Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MARTYRS TO THE MAN, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

MARTYRS TO THE MAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Innocent thought, romantic dream, and happy, unsuspicious love
Last Line: Forth from their gate he strode where fate made straight the road.
Subject(s): Innocence; Death; Dead, The


Innocent thought, romantic dream, and happy, unsuspicious love,
Three comrades of my youth,
Three sons of shining Truth;
Mine eyes beheld them hand in hand treading a flowered meadow-land,
Singing renown and fame and the town toward which they came.

In azure tunic, golden mail, and a robe that bore a burning heart,
They footed through the daisies,
Singing their Father's praises,
Till high above them dark of frown arose the wall of the Iron Town.
Ah, then they glowed elate, and strode beneath the gate.

But scarcely had they laughed along to linger in the market square
When folk from stalls and booths
Beset the shining youths.
They haled them where a pillar stood black with smoke and red with blood.
There, for no guilt, they bound them, and built the fagots round them.

And now I saw my martyred boys with lips aghast and frozen eyes,
Through flames of writhing fire
Staring across their pyre,
While burghers of the Iron Town danced all like mountebank and clown,
By smoke made scant of breath, to chant the fortunate death

Of innocent thought, romantic dream, and happy, unsuspicious love,
As, lapped in fiery light,
They shrivelled from my sight,
And dark, flame-litten figures whirled around the ruin of my world.
For, now these three were sped, in me my youth lay dead.

Yet, thinning as the smoke dispersed, the heavy ashes of the pyre
Heaved, and two armored hands
Scattered the smoldering brands.
Then, from the sacrificial heap, I saw a stalwart figure leap,
And secret dawn and wise shone in his steady eyes.

His corselet bore a blazing star set in a murky midnight sky.
His either hand displayed
A lantern and a blade.
One holds the guarded flame of Doubt no wind from heaven may quite blow out.
One points to turn the blow of stern Despair, the foe.

The burghers of the Iron Town broke up their dance to hear his cry:
"Here a Man's soul stands tried,
Where Youth hath darkly died.
I bear the heavy helm of years, who once knew neither wounds nor fears, --
And comic-tragic arms, where magic glowed the charms

"Of innocent thought, romantic dream, and happy, unsuspicious love!
But these my feres be dead.
I bear their hopes instead."
Then, striding through the crowd, askance the eyes of all refused his glance.
Forth from their gate he strode where Fate made straight the road.





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