Proem to the Shadow of the Sword

Nineteen sad sleepless centuries
Had shed upon the dead C HRIST 's eyes
Dark blood and dew, and o'er them still
The waxen lids were sealed chill.
Drearily through the dreary years
The world had waited on in tears,
With heart clay-cold and eyelids wet,
But He had not arisen yet.
Nay, Christ was cold; and, colder still,
The lovely Shapes He came to kill
Slept by His side. Ah, sight of dread!
Dead C HRIST , and all the sweet gods dead!
He had not risen, tho' all the world
Was waiting; tho', with thin lips curl'd,
Pale A NTICHRIST upon his prison
Gazed yet denying, He had not risen;
Tho' every hope was slain save Him,
Tho' all the eyes of Heaven were dim,
Despite the promise and the pain,
He slept — and had not risen again.

Meantime, from France's funeral pyre,
Rose, god-like, girt around with fire,
Napoleon!
— On eyes and lips
Burnt the red hues of Love's eclipse;
Beneath his strong triumphal tread
All days the human winepress bled!
And in the silence of the nights
Pale Prophets stood upon the heights,
And, gazing thro' the blood-red gloom
Far eastward, to the dead C HRIST'S tomb,
Wail'd to the winds. Yet C HRIST still slept: —
And o'er His white Tomb slowly crept
The fiery Shadow of a Sword!
Not Peace; a Sword.
And men adored
Not Christ, nor Antichrist, but Cain ;
And where the bright blood ran like rain
He stood, and looking, men went wild: —
For lo! on whomsoe'er he smiled
Came an idolatry accurst,
But chief, Cain's hunger and Cain's thirst
For bloodshed and for tears; and when
He beckon'd, countless swarms of men
Flew thick as locusts to destroy
Hope's happy harvests, sown in joy;
Yea, verily; at each finger-wave
They swarm'd — and shared the crimson grave
Beneath his Throne.
Then , 'neath the sun
One man of France — and he, indeed,
Lowest and least of all man's seed —
Shrank back, and stirr'd not! — heard Cain's cry,
But flew not! — mark'd across the sky
The Shadow of the Sword, but still
Despair'd not! — Nay, with steadfast will,
He sought Christ's Tomb, and lying low,
With cold limbs cushion'd on the snow,
He waited! — But when Cain's eye found
His hiding-place on holy ground,
And Cain's hand gript him by the hair,
Seeking to drag him forth from there,
He clutch'd the stones with all his strength,
Struggled in silence — and at length,
In the dire horror of his need,
Shrieked out on C HRIST !
Did C HRIST rise?
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