The Lord of Misrule - And Other Poems
by Alfred Noyes
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But others tell of stranger things Half-heard on Whitsun eves, Of sweet and ghostly whisperings— Though hundreds of years ago it was— Among the ghostly leaves:—

Sero te amavi— Grey eyes of sun-lit dew!— Tam antiqua, Tam nova— Augustine heard it, too. Late have I loved that May, Lady, So ancient, and so new!

And no man knows where they were flown, For the wind takes the may: But white and fresh the may was blown —Though hundreds of years ago it was— As this that blooms to-day.

And the leaves break out on the wild briar, And bells must still be rung; But sorrow comes to the old friar, For he remembers a May, a May, When his old heart was young.


Who would be a king That can sit in the sun and sing? Nay, I have a kingdom of mine own. A fallen oak-tree is my throne. Then, pluck the strings, and tell me true If Caesar in his glory knew The worlds he lost in sun and dew.

Who would be a queen That sees what my love hath seen?— The blood of little children shed To make one royal ruby red! Then, tell me, music, why the great For quarrelling trumpets abdicate This quick, this absolute estate.

Nay, who would sing in heaven, Among the choral Seven That hears—as Love and I have heard, The whole sky listening to one bird? And where's the ruby, tell me where, Whose crimsons for one breath compare With this wild rose that all may share?


(Phi Beta Kappa Poem, Harvard, 1915)

Music is dead. An age, an age is dying. Shreds of Uranian song, wild symphonies Tortured with moans of butchered innocents, Blow past us on the wind. Chaos resumes His kingdom. All the visions of the world, The visions that were music, being shaped By law, moving in measure, treading the road That suns and systems tread, O who can hear Their music now? Urania bows her head. Only the feet that move in order dance. Only the mind attuned to that dread pulse Of law throughout the universe can sing. Only the soul that plays its rhythmic part In that great measure of the tides and suns Terrestrial and celestial, till it soar Into the supreme melodies of heaven, Only that soul, climbing the splendid road Of law from height to height, may walk with God, Shape its own sphere from chaos, conquer death, Lay hold on life and liberty, and sing.

Yet, since, at least, the fleshly heart must beat In measure, and no new rebellion breaks That old restriction, murmurs reach it still, Rumours of that vast music which resolves Our discords, and to this, to this attuned, Though blindly, it responds, in notes like these:

There was a song in heaven of old, A song the choral seven began, When God with all his chariots rolled The tides of chaos back for man; When suns revolved and planets wheeled, And the great oceans ebbed and flowed, There is one way of life, it pealed, The road of law, the unchanging road.

The trumpet of the law resounds, And we behold, from depth to height, What glittering sentries walk their rounds, What ordered hosts patrol the night, While wheeling worlds proclaim to us, Captained by Thee thro' nights unknown,— Glory that would be glorious Must keep Thy law to find its own.

Beyond rebellion, past caprice, From heavens that comprehend all change, All space, all time, till time shall cease, The trumpet rings to souls that range, To souls that in wild dreams annul Thy word, confessed by wood and stone,— Beauty that would be beautiful Must keep Thy law to find its own.

He that can shake it, will he thrust His careless hands into the fire? He that would break it, shall we trust The sun to rise at his desire? Constant above our discontent, The trumpet peals in sterner tone,— Might that would be omnipotent Must keep Thy law to find its own.

Ah, though beneath unpitying spheres Unreckoned seems our human cry, In Thy deep law, beyond the years, Abides the Eternal memory. Thy law is light, to eyes grown dull Dreaming of worlds like bubbles blown; And Mercy that is merciful Shall keep Thy law and find its own.

Unchanging God, by that one Light Through which we grope to Truth and Thee, Confound not yet our day with night, Break not the measures of Thy sea. Hear not, though grief for chaos cry Or rail at Thine unanswering throne. Thy law, Thy law, is liberty, And in Thy law we find our own.

