Robert Laurence Binyon

(1869-1943 / England)

The Crusader - Poem by Robert Laurence Binyon

Effigy mailed and mighty beneath thy mail
That liest asleep with hand upon carved sword--hilt
As ready to waken and strong to stand and hail
Death, where hosts are shaken and hot life spilt;
Here in the pillared peace thy fathers built
On English ground, amid guardian trees, though rent
This eve with gusts that yellowing boughs dishevel
And over this chantry roof make shuddering revel--
With lips of stone thou smilest; art thou content?

Still burns thy soul for battle as then, when first,
Tost upon shipboard, far thine eyes descried
The hills of the land of longing? Still dost thirst
To leap on the Paynim armies and break their pride,
For God smote in thee, God was upon thy side?
Still flame the spears through dust and blood and roar?
Still ridest slaying, filled with holy rages,
Glorying even now to hear through Time's lost ages
Thy deeds yet thundering like sea--surf on shore?

Or dost thou rather, a soul made great and mild,
Behold it all as a clashing of swords by night
Warring to save but an empty grave exiled,--
Not there, not thus, to reach the abiding Light.
The City of God shines always fair and white,
By alien hosts impossible to be won;
For how should the pure be pure if these could soil it,
Or the holy holy, and ravage of this world spoil it?
A thousand storms pass from us, but not the sun.

Thou smilest mute: but I in the gloom that hearken
To loud wild gusts that, rioting blindly, tear
Soft leaves and scatter them over fields that darken,
I feel in my heart the wound of Earth's despair.
So torn from youth is trampled the innocent prayer;
So loveliest things find soonest enemies; so
Desire that kindled the shaping mind to fashion
Our hope afresh, pours infinite out its passion,
And the world it has striven for breaks it with blow on blow.

The fool, in his multitude mighty, exults to maim
Greatness; heroes under the world's slow wheel
Fall; the timorous how they seek to tame
Tongues that fear not, hearts that burn and feel!
Slaves conspire to enslave; and, last appeal,
The deaf have power, the bind authority; yea,
They blind the seer, lest they too see his vision,
And all their works be turned to a God's derision;
Beholding this, who would cry not, Up and slay!

O yet my faith is fixt, that the best is chosen,
And truth by joy is kissed as certain good,
And love, even love, though a million hearts be frozen,
Love, weak, and shamed, and tortured, is understood.
Yea, powers are with us when we are most withstood.
Not vainly the soul in beauty and hope confides;
And if it were not so, then had thought no haven,
Nor the brave heart wisdom nor warrant above the craven:
Mid all these woes the City of God abides.

But O to win there, far, how far, it seems!
And often, as thou, O pilgrim knight, I long
For a land remote, and to be where perfect dreams
Of the soul are acts as natural as a song
In a singer's mouth, and joy need fear no wrong.
And, tossing upon my restless thoughts, I vow
My heart away from a world that would undo me.
Then lo, in a hush some voice divine thrills through me,
``O heart of little faith, seek here, seek now!''

Yes, here and now! But how to attain, when fierce
In power and pain Time and the World oppose?
With what shall the soul be weaponed, her way to pierce
To her one desire through many embattled foes?
Must all in a waste of strife and of hatred close?
Shall love unfriended hide, and longing droop,
And all our strength be poured in a conflict sterile,
For the world's hard conquest youth's dear hope imperil,
And the soul to an alien use ignobly stoop?

Thou knowest, Crusader; O thy smile knows all.
Love takes no sword to battle, for Love is flame,
Itself a sword, upon whose edge falsehoods fall;
A peace that troubles, a joy that puts to shame.
Though the soul be at war for ever, she burns to an aim,
The world has none! We are wronged, but endure; we bleed,
But conquer; hatred is idle as vain compliance:
We know not Time, who have made the great affiance.
To die for that we live for is life indeed.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, September 1, 2010



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