Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
 
The Shadow
By Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861)
 
I DREAMED 1 a dream: I dreamt that I espied,
Upon a stone that was not rolled aside,
A Shadow sit upon a grave—a Shade,
As thin, as unsubstantial, as of old
Came, the Greek poet told,        5
To lick the life-blood in the trench Ulysses made—
As pale, as thin, and said:
‘I am the Resurrection of the Dead.
The night is past, the morning is at hand,
And I must in my proper semblance stand,        10
Appear brief space and vanish,—listen, this is true,
I am that Jesus whom they slew.’
 
And shadows dim, I dreamed, the dead apostles came,
And bent their heads for sorrow and for shame—
Sorrow for their great loss, and shame        15
For what they did in that vain name.
 
And in long ranges far behind there seemed
Pale vapoury angel forms; or was it cloud? that kept
Strange watch; the women also stood beside and wept.
  And Peter spoke the word:        20
‘O my own Lord,
What is it we must do?
Is it then all untrue?
Did we not see, and hear, and handle Thee,
Yea, for whole hours        25
Upon the Mount in Galilee,
On the lake shore, and here at Bethany,
When Thou ascended to Thy God and ours?’
  And paler still became the distant cloud,
And at the word the women wept aloud.        30
 
And the Shade answered, ‘What ye say I know not;
        But it is true
        I am that Jesus whom they slew,
Whom ye have preached, but in what way I know not.’
*        *        *        *        *
And the great World, it chanced, came by that way,        35
And stopped, and looked, and spoke to the police,
And said the thing, for order’s sake and peace,
Most certainly must be suppressed, the nuisance cease.
His wife and daughter must have where to pray,
And whom to pray to, at the least one day        40
In seven, and something sensible to say.
 
Whether the fact so many years ago
Had, or not, happened, how was he to know?
Yet he had always heard that it was so.
As for himself, perhaps it was all one;        45
And yet he found it not unpleasant, too,
On Sunday morning in the roomy pew,
To see the thing with such decorum done.
As for himself, perhaps it was all one;
Yet on one’s death-bed all men always said        50
It was a comfortable thing to think upon
The atonement and the resurrection of the dead.
So the great World as having said his say,
Unto his country-house pursued his way.
And on the grave the Shadow sat all day.
*        *        *        *        *
        55
And the poor Pope was sure it must be so,
Else wherefore did the people kiss his toe?
The subtle Jesuit cardinal shook his head,
And mildly looked and said,
It mattered not a jot        60
Whether the thing, indeed, were so or not;
Religion must be kept up, and the Church preserved,
And for the people this best served.
And then he turned, and added most demurely,
‘Whatever may befal,        65
We Catholics need no evidence at all,
The holy father is infallible, surely!’
 
And English canons heard,
And quietly demurred.
Religion rests on evidence, of course,        70
And on inquiry we must put no force.
Difficulties still, upon whatever ground,
Are likely, almost certain, to be found.
The Theist scheme, the Pantheist, one and all,
Must with, or e’en before, the Christian fall.        75
And till the thing were plainer to our eyes,
To disturb faith was surely most unwise.
As for the Shade, who trusted such narration?
Except, of course, in ancient revelation.
 
And dignitaries of the Church came by.        80
It had been worth to some of them, they said,
Some hundred thousand pounds a year a head.
If it fetched so much in the market, truly,
’Twas not a thing to be given up unduly.
It had been proved by Butler in one way,        85
By Paley better in a later day;
It had been proved in twenty ways at once,
By many a doctor plain to many a dunce;
There was no question but it must be so.
  And the Shade answered, that He did not know;        90
He had no reading, and might be deceived,
But still He was the Christ, as He believed.
 
And women, mild and pure,
Forth from still homes and village schools did pass,
And asked, if this indeed were thus, alas,        95
What should they teach their children and the poor?
  The Shade replied, He could not know,
But it was truth, the fact was so.
*        *        *        *        *
*        *        *        *        *
Who had kept all commandments from his youth
Yet still found one thing lacking,—even Truth:        100
And the Shade only answered, ‘Go, make haste,
Enjoy thy great possessions as thou may’st.’
 
Note 1. The MS. of this poem is incomplete. [back]
 
 
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