Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A CUP OF WATER, by CHARLES WILLIAMS



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A CUP OF WATER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When you awoke in the night and asked for water
Last Line: A cup of water,—and sleep came down on the sight.
Subject(s): Death; Peace; Rest; Dead, The


WHEN you awoke in the night and asked for water,
Drank, and gave me the glass, and to sleep returned,
Little you knew, O Christendom's fairest daughter!
On whose errand I ran, whose smile I earned.

Wakeful long had I lain while round about me
Whistled the winds of the world with all their wrongs;
Cold were the skies within and the skies without me
Cold, and my brain sighed over its dying songs.

Flat was the earth, and westward was Ireland with burning
Homes and America farther with burning men,
And out to the east were marching hosts returning
From a dream of peace to smite each other again.

Through twisted ends of the world, in Korean cities,
Serpents of Tyranny coiled with poisonous breaths,
And hard at home with the snow over frozen Pities
Spun loud and louder the dance of fantastical Deaths.

And over the plain I looked on my Mother riding,
Christendom, mighty and lovely, with naked blade,
Nation from nation and heart from heart dividing,
Mocking with bitter words at her sons afraid.

High she rode, and beyond her, stripped of possession,
Sages and heroes and prophets, a line of flame
Beating the world, and all who made her their profession,
As Freedom, as Peace, or in any defeated name.

But I—poor wretch!—sought vainly around for shelter,
Some hole to creep in,—too weak to ride with the strong,
Doomed to be trampled and lost in the bloody welter,
Fleeing her wrathful eyes and her mouth of song.

Then waking, you asked for water; with tender laughter
I rose and served your need, and then couched again
Expecting the storm; and lo of a sudden thereafter
Were darkness and freedom, peace and an end to pain.

Slumber was there, and Love, and an end to thinking;
Only I saw, remote and far in the night,
Our mother Christendom pausing from war and drinking
A cup of water,—and sleep came down on the sight.





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