Volume 1, Number 4, Winter Solstice 2001

A Note from me in my capacity as Official Online Editor:

elcome to the fourth issue of The Shadow Singer, my journal to help round out this first volume and first year of our little group's innovative attempt at establishing a web-based, electronic amateur press association. I believe that our efforts have been successful (this based upon all correspondence, chat in various REH-related groups and lists, and the general reception received -- at least perceived).

My fellow Active Members and I welcome your comments, suggestions, and constructive criticisms. Note that there is a web forum option at the bottom of the scroll of the Home Page where your thoughts might be recorded for us and for other visitors to view. By whatever moniker the group has become known to you -- "Robert-E," "E-Howard," or "REHeapa" [not to be confused with REHupa, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association, (see Leo Grin's fine web pages for REHupa, a print APA now nearing its 30th year of existence)] -- we are gratified by your welcome visits and continued support in the interest of Robert E. Howard studies.

There are merits and potentials of the online APA which our various journals have only begun to tap. Among these are:

  1. virtually free mass distribution (virtual in both senses of the word, since there are minimal charges for site-hosting service and labor is donated by all, and we hope that labor is worth something);
  2. the potential for revision, supplement, and other corrections of published texts;
  3. the use of a huge spectrum of color to enhance the published products;
  4. the comparative ease, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness (again, virtually no cost) for the publication of photographs, art, and various graphic images and page design effects;
  5. of course, interactivity with the browsing reader and the offer of near-instantaneous links taking advantage of the full potentials of hypertext and hypermedia.
Of course there are things we haven't done as yet, but the potential is there: We're looking forward to another innovative and exciting year in '02 (I'm already using "aught-two" -- I've always liked the way those years were referred to back in the 1900's, and there's the nifty pun for the upcoming year also -- it's a good year for resolutions, I suspect.).

Best Regards, Happy Holidays to All,
Frank Coffman
Official Online Editor


INDEX: The Shadow Singer, Vol. 1, No. 4
Robert E. Howard: Poetic Traditionalist, Poetic Innovator
The Harp of Robert, a poem for REH [use the link, or simply scroll down the page]


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert E. Howard:
Poetic Traditionalist, Poetic Innovator

by Frank Coffman, 2001, all rights reserved

OBERT E. HOWARD WAS a far better poet than most critics have recognized. The fact that he WAS a poet at all has been passed over by many of his fans and followers, those immersed in the varied prose fictions of his prolific pen. But it was by choice that his epitaph reads "Author and Poet," for Bob Howard most assuredly thought of himself as both. The fact that poems didn't "pay the rent" undoubtedly cost the world a significantly greater contribution of serious poetry from Robert Ervin Howard. But the poems are there, ranging the gamut from frivolous, nearly-nonsense lyrics, through poetic exercises and bawdy verse in letters to T. C. Smith and others, through parodies of popular poems encountered in his formal schooling and broad reading, and all the way to narrative poems supportive of or complementary to his fictions, to lyrics of considerable artistry, and to philosophical excursions in verse.

Howard was a poet of tradition, adhering to rhymed and metered verse as his standard and to fixed and established verse forms like the sonnet, the ballad, and blank verse. While his forays into free verse are significant and his experimentation with the genre of the prose-poem in the small collection Etchings in Ivory is worthy of attention, his normal mode was verse, and verse greatly influenced by several key poets and poems of his experience.

But having said this, I will also contend that Howard was a great experimenter with form who liked to "push the envelopes" of poetric traditions and practices and either stretch them to new dimensions or transform them entirely for his own distinct purposes. In doing this, he became not only a refiner of traditions but a definer of potential new ones. His poetic work needs to be remembered for several reasons, among them his championing of the narrative poem and his evident belief that the reader of pulp -- hence, "popular" -- literature could and would and did appreciate poetry alongside prose. His generation was perhaps the last in America where both of these causes or beliefs might hold sway.

Howard realized early and never lost the realization that the world's literatures all began with song and that the poetic mode was mankind's first and most enduring when it came to doing important, artistic things with language itself. Perhaps that is why his prose is so poetic and his poetry so accessible. He made himself a wordsmith through a love of language for its own sake.

