Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, KING EDWIN'S FEAST, by JOHN WHITE CHADWICK



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KING EDWIN'S FEAST, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There was feasting in the hall
Last Line: "would to god that we might know!"
Subject(s): Future Life; Retribution; Eternity; After Life


THERE was feasting in the hall
And the beards wagged all.
Oh! the board was heaped with food,
And the ale was like a flood,
And 't was bitter winter weather
When King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes
Were a-feasting thus together.

As the board was heaped with food,
So the hearth was piled with wood;
Ay, with oaken logs a score;
And the flames did leap and roar.
And they cast a ruddy glow
On King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes
As they feasted in a row.

All at once they were aware
Of a flutter in the air,
As a little sparrow came
In between them and the flame,
Then a moment flew around,
While King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes
Wondered whither he was bound.

Then he vanished through the door,
And they never saw him more;
But up spoke a noble Thane,
As a silence seemed to reign,
And a wonder seemed to fall
On King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes
As they feasted in the hall:

"What is all this life of ours,
With its graces and its powers?
It is like the bird that came
In between us and the flame,
Stayed a moment in the room
With King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes,
Then was off into the gloom.

"So we come out of the night,
Stay a moment in the light
Of a warm and pleasant room,
Then go forth into the gloom;
Hither somehow tempest-tost,
O King Edwin! and you, Eldormen and Thanes,
Then again in darkness lost."

Then another silence fell
And the first who broke the spell
Was Paulinius, the Christian, and he said,
Bowing low a reverent head
That was white with many years,
To King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes,
And his words were dim with tears:

"Oh! not merely tempest-tost,
Not again in darkness lost,
Is the little bird that came
In between us and the flame;
For the bird will find his nest.
So, King Edwin, and you, Eldormen and Thanes,
Be not your hearts distressed.

"Not from darkness comes the soul,
Nor shall darkness be its goal.
For that, too, there is a nest,
Whither flying it shall rest
Evermore. It must be so."
Said King Edwin and his Eldormen and Thanes:
"Would to God that we might know!"





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