― 27 ―


mea culpa! mea culpa! mea maxima culpa!

   December, 1918.

HERE in this hour,
This hour of silence from fierce sound
That girdles the gray world round,
Here in the hush that was Death,
That is Life ebbing backward to breath,
In a twilight of awe;
Life that has drunk with the damned,
That has visioned Despair,
Naked and bare;
Life that has trailed like the snake,
Belly-deep in the dust,
That has felt the sharp lunge and the thrust
Of the conquering heel…..
To implacable infinite skies,
Cries for a sign.

Keeper of all the keys,
Lord of the balances
That weigh the shivering worlds,
Hear and forgive!

Give us not peace, not peace to shame us more,
Who are so wholly shamed
And soiled and horror-tamed,
But clear, clear sight to see
Our own iniquity.
Give us to feel,
Sharper than beaten blades of leaping steel,
The sword of living law,
And in our wounds
The strong clean salt of Truth, like holy flame,
Cleansing the blame
That sealed us unto Death.

  ― 28 ―
What shall we say, who sinned so bitterly
Against our higher selves and Thee—and Thee,
O, omnipresent Now,
Dead Yesterday and pulsing Evermore?
Of our lost glory nothing shall restore
The mystical strange sum;
But this we vow, this: That never again
Shall we beat the brand of Cain
Into the greater brows that are to come.
For this poor spark of once resplendent grace,
Giver of justice, veil thy frowning face;
Hear, and forgive!

Lo, we have sinned, we have sinned,
In the fevered urge
That broke like a red surge
On pain-pale coasts of life;
But less was our sin withal,
As vassals and slaves mazed in the blind thrall
Of the red harlot War,
Yea, less than our crime
That bound with ruthless hand
The twisted thorns on the grand
Calm brows of Peace,….
Our crime accurst,
Our piteous crime of greed
That ground the face of Need,
That robbed the man,
And ripped, with ribald jest,
The babe from its mother's breast
That the lean jade might toil….
Our crime, our crime
Pent in the World's hot heart,
Housed apart,
In crèches and in gaols,
And that dread place,
Where shadow on shadow flits,
And Reason, throneless, sits
And plays like a child in the dirt.

  ― 29 ―
Lo, we have walked in pride,
And builded temples to strange deities,
And made a song, and bent the sycophant knee,
And spurned the living God,
Aye, spurned the Presence,
Tongued or mute,
In man and patient brute,
And the star-eyes of daisies in the grass,
And turned unmoved to take
From the World's ache
Our thrice accurséd toll,
To buy and sell our sisters in the street,
And beat and beat
On living hearts a Dead March down to Hell.

How shall we pray for pity who have shown
No pity in our day?
Haply do we presume to dare confess,
When such black witnesses
Cry for atonement to the ultimate Judge.

Keeper of all the keys,
Lord of the balances
That weigh the worlds,