So, to Uranian music, rose our world. The boughs put forth, the young leaves groped for light. The wild flower spread its petals as in prayer. Then, for terrestrial ears, vast discords rose, The struggle in the jungle, clashing themes That strove for mastery; but above them all, Ever the mightier measure of the suns Resolved them into broader harmonies, That fought again for mastery. The night Buried the mastodon. The warring tribes Of men were merged in nations. Wider laws Embraced them. Man no longer fought with man, Though nation warred with nation. Hatred fell Before the gaze of love. For in an hour When, by the law of might, mankind could rise No higher, into the deepening music stole A loftier theme, a law that gathered all The laws of earth into its broadening breast And moved like one full river to the sea, The law of Love. The sun stood dark at noon; Dark as the moon before this mightier Power, And a Voice rang across the blood-stained earth: I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Light. We heard it, and we did not hear. In dreams We caught a thousand fragments of the strain, But never wholly heard it. We moved on Obeying it a little, till our world Became so vast, that we could only hear Stray notes, a golden phrase, a sorrowful cry, Never the rounded glory of the whole. So one would sing of death, one of despair, And some, knowing that God was more than man, Knowing that the Eternal Power behind Our universe was more than man, would shrink From crowning Him with human attributes, Though these remained the highest that we knew; And therefore, falling back on lower signs, Bereft of love, thought, personality, They made Him less than man; made Him a blind Unweeting force, less than the best in man, Less than the best that He Himself had made.

Yet, though from earth we could no longer hear As from a central throne, the harmonies Of the revolving whole; yet though from earth, And from earth's Calvary, the central scene Withdrew to dreadful depths beyond our ken; Withdrew to some deep Calvary at the heart Of all creation; yet, O yet, we heard, Echoes that murmured from Eternity, I am the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Light. And still the eternal passion undiscerned Moved like a purple shadow through our world, While we, in intellectual chaos, raised The ancient cry, Not this man, but Barabbas. Then Might grew Right once more, for who could hold The Right, when the rebellious hearts of men Finding the Law too hard in life, thought, art, Proclaimed that Right itself was born of chance, Born out of nothingness and doomed, at last, To nothingness; while all that men have held Better than dust—love, honour, justice, truth— Was less than dust, for the blind dust endures? But love, they said, and the proud soul of man, Die with the breath, before the flesh decays. And still, amidst the chaos, Love was born, Suffered and died; and in a myriad forms A myriad parables of the Eternal Christ Unfolded their deep message to mankind. So, on this last wild winter of his birth, Though cannon rocked his cradle, heaven might hear, Once more, the Mother and her infant Child.

Will the Five Clock-Towers chime tonight? —Child, the red earth would shake with scorn.— But will the Emperors laugh outright If Roland rings that Christ is born?

No belfries pealed for that pure birth. There were no high-stalled choirs to sing. The blood of children smoked on earth; For Herod, in those days, was king.—

O, then the Mother and her Son Were refugees that Christmas, too?— Through all the ages, little one, That strange old story still comes true.—

Was there no peace in Bethlehem?— Yes. There was Love in one poor Inn; And, while His wings were over them, They heard those deeper songs begin.—

What songs were they? What songs were they? Did stars of shrapnel shed their light?— O, little child, I have lost the way. I cannot find that Inn tonight.—

Is there no peace, then, anywhere?— Perhaps, where some poor soldier lies With all his wounds in front, out there.— You weep?—He had your innocent eyes.—

Then is it true that Christ's a slave, Whom all these wrongs can never rouse?— They said it. But His anger drave The money-changers from His House.—

Yet He forgave and turned away.— Yes, unto seventy times and seven. But they forget. He comes one day In power, among the clouds of heaven.—

Then Roland rings?—Yes, little son! With iron hammers they dare not scorn, Roland is breaking them, gun by gun, Roland is ringing. Christ is born.