Let's examine briefly certain aspects of three of his poems: "The Harp of Alfred" (Always Comes Evening 32), an early poetic homage to G. K. Chesterton's The Ballad of the White Horse which was an early influence upon REH's work; "Feach Air Muir Lionadhi Gealach Buidhe Mar Or" (Echoes from an Iron Harp 36 + 39) [rough translation: "The sea fills me like gold." ], the title alone of which shows the strong Celtic/Gaelic influence upon his imagination; and one stanza only from an unpublished bawdy poem from a letter to Tevis Clyde Smith, a poem that Howard calls "ANCIENT ENGLISH BALLADEL" which is interesting in the present context for it's form as named and not its off-color content.

With "The Harp of Alfred," first published in Weird Tales in the September issue of 1928, Howard is clearly paying tribute to both a poem and a poet that he admired in his formative years as a writer. In Howard's letters, there are several praises of and quotes from Chesterton's most famous poem [it was a great favorite during the WWI years, being seen as both a tribute to Alfred -- the only king the English have called "Great" -- and a symbolic cry of defiance against "The Hun" being a sort of "Alfrediad" concerning the unification of the English nation under Alfred and the defeat of the pagan Danish invaders in the ninth century A.D.]. And a further study of the influence of this poem upon the poetry and the prose fiction of REH is warranted].[1]

Chesterton takes great liberties with the ballad stanza of tradition, and, in some ways, his poem is a "ballad" only in name, being much more formal, in some ways closer to epic in both diction and content [see a relevant section of that poem].

One thing Chesterton does, that was very likely a factor in Howard's eventual "ballad" stanza variation in his "The Harp of Alfred," is the expansion of the traditional ballad stanza to 5 or 6 lines. This GKC did in addition to his use of the traditional ballad form of alternating 4 and 3 accent lines (4343, rhymed abcb). In the expanded stanzas, Chesterton uses a pattern of 43443 (in the 5-line stanzas) or 434443 (in the 6) and rhymed abccb or abcccb, respectively.

The pattern in Howard's tributary poem is also a variation on the balld -- but one of REH's own device. He creates a very musical stanza with the effect of ballad by expanding the stanza of tradition to a 6-liner (a "hexastich" for those into poetics), based upon 333343 accents (sort of an "exploded" version of the traditional "short ballad" [3343[) and making use of the nicely interwoven rhyme pattern of abcbdb. This he works with great poetic virtuosity and musicality. He uses an essentially iambic meter (alternating unstressed and stressed syllables: u/u/u/), mixing in several anapests (uu/) for variety and also, thereby, quickening the pace of some lines. The beginnings of lines 3, 4, and 5 of stanza 2 displays a good example of this substitution of anapests for iambs:

When Alfred, like a peasant,
Came harping down the hill,
And the drunken Danes made merry
With the man they sought to kill
And the Saxon king laughed in their beards
And bent them to his will.

Clearly, we see Howard as an adoptive poet in that he uses the stuff and structures of tradition, but we also see him as an adaptive poet, eager and able to expand upon old forms and invent new ones. In "The Harp of Alfred" he holds true to the rolling ballad rhythms and enlarged ballad stanzas of Chesterton's original, yet comes up with his own distinctive stanza form.

With his long-entitled excursion in Celtic metrics, "Feach Air Muir Lionadhi Gealach Buidhe Mar Or," Robert E. Howard displays his interest in things Celtic. And for Howard the Celtic would quickly overtake and overwhelm things Saxon and interests English as displayed in "The Harp of Alfred." While the poem does not follow any specific traditional Irish >[A] [B] or Welsh >[A] [B] meters exactly,[2] it is clear that Howard had read enough of the original Celtic (likely Irish) verses in language texts and likely seen approximations of the lilt of the meter in close translations that he had the "feel" for them. Short line lengths and heavy repetition of sounds beyond simple end rhyme are typical of Celtic metrics. The short lines make the rhymes echo more frequently, of course. Take, for example, the first stanza:

Mananon Mac Lir
The son of the sea
Is sib unto me
At the break of the year.

The heavy alliteration on "son," "sea," and "sib," tying the second and third lines together with internal alliteration as well as end rhyme is also typical of the interlacing tactics of Celtic verse. Howard does a very nice job of making an English poem sound Celtic -- a tough thing to do, since the languages are grammatically very different and the metrical schemes are also distinct, if not totally disparate.

