Treasure Island

William Ernest Henley

(1849 - 1902 / Gloucester / England)

The Song Of The Sword--To Rudyard Kipling


The Sword
Singing -
The voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword
Clanging imperious
Forth from Time's battlements
His ancient and triumphing Song.

In the beginning,
Ere God inspired Himself
Into the clay thing
Thumbed to His image,
The vacant, the naked shell
Soon to be Man:
Thoughtful He pondered it,
Prone there and impotent,
Fragile, inviting
Attack and discomfiture;
Then, with a smile -
As He heard in the Thunder
That laughed over Eden
The voice of the Trumpet,
The iron Beneficence,
Calling his dooms
To the Winds of the world -
Stooping, He drew
On the sand with His finger
A shape for a sign
Of his way to the eyes
That in wonder should waken,
For a proof of His will
To the breaking intelligence.
That was the birth of me:
I am the Sword.

Bleak and lean, grey and cruel,
Short-hilted, long shafted,
I froze into steel;
And the blood of my elder,
His hand on the hafts of me,
Sprang like a wave
In the wind, as the sense
Of his strength grew to ecstasy;
Glowed like a coal
In the throat of the furnace;
As he knew me and named me
The War-Thing, the Comrade,
Father of honour
And giver of kingship,
The fame-smith, the song-master,
Bringer of women
On fire at his hands
For the pride of fulfilment,
PRIEST (saith the Lord)
OF HIS MARRIAGE WITH VICTORY
Ho! then, the Trumpet,
Handmaid of heroes,
Calling the peers
To the place of espousals!
Ho! then, the splendour
And glare of my ministry,
Clothing the earth
With a livery of lightnings!
Ho! then, the music
Of battles in onset,
And ruining armours,
And God's gift returning
In fury to God!
Thrilling and keen
As the song of the winter stars,
Ho! then, the sound
Of my voice, the implacable
Angel of Destiny! -
I am the Sword.

Heroes, my children,
Follow, O, follow me!
Follow, exulting
In the great light that breaks
From the sacred Companionship!
Thrust through the fatuous,
Thrust through the fungous brood,
Spawned in my shadow
And gross with my gift!
Thrust through, and hearken
O, hark, to the Trumpet,
The Virgin of Battles,
Calling, still calling you
Into the Presence,
Sons of the Judgment,
Pure wafts of the Will!
Edged to annihilate,
Hilted with government,
Follow, O, follow me,
Till the waste places
All the grey globe over
Ooze, as the honeycomb
Drips, with the sweetness
Distilled of my strength,
And, teeming in peace
Through the wrath of my coming,
They give back in beauty
The dread and the anguish
They had of me visitant!
Follow, O follow, then,
Heroes, my harvesters!
Where the tall grain is ripe
Thrust in your sickles!
Stripped and adust
In a stubble of empire,
Scything and binding
The full sheaves of sovranty:
Thus, O, thus gloriously,
Shall you fulfil yourselves!
Thus, O, thus mightily,
Show yourselves sons of mine -
Yea, and win grace of me:
I am the Sword!

I am the feast-maker:
Hark, through a noise
Of the screaming of eagles,
Hark how the Trumpet,
The mistress of mistresses,
Calls, silver-throated
And stern, where the tables
Are spread, and the meal
Of the Lord is in hand!
Driving the darkness,
Even as the banners
And spears of the Morning;
Sifting the nations,
The slag from the metal,
The waste and the weak
From the fit and the strong;
Fighting the brute,
The abysmal Fecundity;
Checking the gross,
Multitudinous blunders,
The groping, the purblind
Excesses in service
Of the Womb universal,
The absolute drudge;
Firing the charactry
Carved on the World,
The miraculous gem
In the seal-ring that burns
On the hand of the Master -
Yea! and authority
Flames through the dim,
Unappeasable Grisliness
Prone down the nethermost
Chasms of the Void! -
Clear singing, clean slicing;
Sweet spoken, soft finishing;
Making death beautiful,
Life but a coin
To be staked in the pastime
Whose playing is more
Than the transfer of being;
Arch-anarch, chief builder,
Prince and evangelist,
I am the Will of God:
I am the Sword.

The Sword
Singing -
The voice of the Sword from the heart of the Sword
Clanging majestical,
As from the starry-staired
Courts of the primal Supremacy,
His high, irresistible song.

Submitted: Monday, April 12, 2010

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