10. A Monument -

Wise Derwent, that discourse to end,

Pointed athwart the dale divine:

" What 's yonder object — fountain? shrine?

Companions, let us thither go

And make inspection."

In consent

Silent they follow him in calm.

It proved an ancient monument —

Rude stone; but tablets lent a charm:

Three tablets on three sides. In one

The Tender Shepherd mild looked down

Upon the rescued weanling lost,

Snugged now in arms. In emblem crossed

By pastoral crook, Christ's monogram

(Wrought with a mediaeval grace)

Showed on the square opposed in face.

But chiefly did they feel the claim

Of the main tablet; there a lamb

On passive haunches upright sate

In patience which reproached not fate;

The two fine furry forelegs drooping

Like tassels; while the shearer, stooping,

Embraced it with one arm; and all

The fleece rolled off in seamless shawl,

Flecked here and there with hinted blood.

It did not shrink; no cry did come:

In still life of that stone subdued

Shearer and shorn alike were dumb.

As with a seventy-four, when lull

Lapses upon the storm, the hull

Rights for the instant, while a moan

Of winds succeeds the howl; so here

In poise of heart and altered tone

With Ungar. Respite brief though dear

It proved; for he: " This type 's assigned

To One who, sharing not man's mind,

Partook man's frame; whose mystic birth

Wrecked him upon this reef of earth

Inclement and inhuman. Yet,

Through all the trials that beset,

He leaned on an upholding arm —

Foreknowing, too, reserves of balm.

But how of them whose souls may claim

Some link with Christ beyond the name,

Which share the fate, but never share

Aid or assurance, and nowhere

Look for requital? Such there be;

In by-lanes o'er the world ye see

The Calvary-faces." All averse

Turned Derwent, murmuring, " Forbear:

Such breakers do the heaven asperse!"

But timely he alert espied,

Upon the mountain humbly kneeling,

Those shepherds twain, while morning-tide

Rolled o'er the hills with golden healing.

It was a rock they kneeled upon,

Convenient for their rite avowed —

Kneeled, and their turbaned foreheads bowed —

Bowed over, till they kissed the stone:

Each shaggy surcoat heedful spread

For rug, such as in mosque is laid.

About the ledge's favoured hem

Mild fed their sheep, enringing them;

While, facing as by second-sight,

Toward Mecca they direct the rite.

" Look; and their backs on Bethlehem turned,"

Cried Rolfe. The priest then, who discerned

The drift, replied, " Yes, for they pray

To Allah. Well, and what of that?

Christ listens, standing in heaven's gate —

Benignant listens, nor doth stay

Upon a syllable in creed:

Vowels and consonants indeed!"

And Rolfe: " But here were Margoth now,

Seeing yon shepherds praying so,

His gibe would run from man to man:

" Which is the humble publican?

Or do they but prostrate them there

To flout you Franks with Islam's prayer? " "

" Doubtless some shallow thing he 'd say,

Poor fellow," Derwent then; " but, nay,

Earnest they are; nor yet they 'd part

(If pealed the hour) in street or mart,

From like observance."

" If 'tis so,"

The refugee, " let all avow

As openly faith's loyal heart.

By Christians too was God confessed

How frankly! in those days that come

No more to misnamed Christendom!

Religion then was the good guest,

First served, and last, in every gate:

What mottoes upon wall and plate!

She every human venture shared:

The ship in manifest declared

That not disclaiming heaven she thrust

Her bowsprit into fog and storm:

Some current silver bore the palm

Of Christ, token of saint, or bust;

In line devout the pikemen kneeled —

To battle by the rite were sealed.

Men were not lettered, but had sense

Beyond the mean intelligence

That knows to read, and but to read —

Not think. 'Twas harder to mislead

The people then, whose smattering now

Does but the more their ignorance show —

Nay, them to peril more expose —

Is as the ring in the bull's nose

Whereby a pert boy turns and winds

This monster of a million minds.

Men owned true masters; kings owned God —

Their master; Louis plied the rod

Upon himself. In high estate,

Not puffed up like a democrat

In office, how with Charlemagne?

Look up he did, look up in reign —

Humbly look up, who might look down:

His meekest thing was still his crown:

How meek on him ; since, graven there,

Among the Apostles twelve — behold,

Stern Scriptural precepts were enrolled,

High admonitions, meet for kings.

The coronation was a prayer,

Which yet in ceremonial clings.

The church was like a bonfire warm:

All ranks were gathered round the charm."

Derwent, who vainly had essayed

To impede the speaker, or blockade,

Snatched at the bridle here: " Ho, wait;

A word, impetuous laureate!

This bric-a-brac-ish style (outgrown

Almost, where first it gave the tone)

Of lauding the quaint ages old —

But nay, that 's satire; I withhold.

Grant your side of the shield part true:

What then? why, turn the other: view

The buckler in reverse. Don't sages

Denominate those times Dark Ages?

Dark Middle Ages, time's midnight!"

" If night, it was no starless one;

Art still admires what then was done:

A strength they showed which is of light.

Not more the Phidian marbles prove

The graces of the Grecian prime

And indicate what men they were,

Than the grand minsters in remove

Do intimate, if not declare

A magnanimity which our time

Would envy, were it great enough

To comprehend. Your counterbuff,

However, holds. Yes, frankly, yes,

Another side there is, admit.

Nor less the very worst of it

Reveals not such a shamelessness

Of evildoer and hypocrite,

And sordid mercenary sin

As these days vaunt and revel in."

" No use, no use," the priest aside;

" Patience! it is the maddest tide";

And seated him.

And Ungar then:

" What 's overtaken ye pale men?

Shrewd are ye, the main chance ye heed:

Has God quite lost His throne indeed

That lukewarm now ye grow? Wilt own,

Council ye take with fossil-stone?

Your sects do nowadays create

Churches as worldly as the state.

And, for your more established forms —

Ah, once in York I viewed through storms

The Minster's majesty of mien —

Towers, peaks, and pinnacles sublime —

Faith's iceberg, stranded on a scene

How alien, and an alien time;

But now" — he checked himself, and stood.

Whence this strange bias of his mood

(Thought they) leaning to things corroded,

By many deemed for aye exploded?

But, truly, knowing not the man,

At fault they in conjecture ran.

But Ungar (as in fitter place

Set down) being sprung from Romish race,

Albeit himself had spared to feed

On any one elected creed

Or rite, though much he might recall

In annals bearing upon all;

And, in this land named of Behest,

A wandering Ishmael from the West;

Inherited the Latin mind,

Which late — blown by the adverse wind

Of harder fortunes that molest —

Kindled from ember into coal.

The priest, as one who keeps him whole,

Anew turns toward the kneeling twain:

" Your error 's slight, or, if a stain,

'Twill fade. Our Lord enjoins good deeds,

Nor catechiseth in the creeds."

A something in the voice or man,

Or in assumption of the turn

Which prior theme did so adjourn,

Pricked Ungar, and a look he ran

Toward Derwent — an electric light

Chastising in its fierce revolt;

Then settled into that still night

Of cloud which has discharged the bolt.

Rate this poem: 


No reviews yet.