The Heroes

by AE
By many a dream of God and man my thoughts in shining flocks were led:
But as I went through Patrick Street the hopes and prophecies were dead.
The hopes and prophecies were dead: they could not blossom where the feet
Walked amid rottenness, or where the brawling shouters stamped the street.
Where was the beauty that the Lord gave men when first they towered in pride?
But one came by me at whose word the bitter condemnation died.
His brows were crowned with thorns of light: his eyes were bright as one who sees
The starry palaces shine o'er the sparkle of the heavenly seas.
“Is it not beautiful?” he cried. “Our Faery Land of Hearts' Desire
Is mingled through the mire and mist, yet stainless keeps its lovely fire.
The pearly phantoms with blown hair are dancing where the drunkards reel:
The cloud frail daffodils shine out where filth is splashing from the heel.
O sweet, and sweet, and sweet to hear, the melodies in rivers run:
The rapture of their crowded notes is yet the myriad voice of One.
Those who are lost and fallen here, to-night in sleep shall pass the gate,
Put on the purples of the King, and know them masters of their fate.
Each wrinkled hag shall reassume the plumes and hues of paradise:
Each brawler be enthroned in calm among the Children of the Wise.
Yet in the council with the gods no one will falter to pursue
His lofty purpose, but come forth the cyclic labours to renew;
And take the burden of the world and veil his beauty in a shroud,
And wrestle with the chaos till the anarch to the light be bowed.
We cannot for forgetfulness forego the reverence due to them
Who wear at times they do not guess the sceptre and the diadem.
As bright a crown as this was theirs when first they from the Father sped;
Yet look with deeper eyes and still the ancient beauty is not dead.”
He mingled with the multitude. I saw their brows were crowned and bright,
A light around the shadowy heads, a shadow round the head of light.
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