THE KINGS by Louise Imogen Guiney

A man said unto his Angel :
“My spirits are fallen low,
And I cannot carry this battle :
O brother! where might I go ?

“The terrible Kings are on me
With spears that are deadly bright;
Against me so from the cradle
Do fate and my fathers fight.”

Then said to the man his Angel :
“Thou wavering witless soul,
Back to the ranks! What matter
To win or to lose the whole,

“As judged by the little judges
Who hearken not well, nor see ?
Not thus, by the outer issue,
The Wise shall interpret thee.

“Thy will is the sovereign measure
And only event of things :
The puniest heart, defying,
Were stronger than all these Kings.

“Though out of the past they gather,
Mind’s Doubt, and Bodily Pain,
And pallid Thirst of the Spirit
That is kin to the other twain,

“And Grief, in a cloud of banners,
And ringletted Vain Desires,
And Vice, with the spoils upon him
Of thee and thy beaten sires, –

“While Kings of eternal evil
Yet darken the hills about,
Thy part is with broken sabre
To rise on the last redoubt ;

“To fear not sensible failure,
Nor covet the game at all,
But fighting, fighting, fighting,
Die, driven against the wall.”

Transcribed from Happy Endings : The Collected Lyrics of Louise Imogen Guiney, Boston, Ma. 1909.


1 Comment

Filed under Bardic Poetry & Christian Verse

One response to “THE KINGS by Louise Imogen Guiney

  1. This is one of my all-time favourites by Louise Imogen Guiney!

    I love the combination of heroic defiance and fatal resignation that is only possible for a member of the Church who believes in eternal beatitude. It reminds me of the ballad of another poet, G. K. Chesterton:

    The men of the East may spell the stars,
    And times and triumphs mark,
    But the men signed of the cross of Christ
    Go gaily in the dark.

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