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Title: The Ballad of St. Barbara - And Other Verses
Author: Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                       The Ballad of St. Barbara
                           AND OTHER VERSES

                                  BY
                       GILBERT KEITH CHESTERTON


                                LONDON
                             CECIL PALMER
                 OAKLEY HOUSE BLOOMSBURY STREET W.C.1.



                                 FIRST
                                EDITION
                                 1922
                               COPYRIGHT



    TO F. C. IN MEMORIAM PALESTINE, ’19


    Do you remember one immortal
    Lost moment out of time and space,
    What time we thought, who passed the portal
    Of that divine disastrous place
    Where Life was slain and Truth was slandered
    On that one holier hill than Rome,
    How far abroad our bodies wandered
    That evening when our souls came home?

    The mystic city many-gated,
    With monstrous columns, was your own:
    Herodian stones fell down and waited
    Two thousand years to be your throne.
    In the grey rocks the burning blossom
    Glowed terrible as the sacred blood:
    It was no stranger to your bosom
    Than bluebells of an English wood.

    Do you remember a road that follows
    The way of unforgotten feet,
    Where from the waste of rocks and hollows
    Climb up the crawling crooked street
    The stages of one towering drama
    Always ahead and out of sight ...
    Do you remember Aceldama
    And the jackal barking in the night?

    Life is not void or stuff for scorners:
    We have laughed loud and kept our love,
    We have heard singers in tavern corners
    And not forgotten the birds above:
    We have known smiters and sons of thunder
    And not unworthily walked with them,
    We have grown wiser and lost not wonder;
    And we have seen Jerusalem.



    CONTENTS


                                                  PAGE

    To F. C. In Memoriam Palestine, ’19            vii

    The Ballad of St. Barbara                        1

    Elegy in a Country Churchyard                   13

    The Sword of Surprise                           14

    A Wedding in War-time                           15

    The Mystery                                     18

    “The Myth of Arthur”                            19

    The Old Song                                    20

    The Trinkets                                    24

    The Philanthropist                              26

    On the Downs                                    27

    The Red Sea                                     30

    For a War Memorial                              32

    Memory                                          33

    The English Graves                              35

    Nightmare                                       37

    A Second Childhood                              40

    “Mediævalism”                                   43

    Poland                                          46

    The Hunting of the Dragon                       48

    Sonnet                                          51

    Fantasia                                        52

    A Christmas Carol                               54

    To Captain Fryatt                               56

    For Four Guilds:
        I. The Glass-Stainers                       57
       II. The Bridge-Builders                      59
      III. The Stone-Masons                         62
       IV. The Bell-Ringers                         64

    The Convert                                     67

    Songs of Education:
        I. History                                  71
       II. Geography                                74
      III. For the Crêche                           76
       IV. Citizenship                              78
        V. The Higher Mathematics                   80
       VI. Hygiene                                  82



    THE BALLAD OF ST. BARBARA

    _(St. Barbara is the patron saint of artillery and of those in
    danger of sudden death.)_


    When the long grey lines came flooding upon Paris in the plain,
    We stood and drank of the last free air we never could taste again:
    They had led us back from the lost battle, to halt we knew not where
    And stilled us; and our gaping guns were dumb with our despair.
    The grey tribes flowed for ever from the infinite lifeless lands
    And a Norman to a Breton spoke, his chin upon his hands.

    “There was an end to Ilium; and an end came to Rome;
    And a man plays on a painted stage in the land that he calls home;
    Arch after arch of triumph, but floor beyond falling floor,
    That lead to a low door at last; and beyond there is no door.”

    And the Breton to the Norman spoke, like a small child spoke he,
    And his sea-blue eyes were empty as his home beside the sea:
    “There are more windows in one house than there are eyes to see,
    There are more doors in a man’s house, but God has hid the key:
    Ruin is a builder of windows; her legend witnesseth
    Barbara, the saint of gunners, and a stay in sudden death.”

    It seemed the wheel of the world stood still an instant in its turning,
    More than the kings of the earth that turned with the turning of Valmy
      mill:
    While trickled the idle tale and the sea-blue eyes were burning,
    Still as the heart of a whirlwind the heart of the world stood still.

        “Barbara the beautiful
        Had praise of lute and pen:
        Her hair was like a summer night
        Dark and desired of men.

        Her feet like birds from far away
        That linger and light in doubt;
        And her face was like a window
        Where a man’s first love looked out.

        Her sire was master of many slaves
        A hard man of his hands;
        They built a tower about her
        In the desolate golden lands,

        Sealed as the tyrants sealed their tombs,
        Planned with an ancient plan,
        And set two windows in the tower
        Like the two eyes of a man.”

    Our guns were set toward the foe; we had no word, for firing.
    Grey in the gateway of St. Gond the Guard of the tyrant shone;
    Dark with the fate of a falling star, retiring and retiring,
    The Breton line went backward and the Breton tale went on.

        “Her father had sailed across the sea
        From the harbour of Africa
        When all the slaves took up their tools
        For the bidding of Barbara.

        She smote the bare wall with her hand
        And bad them smite again;
        She poured them wealth of wine and meat
        To stay them in their pain.

        And cried through the lifted thunder
        Of thronging hammer and hod
        ‘Throw open the third window
        In the third name of God.’

        Then the hearts failed and the tools fell,
        And far towards the foam,
        Men saw a shadow on the sands
        And her father coming home.”

    Speak low and low, along the line the whispered word is flying
    Before the touch, before the time, we may not loose a breath:
    Their guns must mash us to the mire and there be no replying,
    Till the hand is raised to fling us for the final dice to death.

        “There were two windows in your tower,
        Barbara, Barbara,
        For all between the sun and moon
        In the lands of Africa.

        Hath a man three eyes, Barbara,
        A bird three wings,
        That you have riven roof and wall
        To look upon vain things?”

        Her voice was like a wandering thing
        That falters yet is free,
        Whose soul has drunk in a distant land
        Of the rivers of liberty.

        “There are more wings than the wind knows
        Or eyes than see the sun
        In the light of the lost window
        And the wind of the doors undone.

        For out of the first lattice
        Are the red lands that break
        And out of the second lattice
        Sea like a green snake,

        But out of the third lattice
        Under low eaves like wings
        Is a new corner of the sky
        And the other side of things.”

