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    The Ballad of the White Horse

    DEDICATION

    Of great limbs gone to chaos, A great face turned to night- Why bend above a shapeless shroud Seeking in such archaic cloud Sight of strong lords and light?

    Where seven sunken Englands Lie buried one by one, Why should one idle spade, I wonder, Shake up the dust of thanes like thunder To smoke and choke the sun?

    In cloud of clay so cast to heaven What shape shall man discern? These lords may light the mystery Of mastery or victory, And these ride high in history, But these shall not return.

    Gored on the Norman gonfalon The Golden Dragon died: We shall not wake with ballad strings The good time of the smaller things, We shall not see the holy kings Ride down by Severn side.

    Stiff, strange, and quaintly coloured As the broidery of Bayeux The England of that dawn remains, And this of Alfred and the Danes Seems like the tales a whole tribe feigns Too English to be true.

    Of a good king on an island That ruled once on a time; And as he walked by an apple tree There came green devils out of the sea With sea-plants trailing heavily And tracks of opal slime.

    Yet Alfred is no fairy tale; His days as our days ran, He also looked forth for an hour On peopled plains and skies that lower, From those few windows in the tower That is the head of a man.

    But who shall look from Alfred's hood Or breathe his breath alive? His century like a small dark cloud Drifts far; it is an eyeless crowd, Where the tortured trumpets scream aloud And the dense arrows drive.

    Lady, by one light only We look from Alfred's eyes, We know he saw athwart the wreck The sign that hangs about your neck, Where One more than Melchizedek Is dead and never dies.

    Therefore I bring these rhymes to you Who brought the cross to me, Since on you flaming without flaw I saw the sign that Guthrum saw When he let break his ships of awe, And laid peace on the sea.

    Do you remember when we went Under a dragon moon, And 'mid volcanic tints of night Walked where they fought the unknown fight And saw black trees on the battle-height, Black thorn on Ethandune?

    And I thought, "I will go with you, As man with God has gone, And wander with a wandering star, The wandering heart of things that are, The fiery cross of love and war That like yourself, goes on."

    O go you onward; where you are Shall honour and laughter be, Past purpled forest and pearled foam, God's winged pavilion free to roam, Your face, that is a wandering home, A flying home for me.

    Ride through the silent earthquake lands, Wide as a waste is wide, Across these days like deserts, when Pride and a little scratching pen Have dried and split the hearts of men, Heart of the heroes, ride.

    Up through an empty house of stars, Being what heart you are, Up the inhuman steeps of space As on a staircase go in grace, Carrying the firelight on your face Beyond the loneliest star.

    Take these; in memory of the hour We strayed a space from home And saw the smoke-hued hamlets, quaint With Westland king and Westland saint, And watched the western glory faint Along the road to Frome.

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