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First Line: Lithe and listen, gentlemen


Lithe and listen, gentlemen:
Other knight of sword or pen
Shall not, while the planets shine,
Spend a holiday like mine:-


Fate and I, we played at dice:
Thrice I won and lost the main;
Thrice I died the death, and thrice
By my will I lived again.


First, a woman broke my heart,
As a careless woman can,
Ere the aureoles depart
From the woman and the man.


Dead of love, I found a tomb
Anywhere: beneath, above,
Worms nor stars transpierced the gloom
Of the sepulchre of love.


Wine-cups were the charnel-lights;
Festal songs, the funeral dole;
Joyful ladies, gallant knights,
Comrades of my buried soul.


Tired to death of lying dead
In a common sepulchre,
On an Easter morn I sped
Upward where the world's astir.


Soon I gathered wealth and friends;
Donned the livery of the hour;
And atoning diverse ends
Bridged the gulf to place and power.


All the brilliances of Hell
Crushed by me, with honeyed breath
Fawned upon me till I fell,
By pretenders done to death.


Buried in an outland tract,
Long I rotted in the mould,
Though the virgin woodland lacked
Nothing of the age of gold.


Roses spiced the dews and damps
Nightly falling of decay;
Dawn and sunset lit the lamps
Where entombed I deeply lay.


My Companions of the Grave
Were the flowers, the growing grass;
Larks intoned a morning stave;
Nightingales, a midnight mass.


But at me, effete and dead,
Did my spirit gibe and scoff:
Then the gravecloth from my head,
And my shroud-I shook them off!


Drawing strength and subtle craft
Out of ruin's husk and core,
Through the earth I ran a shaft
Upward to the light once more.


Soon I made me wealth and friends;
Donned the livery of the age;
And atoning many ends
Reigned as sovereign, priest, and mage.


But my pomp and towering state,
Puissance and supreme device
Crumbled on the cast of Fate-
Fate, that plays with loaded dice.


I whose arms had harried Hell
Naked faced a heavenly host:
Carved with countless wounds I fell,
Sadly yielding up the ghost.


In a burning mountain thrown
(Titans such a tomb attain)
Many a grisly age had flown
Ere I rose and lived again.


Parched and charred I lay; my cries
Shook and rent the mountain-side;
Lustres, decades, centuries
Fled while daily there I died.


But my essence and intent
Ripened in the smelting fire:
Flame became my element;
Agony, my soul's desire.


Twenty centuries of Pain,
Mightier than Love or Art,
Woke the meaning in my brain
And the purpose of my heart.


Straightway then aloft I swam
Through the mountain's sulphurous sty:
Not eternal death could damn
Such a hardy soul as I.


From the mountain's burning crest
Like a god I come again,
And with an immortal zest
Challenge Fate to throw the main.






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