    It opened in the inmost place an instant beyond uttering,
    A casement and a chasm and a thunder of doors undone,
    A seraph’s strong wing shaken out the shock of its unshuttering,
    That split the shattered sunlight from a light behind the sun.

        “Then he drew sword and drave her
        Where the judges sat and said
        ‘Caesar sits above the gods,
        Barbara the maid.

        Caesar hath made a treaty
        With the moon and with the sun,
        All the gods that men can praise
        Praise him every one.

        There is peace with the anointed
        Of the scarlet oils of Bel,
        With the Fish God, where the whirlpool
        Is a winding stair to hell,

        With the pathless pyramids of slime,
        Where the mitred negro lifts
        To his black cherub in the cloud
        Abominable gifts,

        With the leprous silver cities
        Where the dumb priests dance and nod,
        But not with the three windows
        And the last name of God.’”

    They are firing, we are falling, and the red skies rend and shiver us,
    Barbara, Barbara, we may not loose a breath—
    Be at the bursting doors of doom, and in the dark deliver us,
    Who loosen the last window on the sun of sudden death.

        “Barbara the beautiful
        Stood up as queen set free,
        Whose mouth is set to a terrible cup
        And the trumpet of liberty.

        ‘I have looked forth from a window
        That no man now shall bar,
        Caesar’s toppling battle-towers
        Shall never stretch so far.

        The slaves are dancing in their chains,
        The child laughs at the rod,
        Because of the bird of the three wings,
        And the third face of God.’

        The sword upon his shoulder
        Shifted and shone and fell,
        And Barbara lay very small
        And crumpled like a shell.”

    What wall upon what hinges turned stands open like a door?
    Too simple for the sight of faith, too huge for human eyes,
    What light upon what ancient way shines to a far-off floor,
    The line of the lost land of France or the plains of Paradise?

        “Caesar smiled above the gods,
        His lip of stone was curled,
        His iron armies wound like chains
        Round and round the world,

        And the strong slayer of his own
        That cut down flesh for grass,
        Smiled too, and went to his own tower
        Like a walking tower of brass,

        And the songs ceased and the slaves were dumb;
        And far towards the foam
        Men saw a shadow on the sands;
        And her father coming home....

        Blood of his blood upon the sword
        Stood red but never dry.
        He wiped it slowly, till the blade
        Was blue as the blue sky.

        But the blue sky split with a thunder-crack,
        Spat down a blinding brand,
        And all of him lay back and flat
        As his shadow on the sand.”

    The touch and the tornado; all our guns give tongue together
    St. Barbara for the gunnery and God defend the right,
    They are stopped and gapped and battered as we blast away the weather.
    Building window upon window to our lady of the light.
    For the light is come on Liberty, her foes are falling, falling,
    They are reeling, they are running, as the shameful years have run,
    She is risen for all the humble, she has heard the conquered calling,
    St. Barbara of the Gunners, with her hand upon the gun.
    They are burst asunder in the midst that eat of their own flatteries,
    Whose lip is curled to order as its barbered hair is curled....
    Blast of the beauty of sudden death, St. Barbara of the batteries!
    That blow the new white window in the wall of all the world.

    For the hand is raised behind us, and the bolt smites hard
    Through the rending of the doorways, through the death-gap of the
      Guard,
    For the cry of the Three Colours is in Condé and beyond
    And the Guard is flung for carrion in the graveyard of St. Gond,
    Through Mondemont and out of it, through Morin marsh and on
    With earthquake of salutation the impossible thing is gone,
    Gaul, charioted and charging, great Gaul upon a gun,
    Tip-toe on all her thousand years and trumpeting to the sun:
    As day returns, as death returns, swung backwards and swung home,
    Back on the barbarous reign returns the battering-ram of Rome.
    While that that the east held hard and hot like pincers in a forge,
    Came like the west wind roaring up the cannon of St. George,
    Where the hunt is up and racing over stream and swamp and tarn
    And their batteries, black with battle, hold the bridgeheads of the
      Marne
    And across the carnage of the Guard, by Paris in the plain,
    The Normans to the Bretons cried and the Bretons cheered again....
    But he that told the tale went home to his house beside the sea
    And burned before St. Barbara, the light of the windows three,
    Three candles for an unknown thing, never to come again,
    That opened like the eye of God on Paris in the plain.



    ELEGY IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD


    The men that worked for England
    They have their graves at home:
    And bees and birds of England
    About the cross can roam.

    But they that fought for England,
    Following a falling star,
    Alas, alas for England
    They have their graves afar.

    And they that rule in England,
    In stately conclave met,
    Alas, alas for England
    They have no graves as yet.



    THE SWORD OF SURPRISE


    Sunder me from my bones, O sword of God,
    Till they stand stark and strange as do the trees;
    That I whose heart goes up with the soaring woods
    May marvel as much at these.

    Sunder me from my blood that in the dark
    I hear that red ancestral river run,
    Like branching buried floods that find the sea
    But never see the sun.

    Give me miraculous eyes to see my eyes,
    Those rolling mirrors made alive in me,
    Terrible crystal more incredible
    Than all the things they see.

    Sunder me from my soul, that I may see
    The sins like streaming wounds, the life’s brave beat;
    Till I shall save myself, as I would save
    A stranger in the street.



    A WEDDING IN WAR-TIME


    Our God who made two lovers in a garden,
    And smote them separate and set them free,
    Their four eyes wild for wonder and wrath and pardon
    And their kiss thunder as lips of land and sea:
    Each rapt unendingly beyond the other,
    Two starry worlds of unknown gods at war,
    Wife and not mate, a man and not a brother,
    We thank thee thou hast made us what we are.

    Make not the grey slime of infinity
    To swamp these flowers thou madest one by one;
    Let not the night that was thine enemy
    Mix a mad twilight of the moon and sun;
    Waken again to thunderclap and clamour
    The wonder of our sundering and the song,
    Or break our hearts with thine hell-shattering hammer
    But leave a shade between us all day long.

    Shade of high shame and honourable blindness
    When youth, in storm of dizzy and distant things,
    Finds the wild windfall of a little kindness
    And shakes to think that all the world has wings.
    When the one head that turns the heavens in turning
    Moves yet as lightly as a lingering bird,
    And red and random, blown astray but burning,
    Like a lost spark goes by the glorious word.

