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FEAR death ?-to feel the fog in my throat,

The mist in my face,
When the snows begin, and the blasts denote

I am nearing the place,
The power of the night, the press of the storm,

The post of the foe ;
Where he stands, the Arch Fear in a visible form,

Yet the strong man must go :
For the journey is done and the summit attained,

And the barriers fall,
Though a battle 's to fight ere the guerdon be gained,

The reward of it all.
I was ever a fighter, so-one fight more,

The best and the last !
I would hate that death bandaged my eyes, and forbore,

And bade me creep past.
No! let me taste the whole of it, fare like my peers

The heroes of old,
Bear the brunt, in a minute pay glad life's arrears

Of pain, darkness and cold.
For sudden the worst turns the best to the brave,

The black minute 's at end,
And the elements' rage, the fiend-voices that rave,

Shall dwindle, shall blend,
Shall change, shall become first a peace out of pain.

Then a light, then thy breast,
O thou soul of my soul ! I shall clasp thee again,

And with God be the rest !



(See Edgar's song in “ LEAR.")


My first thought was, he lied in every word,

That hoary cripple, with malicious eye

Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that pursed and scored

Its edge, at one more victim gained thereby.


What else should he be set for, with his staff?

What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare

All travellers who might find him posted there, And ask the road? I guessed what skull-like laugh Would break, what crutch 'gin write my epitaph

For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,


If at his counsel I should turn aside

Into that ominous tract which, all agree,

Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly
I did turn as he pointed : neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,

So much as gladness that some end might be.


For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,

What with my search drawn out thro' years, my hope

Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring

My heart made, finding failure in its scope.

As when a sick man very near to death

Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end

The tears and takes the farewell of each friend, And hears one bid the other go, draw breath Freelier outside, (“ since all is o'er,” he saith,

“ And the blow fallen no grieving can amend ;”)

While some discuss if near the other graves

Be room enough for this, and when a day

Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves :
And still the man hears all, and only craves

He may not shame such tender love and stay.

Thus, I had so long suffered in this quest,

Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ

So many times among “ The Band ”—to wit, The knights who to the Dark Tower's search addressed Their steps—that just to fail as they, seemed best,

And all the doubt was now-should I be fit?


So, quiet as despair, I turned from him,

That hateful cripple, out of his highway

Into the path he pointed. All the day Had been a dreary one at best, and dim Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim

Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.


For mark ! no sooner was I fairly found

Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,

Than, pausing to throw backward a last view O’er the safe road, 't was gone; grey plain all round: Nothing but plain to the horizon's bound.

I might go on; nought else remained to do.


grove !

So, on I went. I think I never saw

Such starved ignoble nature ; nothing throve :

For flowers—as well expect a cedar
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,

You'd think; a burr had been a treasure trove.

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No! penury, inertness and grimace,

In some strange sort, were the land's portion.

“ Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly, “ It nothing skills : I cannot help my case : “ 'T is the Last Judgment's fire must cure this place,

“ Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”


If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk

Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents

Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents In the dock's harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to baulk All hope of greenness ? 't is a brute must walk

Pashing their life out, with a brute's intents.


As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair

In leprosy ; thin dry blades pricked the mud

Which underneath looked kneaded up with blood One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare, Stood stupefied, however he came there :

Thrust out past service from the devil's stud !


Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,

With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain,

And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane ; Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe; I never saw a brute I hated so ;

He must be wicked to deserve such pain.


I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.

As a man calls for wine before he fights,

I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier's art :

One taste of the old time sets all to rights.


Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face

Beneath its garniture of curly gold,

Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace !

Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.


Giles then, the soul of honour—there he stands

Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.

What honest man should dare (he said) he durst. Good—but the scene shifts-faugh! what hangman

hands Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands

Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst !


Better this present than a past like that;

Back therefore to my darkening path again!

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