― 56 ―

From the Iron Road

COULD I but sing the grief of my heart's core
Into one strain,
Then I might face the Iron Road once more,
Regenerate, fain
To joust with Fate in the long lists again!

Quick laughter and the young respite of tears,
Such could not stay
To front with me the slow, despoiling years,
And the toll gray;
I am a scroll that slow fires burn away.

There was a wild rune beating in my ears,
Of Song to be—
Such song as some high, haunted headland hears
When the tired sea
Sobs De Profundis to Infinity.

There was a strong thought leaping in my heart
Like a white flame,
For the world's hope, and the world's tears astart,
And the world's shame,
And all the dumb, blind griefs without a name.

But these have left me on the Iron Road
Too sad for song,
Quick to the measures beaten by the goad
Of dominant Wrong,
Sensing the groaning centuries' “How long?”

Better the desert where the lean kite wings
And the simooms blow
Than all the mirth of all the courts of kings
Pressed from the woe
Of that pale company that joyless graveward go.

  ― 57 ―
Better than pomp of nations banned and bound
By braggart blade,
Than haughty cities walled and turret-crowned,
One palm tree's shade
Templing the silence mighty winds have made.

Better than steeples that from land to land
Stab the blue air,
Than hushed high altars whose tall tapers stand
So ghostly fair,
Like holy hands that make eternal prayer,

One brave hibiscus burning like a gem
One scented bowl
Of lotus incense swaying on its stem
Like a pale soul
Poised tremulous for flight and its far goal.

Oh, take me, take me, little wind that blows
Ere the young moon
Blossoms in heaven like a mystic rose,
And the stars swoon
Down languorous aisles of Night's enchanted noon!

For I have heard from these poor prison bars
A sigh soft-drawn
From whispering islands under great white stars
That greet the dawn,
Radiant in royal rose and flame and fawn.

Oh, take me, take me, cloud-ship sailing east
With bows a-gleam,
For morning lands purged from Oppression's priest,
Where kind stars beam,
And the lost Moon Islands guard the gates of Dream!

For I am weary of the Iron Road
The martyrs trod;
Yea, very weary of the Templar's code,
The pilgrim's rod;
Haply in ways of all the winds walks—God!