    Make not this sex, this other side of things,
    A thing less distant than the world’s desire;
    What colour to the end of evening clings
    And what far cry of frontiers and what fire
    Fallen too far beyond the sun for seeking,
    Let it divide us though our kingdom come;
    With a far signal in our secret speaking
    To hang the proud horizon in our home.

    Once we were one, a shapeless cloud that lingers
    Loading the seas and shutting out the skies,
    One with the woods, a monster of myriad fingers,
    You laid on me no finger of surprise.
    One with the stars, a god with myriad eyes,
    I saw you nowhere and was blind for scorn:
    One till the world was riven and the rise
    Of the white days when you and I were born.

    Darkens the world: the world-old fetters rattle;
    And these that have no hope behind the sun
    May feed like bondmen and may breed like cattle,
    One in the darkness as the dead are one;
    Us if the rended grave give up its glory
    Trumpets shall summon asunder and face to face:
    We will be strangers in so strange a story
    And wonder, meeting in so wild a place.

    Ah, not in vain or utterly for loss
    Come even the black flag and the battle-hordes,
    If these grey devils flee the sign of the cross
    Even in the symbol of the crossing swords.
    Nor shall death doubt Who made our souls alive
    Swords meeting and not stakes set side by side,
    Bade us in the sunburst and the thunder thrive
    Earthquake and Dawn; the bridegroom and the bride.

    Death and not dreams or doubt of things undying,
    Of whose the holy hearth or whose the sword;
    Though sacred spirits dissever in strong crying
    Into Thy hands, but Thy two hands, O Lord,
    Though not in Earth as once in Eden standing
    So plain again we see Thee what thou art,
    As in this blaze, the blasting and the branding
    Of this wild wedding where we meet and part.



    THE MYSTERY


    If sunset clouds could grow on trees
    It would but match the may in flower;
    And skies be underneath the seas
    No topsyturvier than a shower.

    If mountains rose on wings to wander
    They were no wilder than a cloud;
    Yet all my praise is mean as slander,
    Mean as these mean words spoken aloud.

    And never more than now I know
    That man’s first heaven is far behind;
    Unless the blazing seraph’s blow
    Has left him in the garden blind.

    Witness, O Sun that blinds our eyes,
    Unthinkable and unthankable King,
    That though all other wonder dies
    I wonder at not wondering.



    “THE MYTH OF ARTHUR”


    O learned man who never learned to learn,
    Save to deduce, by timid steps and small,
    From towering smoke that fire can never burn
    And from tall tales that men were never tall.
    Say, have you thought what manner of man it is
    Of whom men say “He could strike giants down”?
    Or what strong memories over time’s abyss
    Bore up the pomp of Camelot and the crown.
    And why one banner all the background fills,
    Beyond the pageants of so many spears,
    And by what witchery in the western hills
    A throne stands empty for a thousand years.
    Who hold, unheeding this immense impact,
    Immortal story for a mortal sin;
    Lest human fable touch historic fact,
    Chase myths like moths, and fight them with a pin.
    Take comfort; rest—there needs not this ado.
    You shall not be a myth, I promise you.



    THE OLD SONG

    _(On the Embankment in stormy weather.)_


    A livid sky on London
    And like iron steeds that rear
    A shock of engines halted,
    And I knew the end was near:
    And something said that far away, over the hills and far away,
    There came a crawling thunder and the end of all things here.
    For London Bridge is broken down, broken down, broken down,
    As digging lets the daylight on the sunken streets of yore,
    The lightning looked on London town, the broken bridge of London town,
    The ending of a broken road where men shall go no more.

    I saw the kings of London town,
    The kings that buy and sell,
    That built it up with penny loaves
    And penny lies as well:
    And where the streets were paved with gold, the shrivelled paper shone
      for gold,
    The scorching light of promises that pave the streets of hell.
    For penny loaves will melt away, melt away, melt away,
    Mock the mean that haggled in the grain they did not grow;
    With hungry faces in the gate, a hundred thousand in the gate,
    A thunder-flash on London and the finding of the foe.

    I heard the hundred pin-makers
    Slow down their racking din,
    Till in the stillness men could hear
    The dropping of the pin:
    And somewhere men without the wall, beneath the wood, without the wall,
    Had found the place where London ends and England can begin.
    For pins and needles bend and break, bend and break, bend and break,
    Faster than the breaking spears or the bending of the bow
    Of pageants pale in thunder-light, ’twixt thunder-load and
      thunder-light,
    The Hundreds marching on the hills in the wars of long ago.

    I saw great Cobbett riding,
    The horseman of the shires;
    And his face was red with judgment
    And a light of Luddite fires:
    And south to Sussex and the sea the lights leapt up for liberty,
    The trumpet of the yeomanry, the hammer of the squires;
    For bars of iron rust away, rust away, rust away,
    Rend before the hammer and the horseman riding in,
    Crying that all men at the last, and at the worst and at the last,
    Have found the place where England ends and England can begin.

    His horse-hoofs go before you,
    Far beyond your bursting tyres;
    And time is bridged behind him
    And our sons are with our sires.
    A trailing meteor on the Downs he rides above the rotting towns,
    The Horseman of Apocalypse, the Rider of the Shires.
    For London Bridge is broken down, broken down, broken down;
    Blow the horn of Huntingdon from Scotland to the sea—
    ... Only a flash of thunder-light, a flying dream of thunder-light,
    Had shown under the shattered sky a people that were free.



    THE TRINKETS


    A wandering world of rivers,
    A wavering world of trees,
    If the world grow dim and dizzy
    With all changes and degrees,
    It is but Our Lady’s mirror
    Hung dreaming in its place,
    Shining with only shadows
    Till she wakes it with her face.

    The standing whirlpool of the stars,
    The wheel of all the world,
    Is a ring on Our Lady’s finger
    With the suns and moons empearled
    With stars for stones to please her
    Who sits playing with her rings
    With the great heart that a woman has
    And the love of little things.

    Wings of the whirlwind of the world
    From here to Ispahan,
    Spurning the flying forests
    Are light as Our Lady’s fan:
    For all things violent here and vain
    Lie open and all at ease
    Where God has girded heaven to guard
    Her holy vanities.



