A Crusader's Tomb
1230 Unnamed, unknown:--his hands across his breast 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 turns, 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 band! 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 sight 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 his way, 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.
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