Finally, we might examine a stanza from a bawdy lyric that Howard calls a "Balladel." This is an intriguing name, since it seems a cross between the ballad of tradition and the highly formal French forms of tightly fixed metrics and rhyme and necessary refrain lines: the rondel, villanelle, and English-invented spin off of the roundel all likely suspects for the coinage. And coinage it is, since the poem fits none of these formal French patterns [French Form specs] [many examples], but rather seems one of REH's experiments with form. The stanza below is the first and will give the general flavor of the verse. Both it and the letter it comes from (to T. C. Smith, ca. February 1929) are as yet unpublished [NOTE: but work is going on apace on The Complete Poems of Robert E. Howard].

Oh come, friend Dick, go whoring with me!
     The summer moon is ripe.
The trees dream by the crescent lea,
The ships sail on the silver sea -
Oh come, good Dick, go whoring with me!
     For life is a lot of tripe.

The refrain (or at least partial refrain as in lines 1 and 5), the swinging rhythm moving over only two rhyme sounds, and the general sing-song quality are all reminiscent of the French patterns. In a sense, Perhaps, to a slight degree, Howard associated these meters, little used to any good effect in English,[3] with sensuality and a cosmopolitanism, worldly outlook, or decadence. But Howard does not think less of the French forms [there is ample evidence in his poetry and letters of the influence of Rabelais, Villon, and Baudelaire], even though he uses his invented "balladel" rather frivolously above. He wrote some unpublished poems (one published) of the type known as "ballade" [these also from letters to Clyde Smith] and treats serious subjects as well with his limited work in the French patterns. The refrain of one of these (unpublished) runs, "I must follow the restless stars." And the envoy of the other shows Howard in one of his most potent and poignant poetic modes and poetic moods:

Envoy

King, no brazier for the fire
Holds the flame when the flame is gone.
The moon sets in the thorn and briar
And Youth fades with the fading dawn.

     --from "Ballade" Shadows of Dreams 44

When other poems are published in their entirety in the forthcoming WANDERING STAR Complete Poems they may rightfully take their place among the pre-eminent examples of the ballade in English verse.

So we may see Robert E. Howard as a poet of convention, but also of invention, as adopter and adapter, as an admirer and student of tradition who also understood that traditions are there not only for the taking -- but, for the gifted few, for the making.

Howard saw that a "middle ground" existed between strict adherence to tradition on the one hand and utter rejection of it on the other. He saw tradition as malleable gold, as metal to be melted in the mind's furnace and then recast. I believe his bending, breaking, reshaping, remaking of poetic practices and forms were among the chief pleasures of his short life.


NOTES:
1
As a Chestertonian, I'm sure I'll need to get to the task of something to be called "The Literary Influences of G. K. Chesterton on Robert E. Howard" (working title), if there proves to be "world enough and time." ;-)

2 There are many intricate varieties of syllabic (syllable-count) metrics in the Celtic languages. See Rolph Humphries Green Armor on Green Ground or Lewis Turco's The Book of Forms for details on elaborate Celtic metrics and heavy rhyming and chiming sound effects. With his extensive readings regarding things Celtic (teaching himself a good bit of Irish grammar and vocabulary along the way), REH evidently bumped into examples -- at least in translation -- that demonstrated or approximated the Celtic forms of tradition.

3 The most notable exception is Dylan Thomas's villanelle, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" (This link includes a sound file of the great Welsh poet reading this famous poem, agreed by many to be the best success in English of all attempts at the intricate French forms).



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Harp of Robert
for Robert E. Howard

by Frank Coffman, 2001, all rights reserved

As he sang of Balder beautiful,
Whom the heavens could not save,
Till the world was like a sea of tears
And every soul a wave. . . .

And I know there are gods behind the gods,
Gods that are best unsung. . . .

   --G. K. Chesterton
   The Ballad of the White Horse,
   Book III "The Harp of Alfred"

He heard the harp of Alfred
Who travelled in disguise,
King's harp against his shoulder,
King's Truth against their lies,
Down to the campfires of the Danes.
His songs, as embers, rise

From the clash of the creeds embattled,
There on Old England's green,
To ride on the winds undying
To a poet young and keen.
The young man praised the king's brave heart,
But, alas, he did not ween

The message full of promise,
The song defiant set
Against the Foes of Morning,
Whom the king had tricked and met --
How Hope is a bright thing to cherish.
But, alas, the lad would forget.

But he didn't forget the singing
And the wondrous power of song,
And his own tales soon went winging
To start new worlds along,
Fire-filled, blood-brimmed, embattled,
Sung in new chants free and strong.

