When by the high decree of powers supreme,
The Poet came into this world outworn,
She who had borne him, in a ghastly dream,
Clenched blasphemous hands at God, and cried in scorn:
"O rather had I borne a writhing knot
Of unclean vipers, than my breast should nurse
This vile derision, of my joy begot
To be my expiation and my curse!
"Since of all women thou hast made of me
Unto my husband a disgust and shame;
Since I may not cast this monstrosity,
Like an old love-epistle, to the flame;
"I will pour out thine overwhelming hate
On this the accursed weapon of thy spite;
This stunted tree I will so desecrate
That not one tainted bud shall see the light!"
So foaming with the foam of hate and shame,
Blind unto God's design inexorable,
With her own hands she fed the purging flame
To crimes maternal consecrate in hell.
Meanwhile beneath an Angel's care unseen
The child disowned grows drunken with the sun;
His food and drink, though they be poor and mean,
With streams of nectar and ambrosia run.
Speaking to clouds and playing with the wind,
With joy he sings the sad Way of the Rood;
His shadowing pilgrim spirit weeps behind
To see him gay as birds are in the wood.
Those he would love looked sideways and with fear,
Or, taking courage from his aspect mild,
Sought who should first bring to his eye the tear,
And spent their anger on the dreaming child.
With all the bread and wine the Poet must eat
They mingled earth and ash and excrement,
All things he touched were spurned beneath their feet;
They mourned if they must tread the road he went.
His wife ran crying in the public square:
"Since he has found me worthy to adore,
Shall I not be as antique idols were,
With gold and with bright colours painted o'er?
"I will be drunk with nard and frankincense.
With myrrh, and knees bowed down, and flesh and wine.
Can I not, smiling, in his love-sick sense,
Usurp the homage due to beings divine?
"I will lay on him my fierce, fragile hand
When I am weary of the impious play;
For well these harpy talons understand
To furrow to his heart their crimson way.
"I'll tear the red thing beating from his breast,
To cast it with disdain upon the ground,
Like a young bird torn trembling from the nest—
His heart shall go to gorge my favourite hound."
To the far heaven, where gleams a splendid throne,
The Poet uplifts his arms in calm delight,
And the vast beams from his pure spirit flown,
Wrap all the furious peoples from his sight:
"Thou, O my God, be blest who givest pain,
The balm divine for each imperfect heart,
The strong pure essence cleansing every stain
Of sin that keeps us from thy joys apart.
"Among the numbers of thy legions blest,
I know a place awaits the poet there;
Him thou hast bid attend the eternal feast
That Thrones and Virtues and Dominions share.
"I know the one thing noble is a grief
Withstanding earth's and hell's destructive tooth,
And I, through all my dolorous life and brief,
To gain the mystic crown, must cry the truth.
"The jewels lost in Palmyra of old,
Metals unknown, pearls of the outer sea,
Are far too dim to set within the gold
Of the bright crown that Time prepares for me.
"For it is wrought of pure unmingled light,
Dipped in the white flame whence all flame is born—
The flame that makes all eyes, though diamond-bright,
Seem obscure mirrors, darkened and forlorn."