    THE PHILANTHROPIST

    _(With apologies to a beautiful poem.)_


    Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe decrease
    By cautious birth-control and die in peace)
    Mellow with learning lightly took the word
    That marked him not with them that love the Lord,
    And told the angel of the book and pen
    “Write me as one that loves his fellow-men:
    For them alone I labour; to reclaim
    The ragged roaming Bedouin and to tame
    To ordered service; to uproot their vine
    Who mock the Prophet, being mad with wine,
    Let daylight through their tents and through their lives,
    Number their camels, even count their wives,
    Plot out the desert into streets and squares;
    And count it a more fruitful work than theirs
    Who lift a vain and visionary love
    To your vague Allah in the skies above.”

    Gently replied the angel of the pen:
    “Labour in peace and love your fellow-men:
    And love not God, since men alone are dear,
    Only fear God; for you have cause to fear.”



    ON THE DOWNS


    When you came over the top of the world
    In the great day on the Downs,
    The air was crisp and the clouds were curled,
    When you came over the top of the world,
    And under your feet were spire and street
    And seven English towns.

    And I could not think that the pride was perished
    As you came over the down;
    Liberty, chivalry, all we cherished,
    Lost in a rattle of pelf and perished;
    Or the land we love that you walked above
    Withering town by town.

    For you came out on the dome of the earth
    Like a vision of victory,
    Out on the great green dome of the earth
    As the great blue dome of the sky for girth,
    And under your feet the shires could meet
    And your eyes went out to sea.

    Under your feet the towns were seven,
    Alive and alone on high,
    Your back to the broad white wall of heaven;
    You were one and the towns were seven,
    Single and one as the soaring sun
    And your head upheld the sky.

    And I thought of a thundering flag unfurled
    And the roar of the burghers’ bell:
    Beacons crackled and bolts were hurled
    As you came over the top of the world;
    And under your feet were chance and cheat
    And the slime of the slopes of hell.

    It has not been as the great wind spoke
    On the great green down that day:
    We have seen, wherever the wide wind spoke,
    Slavery slaying the English folk:
    The robbers of land we have seen command
    The rulers of land obey.

    We have seen the gigantic golden worms
    In the garden of paradise:
    We have seen the great and the wise make terms
    With the peace of snakes and the pride of worms,
    and them that plant make covenant
    With the locust and the lice.

    And the wind blows and the world goes on
    And the world can say that we,
    Who stood on the cliffs where the quarries shone,
    Stood upon clouds that the sun shone on:
    And the clouds dissunder and drown in thunder
    The news that will never be.

    Lady of all that have loved the people,
    Light over roads astray,
    Maze of steading and street and steeple,
    Great as a heart that has loved the people:
    Stand on the crown of the soaring down,
    Lift up your arms and pray.

    Only you I have not forgotten
    For wreck of the world’s renown,
    Rending and ending of things gone rotten,
    Only the face of you unforgotten:
    And your head upthrown in the skies alone
    As you came over the down.



    THE RED SEA


    Our souls shall be Leviathans
    In purple seas of wine
    When drunkenness is dead with death,
    And drink is all divine;
    Learning in those immortal vats
    What mortal vineyards mean;
    For only in heaven we shall know
    How happy we have been.

    Like clouds that wallow in the wind
    Be free to drift and drink;
    Tower without insolence when we rise,
    Without surrender sink:
    Dreams dizzy and crazy we shall know
    And have no need to write
    Our blameless blasphemies of praise,
    Our nightmares of delight.

    For so in such misshapen shape
    The vision came to me,
    Where such titanian dolphins dark
    Roll in a sunset sea:
    Dark with dense colours, strange and strong
    As terrible true love,
    Haloed like fish in phospher light
    The holy monsters move.

    Measure is here and law, to learn,
    When honour rules it so,
    To lift the glass and lay it down
    Or break the glass and go.
    But when the world’s New Deluge boils
    From the New Noah’s vine,
    Our souls shall be Leviathans
    In sanguine seas of wine.



    FOR A WAR MEMORIAL

    _(Suggested Inscription probably not selected by the
    Committee.)_


    The hucksters haggle in the mart
    The cars and carts go by;
    Senates and schools go droning on;
    For dead things cannot die.

    A storm stooped on the place of tombs
    With bolts to blast and rive;
    But these be names of many men
    The lightning found alive.

    If usurers rule and rights decay
    And visions view once more
    Great Carthage like a golden shell
    Gape hollow on the shore,

    Still to the last of crumbling time
    Upon this stone be read
    How many men of England died
    To prove they were not dead.



    MEMORY


    If I ever go back to Baltimore,
    The city of Maryland,
    I shall miss again as I missed before
    A thousand things of the world in store,
    The story standing in every door
    That beckons with every hand.

    I shall not know where the bonds were riven
    And a hundred faiths set free,
    Where a wandering cavalier had given
    Her hundredth name to the Queen of Heaven,
    And made oblation of feuds forgiven
    To Our Lady of Liberty.

    I shall not travel the tracks of fame
    Where the war was not to the strong;
    When Lee the last of the heroes came
    With the Men of the South and a flag like flame,
    And called the land by its lovely name
    In the unforgotten song.

    If ever I cross the sea and stray
    To the city of Maryland,
    I will sit on a stone and watch or pray
    For a stranger’s child that was there one day:
    And the child will never come back to play,
    And no-one will understand.



    THE ENGLISH GRAVES


    Were I that wandering citizen whose city is the world,
    I would not weep for all that fell before the flags were furled;
    I would not let one murmur mar the trumpets volleying forth
    How God grew weary of the kings, and the cold hell in the north.
    But we whose hearts are homing birds have heavier thoughts of home,
    Though the great eagles burn with gold on Paris or on Rome,
    Who stand beside our dead and stare, like seers at an eclipse,
    At the riddle of the island tale and the twilight of the ships.

    For these were simple men that loved with hands and feet and eyes,
    Whose souls were humbled to the hills and narrowed to the skies,
    The hundred little lands within one little land that lie,
    Where Severn seeks the sunset isles or Sussex scales the sky.

    And what is theirs, though banners blow on Warsaw risen again,
    Or ancient laughter walks in gold through the vineyards of Lorraine,
    Their dead are marked on English stones, their loves on English trees,
    How little is the prize they win, how mean a coin for these—
    How small a shrivelled laurel-leaf lies crumpled here and curled:
    They died to save their country and they only saved the world.



    NIGHTMARE


    The silver and violet leopard of the night
    Spotted with stars and smooth with silence sprang;
    And though three doors stood open, the end of light
    Closed like a trap; and stillness was a clang.

