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Another is mouthless, with eyes on cheek;
Unto the raven he may not speak.
One would fain kill him; and one half round
The place where he writhes, hath up-beaten the ground.
Like a mad horse hath he beaten the ground,
And the feathers and music that litter it round,
The gore, and the mud, and the golden sound.
Come hither, ye cities ! ye ball-rooms, take breath!
See what a floor hath the Dance of Death!
The floor is alive, though the lights are out;
What are those dark shapes, flitting about ?
Flitting about, yet no ravens they,
Not foes, yet not friends, — mute creatures of prey;
Their prey is lucre, their claws a knife,
Some say they take the beseeching life.
Horrible pity is theirs for despair,
And they the love-sacred limbs leave bare.
Love will come to-morrow, and sadness,
Patient for the fear of madness,
And shut its eyes for cruelty,
So many pale beds to see.
Turn away, thou Love, nor weep
More in covering his last sleep;
Thou hast him: — blessed is thine eye!
Friendless Famine has yet to die.
A shriek! - Great God! what superhuman
Peal was that? Not man, nor woman,
Nor twenty madmen, crush’d, could wreak
Their soul in such a ponderous shriek.
Dumbly, for an instant, stares
The field; and creep men's dying hairs.
O friend of man! O noble creature !
Patient and brave, and mild by nature,
Mild by nature, and mute as mild,
Why brings he to these passes wild,
Thee, gentle horse, thou shape of beauty ?
Could he not do his dreadful duty,
(If duty it be, which seems mad folly)
Nor link thee to his melancholy?
Two noble steeds lay side by side, One cropp'd the meek grass ere it died;
Pang-struck it struck t' other, already torn,
And out of its bowels that shriek was born.
Now see what crawleth, well as it may,
Out of the ditch, and looketh that way.
What horror all black, in the sick moonlight,
Kneeling, half human, a burthensome sight;
Loathly and liquid, as fly from a dish;
Speak, Horror! thou, for it withereth flesh.
“The grass caught fire; the wounded were by;
Writhing till eve did a remnant lie;
Then feebly this coal abateth his cry;
But he hopeth! he hopeth ! joy lighteth his eye,
For gold he possesseth, and Murder is nigh!'
O goodness in horror! O ill not all ill!
In the worst of the worst may be fierce Hope still.
To-morrow with dawn will come many a wain,
And bear away loads of human pain,
Piles of pale beds for the 'spitals; but some
Again will awake in home-mornings, and some,
Dull herds of the war, again follow the drum.
From others, faint blood shall in families flow,
With wonder at life, and young oldness in woe,
Yet hence may the movers of great earth grow.
Now, even now, I hear them at hand,
Though again Captain Sword is up in the land,
Marching anew for more fields like these
In the health of his flag in the morning breeze.
Sneereth the trumpet, and stam peth the drum,
And again Captain Sword in his pride doth come;
He passeth the fields where his friends lie lorn,
Feeding the flowers and the feeding corn,
Where under the sunshine cold they lie,
And he hasteth a tear from his old gray eye.
Small thinking is his but of work to be done,
And onward he marcheth, using the sun :
He slayeth, he wasteth, he spouteth his fires
On babes at the bosom, and bed-rid sires;
He bursteth pale cities, through smoke and through
And bringeth behind him, hot-blooded, his hell.
Then the weak door is barr'd, and the soul all sore,
And hand-wringing helplessness paceth the floor,
And the lover is slain, and the parents are nigh-
Oh God! let me breathe, and look up at thy sky!
Good is as hundreds, evil as one;
Round about goeth the golden sun.
HOW CAPTAIN SWORD, IN CONSEQUENCE OF HIS GREAT
VICTORIES, BECAME INFIRM IN HIS WITS.
But to win at the game, whose moves are death,
It maketh a man draw too proud a breath :
And to see his force taken for reason and right,
It tendeth to unsettle his reason quite.
Never did chief of the line of Sword
Keep his wits whole at that drunken board.
He taketh the size, and the roar, and fate,
Of the field of his action, for soul as great:
He smiteth and stunneth the cheek of mankind,
And saith, “Lo! I rule both body and mind."
