Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, AN EMISSARY TO HEAVEN, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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AN EMISSARY TO HEAVEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Gray snow adrift whirled down the wind
Last Line: Dawn -- and our errand sped!
Subject(s): Heaven; Paradise


Gray snow adrift whirled down the wind,
The smothered highways left behind,
And scattered lights from hamlets far
Waned, dimmed, and died. A single star
Pierced the eternity of night;
Amain I rode and sang!
While, from high heaven beyond my sight,
"God speed, God speed thee to the light!"
The seraph broadswords rang.

One in black rides on the left,
One in gray behind,
One in red storm-blown ahead,
And on the right rides one bereft
Of cloak or blade, the scornful wind
Scourges his naked head!

The wind held phantom voices shrill,
Held voices that were never still;
And down the cruel night's keen scorn
Shapes fled me, with a shroud forlorn --
The black shroud that they wove for me! --
Yet on I rode and sang.
And from dark heaven dreadfully,
"Three, three there be are false to thee!"
The seraph broadswords rang.

One in black has whispered, "Fail!"
One in gray, "Turn back!"
One in red a word of dread;
But, at right hand, "Thou canst not quail!
What though thy soul is on the rack --
Hearths are to guard!" one said.

The cold gave bitter draughts to slake
My burning thirst for haste and wake
Hot hidden wounds; where hope had been
The cold thrust barb and javelin
'Twixt plate and plate of my weak mail;
Yet still I rode and sang!
And, wilder o'er the towering gale,
"Prevail, prevail -- wilt thou prevail?"
The seraph broadswords rang.

One in black has twitched my cloak,
One in gray whined low,
One in red -- "Misled! Misled!"
But, at right hand, a low voice spoke,
"Warden of souls -- they named thee so --
Art thou then vanquished?"

Wrestled night's passions for my heart.
The fearful powers of night upstart
Panting to throttle will and soul.
"A bitter toll, a bitter toll!
A dark grave and a winding sheet!"
Yet still I rode and sang.
And, clashing over storm and sleet,
"Defeat, defeat -- canst brave defeat?"
The seraph broadswords rang.

One in black my throat has grasped,
One in gray mine arm,
One in red has flashed a blade;
But, at right hand, "No fear!" one gasped.
"I succour thee!" (My heart beat warm.)
"Ride on, ride on!" he said.

Then sullenly the bitter night
Dimmed grayly, and a welcome light
Of morning and mine errand's end
Ran to me, clasped me, called me friend.
The gate, the great gate swung aside,
And in I rode and sang,
While round me 'bout in flashing tide,
"To thee all hail for thy good ride!"
The seraph broadswords rang.

Black Despair we thrust him through,
Slew gray Half-faith with scorn.
Fear in red, we left for dead.
Through storm, wild dark, and peril too
My Trust had won us, scourged and torn,
Dawn -- and our errand sped!





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