Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. V. Browning to Rupert Brooke
Extracts from The Earthly Paradise: The Hosting of the Fiends (from The Ring given to Venus)
By William Morris (1834–1896)
AND then swept onward through the night
A babbling crowd in raiment bright,
Wherein none listened aught at all
To what from other lips might fall,
And none might meet his fellow’s gaze;        5
And still o’er every restless face
Passed restless shades of rage and pain,
And sickening fear and longing vain.
On wound that manifold agony
Unholpen, vile, till earth and sea        10
Grew silent, till the moonlight died
Before a false light blaring wide,
And from amidst that fearful folk
The Lord of all the pageant broke.
  Most like a mighty king was he,        15
And crowned and sceptred royally;
As a white flame his visage shone,
Sharp, clear-cut as a face of stone;
But flickering flame, not flesh, it was;
And over it such looks did pass        20
Of wild desire, and pain, and fear,
As in his people’s faces were,
But tenfold fiercer: furthermore,
A wondrous steed the Master bore,
Unnameable of kind or make,        25
Not horse, nor hippogriff, nor drake,
Like and unlike to all of these,
And flickering like the semblances
Of an ill dream, wrought as in scorn
Of sunny noon, fresh eve, and morn,        30
That feed the fair things of the earth.
And now brake out a mock of mirth
From all that host, and all their eyes
Were turned on Laurence in strange wise,
Who met the maddening fear that burned        35
Round his unholpen heart, and turned
Unto the dreadful king and cried:
“What errand go ye on? Abide,
Abide! for I have tarried long;
Turn thou to me, and right my wrong!        40
One of thy servants keeps from me
That which I gave her not; nay, see
What thing thy Master bids thee do!”
  Then wearily, as though he knew
How all should be, the Master turned,        45
And his red eyes on Laurence burned,
As without word the scroll he took;
But as he touched the skin he shook
As though for fear, and presently
In a great voice he ’gan to cry:        50
“Shall this endure for ever, Lord?
Hast thou no care to keep thy word?
And must such double men abide?
Not mine, not mine, nor on thy side?
For as thou cursest them I curse:—        55
Make thy souls better, Lord, or worse!
  Then spake he to the trembling man:
“What am I bidden, that I can;
Bide here, and thou shalt see thine own
Unto thy very feet cast down;        60
Then go and dwell in peace awhile.”
Then round he turned with sneering smile
And once more lonely was the night,
And colourless with grey moonlight.

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