A Churchyard in Oxfordshire
September: 1643 Sweet air and fresh; glades yet unsear'd by hand Of Midas-finger'd Autumn, massy-green; Bird-haunted nooks between, Where feathery ferns, a fairy palmglove, stand, An English-Eastern band:-- While e'en the stealthy squirrel o'er the grass Beside me to the beech-clump dares to pass:-- In this still precinct of the happy dead, The sanctuary of silence,--Blessed they! I cried, who 'neath the gray Peace of God's house, each in his mounded bed Sleep safe, nor reck how the great world runs on; Peasant with noble here alike unknown. Unknown, unnamed beneath one turf they sleep, Beneath one sky, one heaven-uplifted sign Of love assured, divine: While o'er each mound the quiet mosses creep, The silent dew-pearls weep: --Fit haven-home for thee, O gentlest heart Of Falkland! all unmeet to find thy part In those tempestuous times of canker'd hate When Wisdom's finest touch, and, by her side, Forbearance generous-eyed To fix the delicate balance of the State Were needed;--King or Nation, which should hold Supreme supremacy o'er the kingdoms old. --God's heroes, who? . . . Not most, or likeliest, he Whom iron will cramps to one narrow road, Driving him like a goad Till all his heart decrees seem God's decree; That worst hypocrisy When self cheats self, and conscience at the wheel Herself is steer'd by passion's blindfold zeal; A nether-world archangel! Through whose eyes Flame the red mandates of remorseless might; A gloom of lurid light That holds no commerce with the crystal skies; Like those rank fires that o'er the fen-land flee, Or on the mast-head sign the wrath to be. As o'er that ancient weird Arlesian plain Where Zeus hail'd boulder-stones on the giant crew, And changed to stone, or slew, No bud may burgeon in Spring's gracious rain, No blade of grass or grain: --So bare, so scourged, a prey to chaos cast The wisest despot leaves his realm at last! Though for the land he toil'd with iron will, Earnest to reach persuasion's goal through power, The fruit without the flower! And pray'd and wrestled to charm good from ill; Waking perchance, or not, in death,--to find Man fights a losing fight who fights mankind! And as who in the Theban avenue, Sphinx ranged by Sphinx, goes awestruck, nor may read That ancient awful creed Closed in their granite calm:--so dim the clue, So tangled, tracking through That labyrinthine soul which, day by day Changing, yet kept one long imperious way: Strong in his weakness; confident, yet forlorn; Waning and waxing; diamond-keen, or dull, As that star Wonderful, Mira, for ever, dying and reborn:-- Blissful or baleful, yet a Power throughout, Throned in dim altitude o'er the common rout. Alas, great Chief! The pity of it!--For he Lay on his unlamented bier; his life Wreck'd on that futile strife To wed things alien by heaven's decree, Sword-sway with liberty:-- Coercing, not protecting;--for the Cause Smiting with iron heel on England's laws: --Intolerant tolerance! Soul that could not trust Its finer instincts; self-compell'd to run The blood-path once begun, And murder mercy with a sad 'I must!' Great lion-heart by guile and coarseness marr'd; By his own heat a hero warp'd and scarr'd. Despot despite himself!--And when the cry Moan'd up from England, dungeon'd in that drear Sectarian atmosphere, With glory he gilt her chains; in Spanish sky Flaunting the Red Cross high;-- Wars, just or unjust, ill or well design'd, Urged with the will that masters weak mankind. --God's hammer Thou!--not hero!--Forged to break The land,--salve wounds with wounds, heal force by force; Sword-surgeon keen and coarse:-- To all who worship power for power's own sake,-- Strength for itself,--Success, the vulgar test,-- Fit idol of bent knee, and servile breast! --O in the party plaudits of the crowd Glorious, if this be glory!--o'er that shout A small still voice breathes out With subtle sweetness silencing the loud Hoarse vaunting of the proud,-- A song of exaltation for the vale, And how the mountain from his height shall fail! How God's true heroes, since this earth began, Go sackcloth-clad through scourge and sword and scorn, Crown'd with the bleeding thorn, Down-trampled by man's heel as foes to man, And whispering _Eli_, _Eli_! as they die,-- Martyrs of truth and Saint Humility. These conquer in their fall: Persuasion flies Wing'd, from their grave: The hearts of men are turn'd To worship what they burn'd: Owning the sway of Love's long-suffering eyes, Love's sweet self-sacrifice; The might of gentleness; the subduing force Of wisdom on her mid-way measured course Gliding;--not torrent-like with fury spilt, Impetuous, o'er Himalah's rifted side, To ravage blind and wide, And leave a lifeless wreck of parching silt;-- Gliding by thorpe and tower and grange and lea In tranquil transit to the eternal sea. --Children of Light!--If, in the slow-paced course Of vital change, your work seem incomplete, Your conquest-hour defeat, Won by mild compromise, by the invisible force That owns no earthly source; Yet to all time your gifts to man endure, God being with you, and the victory sure! For though o'er Gods the Giants in the course May lord it, Strength o'er Beauty; yet the Soul Immortal, clasps the goal; Fair Wisdom triumphs by her inborn force: --Thus far on earth! . . . But, ah!--from mortal sight The crowning glory veils itself in light! Envoy --Seal'd of that holy band, Rest here, beneath the foot-fall hushing sod, Wrapt in the peace of God, While summer burns above thee; while the land Disrobes; till pitying snow Cover her bareness; till fresh Spring-winds blow, And the sun-circle rounds itself again:-- Whilst England cries in vain For thy wise temperance, Lucius!--But thine ear The violent-impotent fever-restless cry, The faction-yells of triumph, will not hear: --Only the thrush on high And wood-dove's moaning sweetness make reply.
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