And we've heard the Harp of Robert
And the strings he strummed to life:
Tales of the long, hard journey
That's full of grief and strife,
Strong songs of that long surrender
Of which this world is rife.

But some songs had no singing,
Great yarns left unspun, untold.
For the young bard made his choices
As his few seasons rolled,
Took up a harp of iron grim,
Denying one of gold.

How many tales? No telling.
New trails you might have trod?
How many more, young Robert --
Too soon beneath the sod --
If you had heeded Alfred's words
And followed them to God?



The White Horse of Uffington. It is said to be about 3000 years old
and would have been nearly 2000 years old when Alfred fought against
the Danes under Guthrum in 871 A.D.

G. K. Chesterton's
The Ballad Of The White Horse
Book III -- "The Harp Of Alfred"
(Note: This text is in the public domain.)

In a tree that yawned and twisted
The King's few goods were flung,
A mass-book mildewed, line by line,
And weapons and a skin of wine,
And an old harp unstrung.
 
By the yawning tree in the twilight
The King unbound his sword,
Severed the harp of all his goods,
And there in the cool and soundless woods
Sounded a single chord.
 
Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
The sullen flies in swarm,
And went unarmed over the hills,
With the harp upon his arm,

Until he came to the White Horse Vale
And saw across the plains,
In the twilight high and far and fell,
Like the fiery terraces of hell,
The camp fires of the Danes--
 
The fires of the Great Army
That was made of iron men,
Whose lights of sacrilege and scorn
Ran around England red as morn,
Fires over Glastonbury Thorn--
Fires out on Ely Fen.
 
And as he went by White Horse Vale
He saw lie wan and wide
The old horse graven, God knows when,
By gods or beasts or what things then
Walked a new world instead of men
And scrawled on the hill-side.
 
And when he came to White Horse Down
The great White Horse was grey,
For it was ill scoured of the weed,
And lichen and thorn could crawl and feed,
Since the foes of settled house and creed
Had swept old works away.
 
King Alfred gazed all sorrowful
At thistle and mosses grey,
Then laughed; and watched the finches flash,
Till a rally of Danes with shield and bill
Rolled drunk over the dome of the hill,
And, hearing of his harp and skill,
They dragged him to their play.
 
And as they went through the high green grass
They roared like the great green sea;
But when they came to the red camp fire
They were silent suddenly.
 
And as they went up the wastes away
They went reeling to and fro;
But when they came to the red camp fire
They stood all in a row.
 
For golden in the firelight,
With a smile carved on his lips,
And a beard curled right cunningly,
Was Guthrum of the Northern Sea,
The emperor of the ships--
 
With three great earls King Guthrum
Went the rounds from fire to fire,
With Harold, nephew of the King,
And Ogier of the Stone and Sling,
And Elf, whose gold lute had a string
That sighed like all desire.
 
The Earls of the Great Army
That no men born could tire,
Whose flames anear him or aloof
Took hold of towers or walls of proof,
Fire over Glastonbury roof
And out on Ely, fire.
 
And Guthrum heard the soldiers' tale
And bade the stranger play;
Not harshly, but as one on high,
On a marble pillar in the sky,
Who sees all folk that live and die--
Pigmy and far away.
 
And Alfred, King of Wessex,
Looked on his conqueror--
And his hands hardened; but he played,
And leaving all later hates unsaid,
He sang of some old British raid
On the wild west march of yore.
 
He sang of war in the warm wet shires,
Where rain nor fruitage fails,
Where England of the motley states
Deepens like a garden to the gates
In the purple walls of Wales.
 
He sang of the seas of savage heads
And the seas and seas of spears,
Boiling all over Offa's Dyke,
What time a Wessex club could strike
The kings of the mountaineers.
 
Till Harold laughed and snatched the harp,
The kinsman of the King,
A big youth, beardless like a child,
Whom the new wine of war sent wild,
Smote, and began to sing--
 
And he cried of the ships as eagles
That circle fiercely and fly,
And sweep the seas and strike the towns
From Cyprus round to Skye.
 
How swiftly and with peril
They gather all good things,
The high horns of the forest beasts,
Or the secret stones of kings.
 
"For Rome was given to rule the world,
And gat of it little joy--
But we, but we shall enjoy the world,
The whole huge world a toy.
 