    Under the leopard sky of lurid stars
    I strove with evil sleep the hot night long,
    Dreams dumb and swollen of triumphs without wars,
    Of tongueless trumpet and unanswering gong.

    I saw a pale imperial pomp go by,
    Helmet and hornèd mitre and heavy wreath;
    Their high strange ensigns hung upon the sky
    And their great shields were like the doors of death.

    Their mitres were as moving pyramids
    And all their crowns as marching towers were tall;
    Their eyes were cold under their carven lids
    And the same carven smile was on them all.

    Over a paven plain that seemed unending
    They passed unfaltering till it found an end
    In one long shallow step; and these descending
    Fared forth anew as long away to wend.

    I thought they travelled for a thousand years;
    And at the end was nothing for them all,
    For all that splendour of sceptres and of spears,
    But a new step, another easy fall.

    The smile of stone seemed but a little less,
    The load of silver but a little more:
    And ever was that terraced wilderness
    And falling plain paved like a palace floor.

    Rust red as gore crawled on their arms of might
    And on their faces wrinkles and not scars:
    Till the dream suddenly ended; noise and light
    Loosened the tyranny of the tropic stars.

    But over them like a subterranean sun
    I saw the sign of all the fiends that fell;
    And a wild voice cried “Hasten and be done,
    Is there no steepness in the stairs of hell?”

    He that returns, He that remains the same,
    Turned the round real world, His iron vice;
    Down the grey garden paths a bird called twice,
    And through three doors mysterious daylight came.



    A SECOND CHILDHOOD


    When all my days are ending
    And I have no song to sing,
    I think I shall not be too old
    To stare at everything;
    As I stared once at a nursery door
    Or a tall tree and a swing.

    Wherein God’s ponderous mercy hangs
    On all my sins and me,
    Because He does not take away
    The terror from the tree
    And stones still shine along the road
    That are and cannot be.

    Men grow too old for love, my love,
    Men grow too old for wine,
    But I shall not grow too old to see
    Unearthly daylight shine,
    Changing my chamber’s dust to snow
    Till I doubt if it be mine.

    Behold, the crowning mercies melt,
    The first surprises stay;
    And in my dross is dropped a gift
    For which I dare not pray:
    That a man grow used to grief and joy
    But not to night and day.

    Men grow too old for love, my love,
    Men grow too old for lies;
    But I shall not grow too old to see
    Enormous night arise,
    A cloud that is larger than the world
    And a monster made of eyes.

    Nor am I worthy to unloose
    The latchet of my shoe;
    Or shake the dust from off my feet
    Or the staff that bears me through
    On ground that is too good to last,
    Too solid to be true.

    Men grow too old to woo, my love,
    Men grow too old to wed:
    But I shall not grow too old to see
    Hung crazily overhead
    Incredible rafters when I wake
    And find I am not dead.

    A thrill of thunder in my hair:
    Though blackening clouds be plain,
    Still I am stung and startled
    By the first drop of the rain:
    Romance and pride and passion pass
    And these are what remain.

    Strange crawling carpets of the grass,
    Wide windows of the sky:
    So in this perilous grace of God
    With all my sins go I:
    And things grow new though I grow old,
    Though I grow old and die.



    “MEDIÆVALISM”


    If men should rise and return to the noise and time of the tourney,
    The name and fame of the tabard, the tangle of gules and gold,
    Would these things stand and suffice for the bourne of a backward
      journey,
    A light on our days returning, as it was in the days of old?

    Nay, there is none rides back to pick up a glove or a feather,
    Though the gauntlet rang with honour or the plume was more than a
      crown:
    And hushed is the holy trumpet that called the nations together
    And under the Horns of Hattin the hope of the world went down.

    Ah, not in remembrance stored, but out of oblivion starting,
    Because you have sought new homes and all that you sought is so,
    Because you had trodden the fire and barred the door in departing,
    Returns in your chosen exile the glory of long ago.

    Not then when you barred the door, not then when you trod the embers,
    But now, at your new road’s end, you have seen the face of a fate,
    That not as a child looks back, and not as a fool remembers,
    All that men took too lightly and all that they love too late.

    It is you that have made no rubric for saints, no raiment for lovers,
    Your caps that cry for a feather, your roofs that sigh for a spire:
    Is it a dream from the dead if your own decay discovers
    Alive in your rotting graveyard the worm of the world’s desire?

    Therefore the old trees tower, that the green trees grow and are
      stunted:
    Therefore these dead men mock you, that you the living are dead:
    Since ever you battered the saints and the tools of your crafts were
      blunted,
    Or shattered the glass in its glory and loaded yourselves with the
      lead.

    When the usurer hunts the squire as the squire has hunted the peasant,
    As sheep that are eaten of worms where men were eaten of sheep:
    Now is the judgment of earth, and the weighing of past and present,
    Who scorn to weep over ruins, behold your ruin and weep.

    Have ye not known, ye fools, that have made the present a prison,
    That thirst can remember water and hunger remember bread?
    We went not gathering ghosts; but the shriek of your shame is arisen
    Out of your own black Babel too loud; and it woke the dead.



    POLAND


    Augurs that watched archaic birds
    Such plumèd prodigies might read,
    The eagles that were double-faced,
    The eagle that was black indeed;
    And when the battle-birds went down
    And in their track the vultures come,
    We know what pardon and what peace
    Will keep our little masters dumb.

    The men that sell what others make,
    As vultures eat what others slay,
    Will prove in matching plume with plume
    That naught is black and all is grey;
    Grey as those dingy doves that once,
    By money-changers palmed and priced,
    Amid the crash of tables flapped
    And huddled from the wrath of Christ.

    But raised for ever for a sign
    Since God made anger glorious,
    Where eagles black and vultures grey
    Flocked back about the heroic house,
    Where war is holier than peace,
    Where hate is holier than love,
    Shone terrible as the Holy Ghost
    An eagle whiter than a dove.



    THE HUNTING OF THE DRAGON


    When we went hunting the Dragon
    In the days when we were young,
    We tossed the bright world over our shoulder
    As bugle and baldrick slung;
    Never was world so wild and fair
    As what went by on the wind,
    Never such fields of paradise
    As the fields we left behind:
      For this is the best of a rest for men
      That men should rise and ride
      Making a flying fairyland
      Of market and country-side,
      Wings on the cottage, wings on the wood,
      Wings upon pot and pan,
      For the hunting of the Dragon
      That is the life of a man.