Captain Sword forgot his own soul,
Which of aught save itself, resented control;
Which whatever his deeds, ordained them still,
Bodiless monarch, enthroned in his will :
He forgot the close thought, and the burning heart,
And pray'rs, and the mild moon hanging apart,
Which lifted the seas with her gentle looks,
And growth, and death, and immortal books,
And the Infinite Mildness, the soul of souls,
Which layeth earth soft 'twixt her silver poles ;
Which ruleth the stars, and saith not a word;
Whose speed in the hair of no comet is heard ;
Which sendeth the soft sun, day by day,
Mighty, and genial, and just alway,
Owning no difference, doing no wrong,
Loving the orbs and the least bird's song,
The great, sweet, warm angel, with golden rod,
Bright with the smile of the distance of God.
Captain Sword, like a witless thing,
Of all under heaven must needs be a king,
King of kings, and lord of lords,
Swayer of souls as well as of swords,
Ruler of speech, and through speech, of thought;
And hence to his brain was a madness brought.
He madden'd in East, he madden'd in West.
Fiercer for sights of men's unrest,
Fiercer for talk, amongst awful men,
Of their new mighty leader, Captain Pen,
A conqueror strange, who sat in his home
Like the wizard that plagued the ships of Rome,
Noiseless, showless, dealing no death,
But victories, winged, went forth from his breath.
Three thousand miles across the waves
Did Captain Sword cry, bidding souls be slaves :
Three thousand miles did the echo return
With a laugh and a blow made his old cheeks burn.
Then he call'd to a wrong-madden'd people, and swore Their name in the map should never be more: Dire came the laugh, and smote worse than before. Were earthquake a giant, up-thrusting his head And o’erlooking the nations, not worse were the dead.
Then, lo! was a wonder, and sadness to see;
For with that very people, their leader, stood he,
Incarnate afresh, like a Cæsar of old ;
But because he look'd back, and his heart was cold,
Time, hope, and himself for a tale he sold.
Oh largest occasion, by man ever lost !
Oh throne of the world, to the war-dogs tost!
He vanish'd ; and thinly there stood in his place The new shape of Sword, with a humbler face, Rebuking his brother, and preaching for right, Yet aye when it came, standing proud on his might, And squaring its claims with his old small sight; Then struck up his drums, with ensigned furla, And said, “I will walk through a subject world: Earth, just as it is, shall forever endure, The rich be too rich, and the poor too poor; And for this I'll stop knowledge. I'll say to it, Flow Thus far; but presume no farther to flow : For me, as I list, shall the free airs blow.''
Laugh'd after him loudly that land so fair,
“ The king thou sett'st over us, by a free air
Is swept away, senseless." And old Sword then
First knew the might of great Captain Pen.
So strangely it bow'd him, so wilder'd his brain,
That now he stood, hatless, renouncing his reign;
Now mutter'd of dust laid in blood; and now
'Twixt wonder and patience went lifting his brow.
Then suddenly came he, with gowned men,
And said, “Now observe me - I'm Captain Pen:
I'll lead all your changes — I'll write all your books —
I'm everything - all things — I'm clergymen, cooks,
Clerks, carpenters, hosiers, - I'm Pitt - I'm Lord Grey."
'T was painful to see his extravagant way;
But heart ne'er so bold, and hand ne'er so strong,
What are they, when truth and the wits go wrong ?
OF CAPTAIN PEN AND HOW HE FOUGHT WITH CAPTAIN
Now tidings of Captain Sword and his state
Were brought to the ears of Pen the Great,
Who rose and said, “ His time is come."
And he sent him, but not by sound of drum,
Nor trumpet, nor other hasty breath,
Hot with questions of life and death,
But only a letter calm and mild ;
And Captain Sword he read it, and smiled,
And said, half in scorn, and nothing in fear,
(Though his wits seem'd restor’d by a danger near,
For brave was be ever,) “Let Captain Pen
Bring at his back a million men,
And I'll talk with his wisdom, and not till then."
Then replied to his messenger Captain Pen,
“I'll bring at my back a world of men."
Out laugh'd the captains of Captain Sword,
But their chief look'd vex'd, and said not a word,
For thought and trouble had touch'd his ears
Beyond the bullet-like sense of theirs,
And wherever he went, he was 'ware of a sound
Now heard in the distance, now gathering round,
Which irk’d him to know what the issue might be;
But the soul of the cause of it well guess'd he.
Indestructible souls among men
Were the souls of the line of Captain Pen;
Sages, patriots, martyrs mild,
Going to the stake, as child
Goeth with his prayer to bed;
Dungeon-beams, from quenchless head;