"Great wine like blood from Burgundy,
Cloaks like the clouds from Tyre,
And marble like solid moonlight,
And gold like frozen fire.
 
"Smells that a man might swill in a cup,
Stones that a man might eat,
And the great smooth women like ivory
That the Turks sell in the street."
 
He sang the song of the thief of the world,
And the gods that love the thief;
And he yelled aloud at the cloister-yards,
Where men go gathering grief.
 
"Well have you sung, O stranger,
Of death on the dyke in Wales,
Your chief was a bracelet-giver;
But the red unbroken river
Of a race runs not for ever,
But suddenly it fails.
 
"Doubtless your sires were sword-swingers
When they waded fresh from foam,
Before they were turned to women
By the god of the nails from Rome;
 
"But since you bent to the shaven men,
Who neither lust nor smite,
Thunder of Thor, we hunt you
A hare on the mountain height."
 
King Guthrum smiled a little,
And said, "It is enough,
Nephew, let Elf retune the string;
A boy must needs like bellowing,
But the old ears of a careful king
Are glad of songs less rough."
 
Blue-eyed was Elf the minstrel,
With womanish hair and ring,
Yet heavy was his hand on sword,
Though light upon the string.
 
And as he stirred the strings of the harp
To notes but four or five,
The heart of each man moved in him
Like a babe buried alive.
 
And they felt the land of the folk-songs
Spread southward of the Dane,
And they heard the good Rhine flowing
In the heart of all Allemagne.
 
They felt the land of the folk-songs,
Where the gifts hang on the tree,
Where the girls give ale at morning
And the tears come easily.
 
The mighty people, womanlike,
That have pleasure in their pain
As he sang of Balder beautiful,
Whom the heavens loved in vain.
 
As he sang of Balder beautiful,
Whom the heavens could not save,
Till the world was like a sea of tears
And every soul a wave.
 
"There is always a thing forgotten
When all the world goes well;
A thing forgotten, as long ago,
When the gods forgot the mistletoe,
And soundless as an arrow of snow
The arrow of anguish fell.
 
"The thing on the blind side of the heart,
On the wrong side of the door,
The green plant groweth, menacing
Almighty lovers in the spring;
There is always a forgotten thing,
And love is not secure."
 
And all that sat by the fire were sad,
Save Ogier, who was stern,
And his eyes hardened, even to stones,
As he took the harp in turn;
 
Earl Ogier of the Stone and Sling
Was odd to ear and sight,
Old he was, but his locks were red,
And jests were all the words he said
Yet he was sad at board and bed
And savage in the fight.
 
"You sing of the young gods easily
In the days when you are young;
But I go smelling yew and sods,
And I know there are gods behind the gods,
Gods that are best unsung.
 
"And a man grows ugly for women,
And a man grows dull with ale,
Well if he find in his soul at last
Fury, that does not fail.
 
"The wrath of the gods behind the gods
Who would rend all gods and men,
Well if the old man's heart hath still
Wheels sped of rage and roaring will,
Like cataracts to break down and kill,
Well for the old man then--
 
"While there is one tall shrine to shake,
Or one live man to rend;
For the wrath of the gods behind the gods
Who are weary to make an end.
 
"There lives one moment for a man
When the door at his shoulder shakes,
When the taut rope parts under the pull,
And the barest branch is beautiful
One moment, while it breaks.
 
"So rides my soul upon the sea
That drinks the howling ships,
Though in black jest it bows and nods
Under the moons with silver rods,
I know it is roaring at the gods,
Waiting the last eclipse.
 
"And in the last eclipse the sea
Shall stand up like a tower,
Above all moons made dark and riven,
Hold up its foaming head in heaven,
And laugh, knowing its hour.
 
"And the high ones in the happy town
Propped of the planets seven,
Shall know a new light in the mind,
A noise about them and behind,
Shall hear an awful voice, and find
Foam in the courts of heaven.
 
"And you that sit by the fire are young,
And true love waits for you;
But the king and I grow old, grow old,
And hate alone is true."
 
And Guthrum shook his head but smiled,
For he was a mighty clerk,
And had read lines in the Latin books
When all the north was dark.
 
He said, "I am older than you, Ogier;
Not all things would I rend,
For whether life be bad or good
It is best to abide the end."
 
He took the great harp wearily,
Even Guthrum of the Danes,
With wide eyes bright as the one long day
On the long polar plains.
 