    For men grow weary of fairyland
    When the Dragon is a dream,
    And tire of the talking bird in the tree,
    The singing fish in the stream;
    And the wandering stars grow stale, grow stale,
    And the wonder is stiff with scorn;
    For this is the honour of fairyland
    And the following of the horn;

      Beauty on beauty called us back
      When we could rise and ride,
      And a woman looked out of every window
      As wonderful as a bride:
      And the tavern-sign as a tabard blazed,
      And the children cheered and ran,
      For the love of the hate of the Dragon
      That is the pride of a man.

    The sages called him a shadow
    And the light went out of the sun:
    And the wise men told us that all was well
    And all was weary and one:
    And then, and then, in the quiet garden,
    With never a weed to kill,
    We knew that his shining tail had shone
    In the white road over the hill:
    We knew that the clouds were flakes of flame,
    We knew that the sunset fire
    Was red with the blood of the Dragon
    Whose death is the world’s desire.

      For the horn was blown in the heart of the night
      That men should rise and ride,
      Keeping the tryst of a terrible jest
      Never for long untried;
      Drinking a dreadful blood for wine,
      Never in cup or can,
      The death of a deathless Dragon,
      That is the life of a man.



    SONNET


    High on the wall that holds Jerusalem
    I saw one stand under the stars like stone.
    And when I perish it shall not be known
    Whether he lived, some strolling son of Shem,
    Or was some great ghost wearing the diadem
    Of Solomon or Saladin on a throne:
    I only know, the features being unshown,
    I did not dare draw near and look on them.

    Did ye not guess ... the diadem might be
    Plaited in stranger style by hands of hate ...
    But when I looked, the wall was desolate
    And the grey starlight powdered tower and tree:
    And vast and vague beyond the Golden Gate
    Heaved Moab of the mountains like a sea.



    FANTASIA


    The happy men that lose their heads
    They find their heads in heaven,
    As cherub heads with cherub wings,
    And cherub haloes even:
    Out of the infinite evening lands
    Along the sunset sea,
    Leaving the purple fields behind,
    The cherub wings beat down the wind
    Back to the groping body and blind
    As the bird back to the tree.

    Whether the plumes be passion-red
    For him that truly dies
    By headsmen’s blade or battle-axe,
    Or blue like butterflies,
    For him that lost it in a lane
    In April’s fits and starts,
    His folly is forgiven then:
    But higher, and far beyond our ken,
    Is the healing of the unhappy men,
    The men that lost their hearts.

    Is there not pardon for the brave
    And broad release above,
    Who lost their heads for liberty
    Or lost their hearts for love?
    Or is the wise man wise indeed
    Whom larger thoughts keep whole?
    Who sees life equal like a chart,
    Made strong to play the saner part,
    And keep his head and keep his heart,
    And only lose his soul.



    A CHRISTMAS CAROL

    _(The Chief Constable has issued a statement declaring that
    carol singing in the streets by children is illegal, and morally
    and physically injurious. He appeals to the public to discourage
    the practice.—Daily Paper.)_


    God rest you merry gentlemen,
    Let nothing you dismay;
    The Herald Angels cannot sing,
    The cops arrest them on the wing,
    And warn them of the docketing
    Of anything they say.

    God rest you merry gentlemen,
    May nothing you dismay:
    On your reposeful cities lie
    Deep silence, broken only by
    The motor horn’s melodious cry,
    The hooter’s happy bray.

    So, when the song of children ceased
    And Herod was obeyed,
    In his high hall Corinthian
    With purple and with peacock fan,
    Rested that merry gentleman;
    And nothing him dismayed.



    TO CAPTAIN FRYATT


    Trampled yet red is the last of the embers,
    Red the last cloud of a sun that has set;
    What of your sleeping though Flanders remembers,
    What of your waking, if England forget?

    Why should you share in the hearts that we harden,
    In the shame of our nature, who see it and live?
    How more than the godly the greedy can pardon,
    How well and how quickly the hungry forgive.

    Ah, well if the soil of the stranger had wrapped you,
    While the lords that you served and the friends that you knew
    Hawk in the marts of the tyrants that trapped you,
    Tout in the shops of the butchers that slew.

    Why should you wake for a realm that is rotten,
    Stuffed with their bribes and as dead to their debts?
    Sleep and forget us, as we have forgotten;
    For Flanders remembers and England forgets.



    FOR FOUR GUILDS


    FOR FOUR GUILDS:

    I. THE GLASS-STAINERS

    To every Man his Mystery,
    A trade and only one:
    The masons make the hives of men,
    The domes of grey or dun,
    But we have wrought in rose and gold
    The houses of the sun.

    The shipwrights build the houses high,
    Whose green foundations sway
    Alive with fish like little flames,
    When the wind goes out to slay.
    But we abide with painted sails
    The cyclone of the day.

    The weavers make the clothes of men
    And coats for everyone;
    They walk the streets like sunset clouds;
    But we have woven and spun
    In scarlet or in golden-green
    The gay coats of the sun.

    You whom the usurers and the lords
    With insolent liveries trod,
    Deep in dark church behold, above
    Their lance-lengths by a rod,
    Where we have blazed the tabard
    Of the trumpeter of God.


    FOR FOUR GUILDS:

    II. THE BRIDGE-BUILDERS

    In the world’s whitest morning
    As hoary with hope,
    The Builder of Bridges
    Was priest and was pope:
    And the mitre of mystery
    And the canopy his,
    Who darkened the chasms
    And domed the abyss.

    To eastward and westward
    Spread wings at his word
    The arch with the key-stone
    That stoops like a bird;
    That rides the wild air
    And the daylight cast under;
    The highway of danger,
    The gateway of wonder.

    Of his throne were the thunders
    That rivet and fix
    Wild weddings of strangers
    That meet and not mix;
    The town and the cornland;
    The bride and the groom:
    In the breaking of bridges
    Is treason and doom.

    But he bade us, who fashion
    The road that can fly,
    That we build not too heavy
    And build not too high:
    Seeing alway that under
    The dark arch’s bend
    Shine death and white daylight
    Unchanged to the end.

    Who walk on his mercy
    Walk light, as he saith,
    Seeing that our life
    Is a bridge above death;
    And the world and its gardens
    And hills, as ye heard,
    Are born above space
    On the wings of a bird.

