Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A BALLAD OF ST. SEBASTIEN, by WILLIAM ALEXANDER PERCY



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A BALLAD OF ST. SEBASTIEN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Sebastien, sebastien
Last Line: O pale-eyed man, art thou the king?
Subject(s): Archers And Archery; Love; Pain; Suffering; Misery


1

Sebastien, Sebastien,
The archer of the King I be.
Strip off thine armor, strong and bright,
And naked stand against yon tree
For target to mine arrows' flight;
This is the King's command to thee.

O Archer, draw thy long grey bow,
Thine arrows loosen, wing by wing;
Naked I stand against the tree;
I am obedient to the King.

2

Sebastien, Sebastien,
I fit an arrow in my bow,
With poisoned laughter it is shod.
O naked knight, with head bent low,
Thus slaves bend down to take the rod --
I doubt if blood so meek can flow!

O marksman pale, with eyes of mist,
Close to my side I heard it sing!
And thou must choose a goodlier shaft
Than laughter levelled at my King.

3

Sebastien, Sebastien,
I choose me seven arrows old,
And never the heart of man they miss;
Two red, one green, two black, one gold,
And one soft-falling like a kiss.
Call up thy spirits, Knight, be bold!

Blood, blood, it flows! and oh, the kiss
Upon my heart of that warm thing!
Yet shoot another sheaf, for still
I am but wounded for my King!

4

Sebastien, Sebastien,
Behold a barb that takes away
The love of one thou lovest best.
The love it takes it does not slay,
But leaves it in another's breast. . . .
With tears the ancient barb is grey.

Oh, can it be the King ordains
This agony that slays the spring?
But for the years that thou wast loved,
Kneel down, O heart, and bless the King.

5

Sebastien, Sebastien,
Dost thou still turn thy pain to praise?
Wilt thou not die, though crimson-flecked?
Then take the shaft that never strays,
'Tis called "The Death of Self-Respect" --
Its song is laughter, and it slays.

There is no quarry left for death,
And I am dead without death's sting . . .
Take all, take all; Thou gavest all,
O Lord of mine, my Lord the King!

6

Sebastien, Sebastien,
What is the faith that flows and fills
Thy heart with strength, thine eyes with light
While ruby-red the life-blood spills?
Look up, look up, O dying Knight --
That faith this blunted arrow kills!

And me . . . No archer thou of His!
Back, back! This death, this suffering
Are but thy sport . . . Lift not my head! . . .
O pale-eyed man, art thou the King?





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