Ballad of Saint Christopher

When from the eyes of the blind man
The seals of darkness broke,
He saw men walking, as trees, he said,
That was the word he spoke:
Well, of all God's men and trees, I think,
Christopher walked, an oak.

He towered like the forest giant
Above a sheltered town,
His hair such a weight of foliage
As the summer has for crown,
And from a height of heaven
His eyes like stars looked down.

Looked down, for he sought through all the lands
The king who was kingliest;
And he laughed as he passed the princelings by
In his imperial quest —
Only the greatest king of the world
Should bend the oak's high crest.

So, the mightiest king he found, and served,
Till once, in a darkened place,
The master lord drew back in dread
And shook with pale disgrace —
When the giant cried, " What ho! my liege,
The blood has quit thy face. "

" There is a king, " said the faltering prince,
" Who is supreme monarch,
Dominion of the night he holds
And power no boundaries mark. "
Quoth the giant then, " At least this king
Is not afraid of the dark. "

" Farewell, " he mocked as he turned and walked
With proud majestic frame
Away from the stricken earthly king
And his accomplished shame,
To seek the lord of might abhorred,
The king of the blackened name.

And deep in the wood where the winter stood
And the great trees groaned and tossed,
The man was met by the Evil Prince,
The lord of all the lost,
And joined his might with Hell that night,
Till they came to roads that crossed.

And there where counter highways
Were met upon the ground.
The Prince of Hell down groveling fell,
The fearless in a swound;
And a wayside cross by the morning roads
The oath of the night unbound.

The giant turned once more away
From kings of high degree,
And laughed in his beard, " The thing he feared
Was a feeble thing, " said he;
" Since time began is many a man
Has hanged upon a tree. "

" But this, " and a voice behind him spoke,
A hermit out of the wood,
" He was not only man but God,
Who saved us by His Blood,
The King of all the kings of the world,
And died upon the Rood. "

" Where is His court, " the giant cried,
And his voice boomed like a drum.
" By yon stream side do thou abide
And tarry till He come. "
" How shall I know this Mightiest One? "
But the holy man was dumb.

So the giant stopped at the river side
Where wayfarers went by,
A bridgeless gap that travelers crossed
Through waters plunging high,
And back and forth through the stream he went
As the boats of the ferry ply.

And page or knight, or queen or wight,
He bore them through the tide;
He dwelt in the homeless forest
By the swift river's side,
And safe on his towering shoulders
The kings of the earth might ride.

But unforgot was his quest of the king
His service should employ,
And though he served his fellowmen
And had therein a joy,
The kingliest king he waited for,
And one day came — a boy.

A boy, there was upon his brow
No sign of royal birth,
You would not dream he was a king,
His garb was nothing worth,
You would not think to see his hands
That they had made the earth.

The giant swung aloft the child
As light as thistle down;
He did not know the one he bore
Had all the stars for crown,
And he said in jest to his little guest,
" Fear not, thou wilt not drown. "

The child looked down, and his eyes were gray
As skies that have been blue:
The giant strode with easy strength,
But soon with laboring thew
As heavier, heavier at each step
The weight on his shoulder grew.

And before they reached the middle stream
Where the deep water swirled,
The oak was bent, and his great crest bowed,
And the leaves of his pride were furled;
And the ancient tale was come to pass
That a giant bore the world.

And the man cried out as a forest groans
When the winter winds are wild:
" The weight of the world is on me now,
Who art thou, awful child? "
As the giant swayed, fordone, dismayed,
It was the boy who smiled.

Such silence fell by wood and stream
When now the young child spoke
As kept the ancient skies before
The morning stars awoke,
Such stillness as in paradise
The first lark broke:

" O you who seek the kingliest king,
Or ever time begun
I sat by the side of Him and saw
The tideless waters run,
And on a day, as a child might play,
The world like a top I spun.

" O you who look for the lord of all,
Behold your searching done,
For all the kings are feeble things
Before the Eternal One;
In earth or sea is none like Me
Who am God's only Son.

" O know you then, most strong of men,
The tree is in the bud:
Or ever you stood by the river side
To bear men through the flood,
I carried the world on My shoulders,
Walking bloodless through My Blood.

" And when the woods are blown to buds
In the last of all springs,
Then gone at length is the oak tree's strength
And folded all the wings,
Above the tide shall I abide,
The King of all the kings. "

This was the word the giant heard
Out of the shaken air,
And once again a light touch stirred
The tangles of his hair;
But when he reached the farther side
Alone he found him there.

And the man grew old by the forest stream,
Ever, as at the start,
Ready by day or night to thrust
The plunging waves apart,
And whatever guest on his shoulders pressed,
He bore Christ in his heart.

There is a garden in a plot
Where all the bird songs woke,
And it is walled with emerald
As one hath seen and spoke;
And there beside the Tree of Life,
Stands Christopher, the oak.
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