    Not high and not heavy
    Is building of his:
    When ye seal up the flood
    And forget the abyss,
    When your towers are uplifted,
    Your banners unfurled,
    In the breaking of bridges
    Is the end of the world.


    FOR FOUR GUILDS:

    III. THE STONE-MASONS

    We have graven the mountain of God with hands,
    As our hands were graven of God, they say,
    Where the seraphs burn in the sun like brands
    And the devils carry the rains away;
    Making a thrift of the throats of hell,
    Our gargoyles gather the roaring rain,
    Whose yawn is more than a frozen yell
    And their very vomiting not in vain.

    Wilder than all that a tongue can utter,
    Wiser than all that is told in words,
    The wings of stone of the soaring gutter
    Fly out and follow the flight of the birds;
    The rush and rout of the angel wars
    Stand out above the astounded street,
    Where we flung our gutters against the stars
    For a sign that the first and the last shall meet.

    We have graven the forest of heaven with hands,
    Being great with a mirth too gross for pride,
    In the stone that battered him Stephen stands
    And Peter himself is petrified:
    Such hands as have grubbed in the glebe for bread
    Have bidden the blank rock blossom and thrive,
    Such hands as have stricken a live man dead
    Have struck, and stricken the dead alive.

    Fold your hands before heaven in praying,
    Lift up your hands into heaven and cry;
    But look where our dizziest spires are saying
    What the hands of a man did up in the sky:
    Drenched before you have heard the thunder,
    White before you have felt the snow;
    For the giants lift up their hands to wonder
    How high the hands of a man could go.


    FOR FOUR GUILDS:

    IV. THE BELL-RINGERS

    The angels are singing like birds in a tree
    In the organ of good St. Cecily:
    And the parson reads with his hand upon
    The graven eagle of great St. John:
    But never the fluted pipes shall go
    Like the fifes of an army all a-row,
    Merrily marching down the street
    To the marts where the busy and idle meet;
    And never the brazen bird shall fly
    Out of the window and into the sky,
    Till men in cities and shires and ships
    Look up at the living Apocalypse.

    But all can hark at the dark of even
    The bells that bay like the hounds of heaven,
    Tolling and telling that over and under,
    In the ways of the air like a wandering thunder,
    The hunt is up over hills untrod:
    For the wind is the way of the dogs of God:
    From the tyrant’s tower to the outlaw’s den
    Hunting the souls of the sons of men.
    Ruler and robber and pedlar and peer,
    Who will not harken and yet will hear;
    Filling men’s heads with the hurry and hum
    Making them welcome before they come.

    And we poor men stand under the steeple
    Drawing the cords that can draw the people,
    And in our leash like the leaping dogs
    Are God’s most deafening demagogues:
    And we are but little, like dwarfs underground,
    While hang up in heaven the houses of sound,
    Moving like mountains that faith sets free,
    Yawning like caverns that roar with the sea,
    As awfully loaded, as airily buoyed,
    Armoured archangels that trample the void:
    Wild as with dancing and weighty with dooms,
    Heavy as their panoply, light as their plumes.

    Neither preacher nor priest are we:
    Each man mount to his own degree:
    Only remember that just such a cord
    Tosses in heaven the trumpet and sword;
    Souls on their terraces, saints on their towers,
    Rise up in arms at alarum like ours:
    Glow like great watchfires that redden the skies
    Titans whose wings are a glory of eyes,
    Crowned constellations by twelves and by sevens,
    Domed dominations more old than the heavens,
    Virtues that thunder and thrones that endure
    Sway like a bell to the prayers of the poor.



    THE CONVERT


    After one moment when I bowed my head
    And the whole world turned over and came upright,
    And I came out where the old road shone white,
    I walked the ways and heard what all men said,
    Forests of tongues, like autumn leaves unshed,
    Being not unlovable but strange and light;
    Old riddles and new creeds, not in despite
    But softly, as men smile about the dead.

    The sages have a hundred maps to give
    That trace their crawling cosmos like a tree,
    They rattle reason out through many a sieve
    That stores the sand and lets the gold go free:
    And all these things are less than dust to me
    Because my name is Lazarus and I live.



    SONGS OF EDUCATION


    SONGS OF EDUCATION:

    I. HISTORY

    _Form 991785, Sub-Section D_


    The Roman threw us a road, a road,
    And sighed and strolled away:
    The Saxon gave us a raid, a raid,
    A raid that came to stay;
    The Dane went west, but the Dane confessed
    That he went a bit too far;
    And we all became, by another name,
    The Imperial race we are.

    _Chorus_

    The Imperial race, the inscrutable race,
    The invincible race we are.

    Though Sussex hills are bare, are bare,
    And Sussex weald is wide,
    From Chichester to Chester
    Men saw the Norman ride;
    He threw his sword in the air and sang
    To a sort of a light guitar;
    It was all the same, for we all became
    The identical nobs we are.

    _Chorus_

    The identical nobs, individual nobs
    Unmistakable nobs we are.

    The people lived on the land, the land,
    They pottered about and prayed;
    They built a cathedral here and there
    Or went on a small crusade:
    Till the bones of Becket were bundled out
    For the fun of a fat White Czar,
    And we all became, in spoil and flame,
    The intelligent lot we are.

    _Chorus_

    The intelligent lot, the intuitive lot,
    The infallible lot we are.

    O Warwick woods are green, are green,
    But Warwick trees can fall:
    And Birmingham grew so big, so big,
    And Stratford stayed so small.
    Till the hooter howled to the morning lark
    That sang to the morning star;
    And we all became, in freedom’s name,
    The fortunate chaps we are.

    _Chorus_

    The fortunate chaps, felicitous chaps,
    The fairy-like chaps we are.

    The people they left the land, the land,
    But they went on working hard;
    And the village green that had got mislaid
    Turned up in the squire’s back-yard:
    But twenty men of us all got work
    On a bit of his motor car;
    And we all became, with the world’s acclaim,
    The marvellous mugs we are:

    _Chorus_

    The marvellous mugs, miraculous mugs,
    The mystical mugs we are.


    SONGS OF EDUCATION:

    II. GEOGRAPHY

    _Form 17955301, Sub-Section Z_

    The earth is a place on which England is found,
    And you find it however you twirl the globe round;
    For the spots are all red and the rest is all grey,
    And that is the meaning of Empire Day.

