Manger lies That we may travel far. Laughter like a lion wakes To roar to the resounding plain, And the whole heaven shouts and shakes, For God Himself is born again, And we are little children walking Through the snow and rain.

    There fared a mother driven forth Out of an inn to roam; In the place where she was homeless All men are at home. The crazy stable close at hand, With shaking timber and shifting sand, Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand Than the square stones of Rome. For men are homesick in their homes, And strangers under the sun, And they lay their heads in a foreign land Whenever the day is done.

    Here we have battle and blazing eyes, And chance and honour and high surprise, Where the yule tale was begun. A Child in a foul stable, Where the beasts feed and foam; Only where He was homeless Are you and I at home; We have hands that fashion and heads that But our hearts we lost—how long ago! In a place no chart nor ship can show Under the sky's dome. This world is wild as an old wives' tale, And strange the plain things are, The earth is enough and the air is enough For our wonder and our war; But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings And our peace is put in impossible things Where clashed and thundered unthinkable wings Round an incredible star.

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    To an open house in the evening Home shall men come, To an older place than Eden And a taller town than Rome. To the end of the way of the wandering star, To the things that cannot be and that are, To the place where God was homeless And all men are at home. When the first Christmas presents came, the straw where Christ was rolled Smelt sweeter than their frankincense, burnt brighter than their gold, And a wise man said, "We will not give; the thanks would be but cold.

    Who holds the gold heart of the sun that fed these timber bars, Nor any scentless lily lives for One that smells the stars. It is not He, but we.

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    Less gold shall go astray, we say, less gold, if thus we choose, Go to make harlots of the Greeks and hucksters of the Jews. Light Thou Thy censer to Thyself, for all our fires are dim, Stamp Thou Thine image on our coin, for Caesar's face grows dim, And a dumb devil of pride and greed has taken hold of him.

    We bring Thee back great Christendom, churches and towns and towers. And if our hands are glad, O God, to cast them down like flowers, 'Tis not that they enrich Thine hands, but they are saved from ours. Where the lost sea muttereth, Fires and whirlwinds, build it well. Said the Lord God, "Build a house, Cleave its treasure from the earth, With the jarring powers of hell Strive with formless might and mirth, Tribes and war-men, build it well. Said the Lord God, "Build a house, Smoke and iron, spark and steam, Speak and vote and buy and sell; Let a new world throb and stream, Seers and makers, build it well.

    Yet though worn and deaf and blind, Force and savage, king and seer Labour still, they know not why; At the dim foundation here, Knead and plough and think and ply. Till at last, mayhap, hereon, Fused of passion and accord, Love its crown and peace its stay Rise the city of the Lord That we darkly build to-day. Great God, that bowest sky and star, Bow down our towering thoughts to thee, And grant us in a faltering war The firm feet of humility. Lord, we that snatch the swords of flame, Lord, we that cry about Thy car. We too are weak with pride and shame, We too are as our foemen are.

    Yea, we are mad as they are mad, Yea, we are blind as they are blind, Yea, we are very sick and sad Who bring good news to all mankind. The dreadful joy Thy Son has sent Is heavier than any care; We find, as Cain his punishment, Our pardon more than we can bear. Lord, when we cry Thee far and near And thunder through all lands unknown The gospel into every ear, Lord, let us not forget our own. Cleanse us from ire of creed or class, The anger of the idle tings; Sow in our souls, like living grass, The laughter of all lowly things.

    Then Bernard smiled at me, that I should gaze But I had gazed already; caught the view, Faced the unfathomable ray of rays Which to itself and by itself is true. Then was my vision mightier than man's speech; Speech snapt before it like a flying spell; And memory and all that time can teach Before that splendid outrage failed and fell. As when one dreameth and remembereth not Waking, what were his pleasures or his pains, With every feature of the dream forgot, The printed passion of the dream remains:— Even such am I; within whose thoughts resides No picture of that sight nor any part Nor any memory: in whom abides Only a happiness within the heart, A secret happiness that soaks the heart As hills are soaked by slow unsealing snow, Or secret as that wind without a chart Whereon did the wild leaves of Sibyl go.

    O light uplifted from all mortal knowing, Send back a little of that glimpse of thee. That of its glory I may kindle glowing One tiny spark for all men yet to be. Passionate peace is in the sky— And in the snow in silver sealed The beasts are perfect in the field, And men seem men so suddenly— But take ten swords and ten times ten And blow the bugle in praising men; For we are for all men under the sun, And they are against us every one; And misers haggle and madmen clutch, And there is peril in praising much. And we have the terrible tongues uncurled That praise the world to the sons of the world.

    The idle humble hill and wood Are bowed upon the sacred birth, And for one little hour the earth Is lazy with the love of good— But ready are you, and ready am I, If the battle blow and the guns go by; For we are for all men under the sun, And they are against us every one; And the men that hate herd all together, To pride and gold, and the great white feather And the thing is graven in star and stone That the men who love are all alone.

    Hunger is hard and time is tough, But bless the beggars and kiss the kings, For hope has broken the heart of things, And nothing was ever praised enough. But bold the shield for a sudden swing And point the sword when you praise a thing, For we are for all men under the sun, And they are against us every one; And mime and merchant, thane and thrall Hate us because we love them all; Only till Christmastide go by Passionate peace is in the sky. O God of earth and altar, Bow down and hear our cry Our earthly rulers falter, Our people drift and die; The walls of gold entomb us, The swords of scorn divide, Take not thy thunder from us, But take away our pride.

    From all that terror teaches, From lies of tongue and pen, From all the easy speeches That comfort cruel men, From sale and profanation Of honour and the sword, From sleep and from damnation, Deliver us, good Lord! Tie in a living tether The prince and priest and thrall, Bind all our lives together, Smite us and save us all; In ire and exultation Aflame with faith, and free, Lift up a living nation, A single sword to thee.

    Joseph to the Carpenters said on a Christmas Day: "The master shall have patience and the prentice shall obey; And your word unto your women shall be nowise hard or wild: For the sake of me, your master, who have worshipped Wife and Child. But softly you shall frame the fence, and softly carve the door, And softly plane the table—as to spread it for the poor, And all your thoughts be soft and white as the wood of the white tree. But if they tear the Charter, Jet the tocsin speak for me! Let the wooden sign above your shop be prouder to be scarred Than the lion-shield of Lancelot that hung at Joyous Garde.

    Crispin to the shoemakers said on a Christmastide: "Who fashions at another's feet will get no good of pride.

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    They were bleeding on the Mountain, the feet that brought good news, The latchet of whose shoes we were not worthy to unloose. See that your feet offend not, nor lightly lift your head, Tread softly on the sunlit roads the bright dust of the dead. Let your own feet be shod with peace; be lowly all your lives. But if they touch the Charter, ye shall nail it with your knives. And the bill-blades of the commons drive in all as dense array As once a crash of arrows came, upon St.

    Crispin's Day.

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