Born and re-born; for though the Christ we knew On earth be dead for ever, who shall kill The Eternal Christ whose law is in our hearts, Christ, who in this dark hour descends to hell, And ascends into heaven, and sits beside The right hand of the Father. If for men This law be dead, it lives for children still. Children that men have butchered see His face, Rest in His arms, and strike our mockery dumb. So shall the trumpet of the law resound Through all the ages, telling of that child Whose outstretched arms in Belgium speak for God.

They crucified a Man of old, The thorns are shrivelled on His brow. Prophet or fool or God, behold, They crucify Thy children now. They doubted evil, doubted good, And the eternal heavens as well, Behold, the iron and the blood, The visible handiwork of Hell.

Fast to the cross they found it there, They found it in the village street, A naked child, with sunkissed hair. The nails were through its hands and feet. For Christ was dead, yes, Christ was dead! O Lamb of God, O little one, I kneel before your cross instead And the same shadow veils the sun....

And the same shadow veils the sun....

But you, O land, O beautiful land of Freedom, Hold fast the faith which made and keeps you great. With you, with you abide the faith and hope, In this dark hour, of agonised mankind. Hold to that law whereby the warring tribes Were merged in nations, hold to that wide law Which bids you merge the nations, here and now, Into one people. Hold to that deep law Whereby we reach the peace which is not death But the triumphant harmony of Life, Eternal Life, immortal Love, the Peace Of worlds that sing around the throne of God.


Thus only should it come, if come it must— Not with a riot of flags and a mob-born cry, But with a noble faith, a conscience high That, if we fail, we failed not in our trust. We fought for peace. We dared the bitter thrust Of calumny for peace, and watched her die, Her scutcheons rent from sky to outraged sky By felon hands and trampled into the dust.

We proffered justice, and we saw the law Cancelled by stroke on stroke of those deft hands Which still retain the imperial forger's pen. They must have blood—Then, at this last, we draw The sword, not with a riot of flags and bands, But silence, and a mustering of men.

They challenge Truth. A people makes reply, East, West, North, South, one honour and one might, From sea to sea, from height to war-worn height, The old word rings out—to conquer or to die. And we shall conquer! Though their eagles fly Through heaven, around this ancient isle unite Powers that were never vanquished in the fight, The unconquerable Powers that cannot lie.

Though fire destroy her flesh, and many a year This land forgot the faith that made her great, Now, as her fleets cast off the North Sea foam, Casting aside all faction and all fear, Thrice-armed in all the majesty of her fate, Britain remembers, and her sword strikes home.


Grow, my song, like a tree, As thou hast ever grown, Since first, a wondering child, Long since, I cherished thee. It was at break of day, Well I remember it,— The first note that I heard, A magical undertone, Sweeter than any bird —Or so it seemed to me— And my tears ran wild. This tale, this tale is true. The light was growing gray; And the rhymes ran so sweet (For I was only a child) That I knelt down to pray.

Grow, my song, like a tree. Since then I have forgot A thousand friends, but not The song that set me free, So that to thee I gave My hopes and my despairs, My boyhood's ecstasy, My manhood's prayers. In dreams I have watched thee grow, A ladder of sweet boughs, Where angels come and go, And birds keep house. In dreams, I have seen thee wave Over a distant land, And watched thy roots expand, And given my life to thee, As I would give my grave.

Grow, my song, like a tree, And when I am grown old, Let me die under thee, Die to enrich thy mould; Die at thy roots, and so Help thee to grow. Make of this body and blood Thy sempiternal food. Then let some little child, Some friend I shall not see, When the great dawn is gray, Some lover I have not known, In summers far away, Sit listening under thee. And in thy rustling hear That mystical undertone, Which made my tears run wild, And made thee, O, how dear.

In the great years to be? I am proud then? Ah, not so. I have lived and died for thee. Be patient Grow.

Grow, my song, like a tree.


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