    Gibraltar’s a rock that you see very plain,
    And attached to its base is the district of Spain.
    And the island of Malta is marked further on,
    Where some natives were known as the Knights of St. John.
    Then Cyprus, and east to the Suez Canal,
    That was conquered by Dizzy and Rothschild his pal
    With the Sword of the Lord in the old English way;
    And that is the meaning of Empire Day.

    Our principal imports come far as Cape Horn;
    For necessities, cocoa; for luxuries, corn;
    Thus Brahmins are born for the rice-field, and thus,
    The Gods made the Greeks to grow currants for us;
    Tobacco and petrol and Jazzing and Jews:
    The Jazzing will pass but the Jews they will stay;
    And that is the meaning of Empire Day.

    Our principal exports, all labelled and packed,
    At the ends of the earth are delivered intact:
    Our soap or our salmon can travel in tins
    Between the two poles and as like as two pins;
    So that Lancashire merchants whenever they like
    Can water the beer of a man in Klondike
    Or poison the meat of a man in Bombay;
    And that is the meaning of Empire Day.

    The day of St. George is a musty affair
    Which Russians and Greeks are permitted to share;
    The day of Trafalgar is Spanish in name
    And the Spaniards refuse to pronounce it the same;
    But the Day of the Empire from Canada came
    With Morden and Borden and Beaverbrook’s fame
    And saintly seraphical souls such as they:
    And that is the meaning of Empire Day.


    SONGS OF EDUCATION:

    III. FOR THE CRÊCHE

    _Form 8277059, Sub-Section K_

    I remember my mother, the day that we met,
    A thing I shall never entirely forget;
    And I toy with the fancy that, young as I am,
    I should know her again if we met in a tram.
      But mother is happy in turning a crank
      That increases the balance at somebody’s bank;
      And I feel satisfaction that mother is free
      From the sinister task of attending to me.

    They have brightened our room, that is spacious and cool,
    With diagrams used in the Idiot School,
    And Books for the Blind that will teach us to see;
    But mother is happy, for mother is free.
      For mother is dancing up forty-eight floors,
      For love of the Leeds International Stores,
      And the flame of that faith might perhaps have grown cold,
      With the care of a baby of seven weeks old.

    For mother is happy in greasing a wheel
    For somebody else, who is cornering Steel;
    And though our one meeting was not very long,
    She took the occasion to sing me this song:
      “O, hush thee, my baby, the time soon will come
      When thy sleep will be broken with hooting and hum;
      There are handles want turning and turning all day,
      And knobs to be pressed in the usual way;

    O, hush thee, my baby, take rest while I croon,
    For Progress comes early, and Freedom too soon.”


    SONGS OF EDUCATION:

    IV. CITIZENSHIP

    _Form 8889512, Sub-Section Q_

    How slowly learns the child at school
    The names of all the nobs that rule
    From Ponsonby to Pennant;
    Ere his bewildered mind find rest,
    Knowing his host can be a Guest,
    His landlord is a Tennant.

    He knew not, at the age of three,
    What Lord St. Leger next will be
    Or what he was before;
    A Primrose in the social swim
    A Mr. Primrose is to him,
    And he is nothing more.

    But soon, about the age of ten,
    He finds he is a Citizen,
    And knows his way about;
    Can pause within, or just beyond,
    The line ’twixt Mond and Demi-Mond,
    ’Twixt Getting On—or Out.

    The Citizen will take his share
    (In every sense) as bull and bear;
    Nor need this oral ditty
    Invoke the philologic pen
    To show you that a Citizen
    Means Something in the City.

    Thus gains he, with the virile gown,
    The fasces and the civic crown,
    The forum of the free;
    Not more to Rome’s high law allied
    Is Devonport in all his pride
    Or Lipton’s self than he.

    For he will learn, if he will try,
    The deep interior truths whereby
    We rule the Commonwealth;
    What is the Food-Controller’s fee
    And whether the Health Ministry
    Are in it for their health.


    SONGS OF EDUCATION:

    V. THE HIGHER MATHEMATICS

    _Form 339125, Sub-Section M_

            Twice one is two,
            Twice two is four,
    But twice two is ninety-six if you know the way to score.
            Half of two is one,
            Half of four is two,
    But half of four is forty per cent. if your name is Montagu:
      For everything else is on the square
      If done by the best quadratics;
      And nothing is low in High Finance
      Or the Higher Mathematics.

            A straight line is straight
            And a square mile is flat:
    But you learn in trigonometrics a trick worth two of that.
            Two straight lines
            Can’t enclose a Space,
    But they can enclose a Corner to support the Chosen Race:
      For you never know what Dynamics do
      With the lower truths of Statics;
      And half of two is a touring car
      In the Higher Mathematics.

            There is a place apart
            Beyond the solar ray,
    Where parallel straight lines can meet in an unofficial way.
            There is a room that holds
            The examiner or his clerks,
    Where you can square the circle or the man that gives the marks.
      Where you hide in the cellar and then look down
      On the poets that live in the attics;
      For the whole of the house is upside down
      In the Higher Mathematics.


    SONGS OF EDUCATION:

    VI. HYGIENE

    _Form 394411102, Sub-Section X_

    _“All practical Eugenists are agreed on the importance of
    sleep.”—The Eugenic Congress._


    When Science taught mankind to breathe
    A little while ago,
    Only a wise and thoughtful few
    Were really in the know:
    Nor could the Youth his features wreathe,
    Puffing from all the lungs beneath:
    When Duty whispered softly “Breathe!”
    The Youth would answer “Blow!”

    When Science proved with lucid care
    The need of Exercise,
    Our thoughtless Youth was climbing trees
    Or lightly blacking eyes:
    To reckless idlers breaking bounds
    For football or for hare-and-hounds,
    Or fighting hard for fourteen rounds,
    It came as a surprise.

    But when she boldly counsels Sleep
    To persons when in bed,
    Then, then indeed men blush to see
    The daybreak blushing red:
    The early risers whom we term
    Healthy, grow sickly and infirm;
    The Early Bird who caught the Worm
    Will catch the Germ instead.

    For this at least be Science praised
    If all the rest be rot,
    That now she snubs the priggish child
    That quits too soon his cot:
    The pharisaic pachyderm
    Of spiritual pride shall squirm:
    The Early Bird catches the worm,
    The Worm that dieth not.



                            THE ARDEN PRESS
                     STAMFORD STREET LONDON, S.E.1





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