For he sang of a wheel returning,
And the mire trod back to mire,
And how red hells and golden heavens
Are castles in the fire.
 
"It is good to sit where the good tales go,
To sit as our fathers sat;
But the hour shall come after his youth,
When a man shall know not tales but truth,
And his heart fail thereat.
 
"When he shall read what is written
So plain in clouds and clods,
When he shall hunger without hope
Even for evil gods.
 
"For this is a heavy matter,
And the truth is cold to tell;
Do we not know, have we not heard,
The soul is like a lost bird,
The body a broken shell.
 
"And a man hopes, being ignorant,
Till in white woods apart
He finds at last the lost bird dead:
And a man may still lift up his head
But never more his heart.
 
"There comes no noise but weeping
Out of the ancient sky,
And a tear is in the tiniest flower
Because the gods must die.
 
"The little brooks are very sweet,
Like a girl's ribbons curled,
But the great sea is bitter
That washes all the world.
 
"Strong are the Roman roses,
Or the free flowers of the heath,
But every flower, like a flower of the sea,
Smelleth with the salt of death.
 
"And the heart of the locked battle
Is the happiest place for men;
When shrieking souls as shafts go by
And many have died and all may die;
Though this word be a mystery,
Death is most distant then.
 
"Death blazes bright above the cup,
And clear above the crown;
But in that dream of battle
We seem to tread it down.
 
"Wherefore I am a great king,
And waste the world in vain,
Because man hath not other power,
Save that in dealing death for dower,
He may forget it for an hour
To remember it again."
 
And slowly his hands and thoughtfully
Fell from the lifted lyre,
And the owls moaned from the mighty trees
Till Alfred caught it to his knees
And smote it as in ire.
 
He heaved the head of the harp on high
And swept the framework barred,
And his stroke had all the rattle and spark
Of horses flying hard.
 
"When God put man in a garden
He girt him with a sword,
And sent him forth a free knight
That might betray his lord;
 
"He brake Him and betrayed Him,
And fast and far he fell,
Till you and I may stretch our necks
And burn our beards in hell.
 
"But though I lie on the floor of the world,
With the seven sins for rods,
I would rather fall with Adam
Than rise with all your gods.
 
"What have the strong gods given?
Where have the glad gods led?
When Guthrum sits on a hero's throne
And asks if he is dead?
 
"Sirs, I am but a nameless man,
A rhymester without home,
Yet since I come of the Wessex clay
And carry the cross of Rome,
 
"I will even answer the mighty earl
That asked of Wessex men
Why they be meek and monkish folk,
And bow to the White Lord's broken yoke;
What sign have we save blood and smoke?
Here is my answer then.
 
"That on you is fallen the shadow,
And not upon the Name;
That though we scatter and though we fly,
And you hang over us like the sky,
You are more tired of victory,
Than we are tired of shame.
 
"That though you hunt the Christian man
Like a hare on the hill-side,
The hare has still more heart to run
Than you have heart to ride.
 
"That though all lances split on you,
All swords be heaved in vain,
We have more lust again to lose
Than you to win again.
 
"Your lord sits high in the saddle,
A broken-hearted king,
But our king Alfred, lost from fame,
Fallen among foes or bonds of shame,
In I know not what mean trade or name,
Has still some song to sing;
 
"Our monks go robed in rain and snow,
But the heart of flame therein,
But you go clothed in feasts and flames,
When all is ice within;
 
"Nor shall all iron dooms make dumb
Men wondering ceaselessly,
If it be not better to fast for joy
Than feast for misery.
 
"Nor monkish order only
Slides down, as field to fen,
All things achieved and chosen pass,
As the White Horse fades in the grass,
No work of Christian men.
 
"Ere the sad gods that made your gods
Saw their sad sunrise pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale,
That you have left to darken and fail,
Was cut out of the grass.
 
"Therefore your end is on you,
Is on you and your kings,
Not for a fire in Ely fen,
Not that your gods are nine or ten,
But because it is only Christian men
Guard even heathen things.
 
"For our God hath blessed creation,
Calling it good. I know
What spirit with whom you blindly band
Hath blessed destruction with his hand;
Yet by God's death the stars shall stand
And the small apples grow."
 
And the King, with harp on shoulder,
Stood up and ceased his song;
And the owls moaned from the mighty trees,
And the Danes laughed loud and long.