The Folk

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It is the coming of the night:they gather to their homes; they lightthe scanty flame, and draw the chaircloser, and warmth enchants their care.

Another day is dead and theyhave lived it not: such price they paydaily, to fend the hunger-dread,that death may find them in safe bed.

Pale wretches! yet this hour at leastthey spend, when yon dark hive releas'd,in dreams that soar beyond the nightand cheer the heart to front the light:

for lo: each steadfast window-fire:would you not say, tho' stars may tireand the heavens age, man yet maintainshis watchfires o'er the homeless plains:

close worlds of love and hope that glowmore golden-soft, for that they knowthat one undying fire in allburns, and the march harks to one call.

--Nay, the poor hearts of dust are proud:O wonderful! our might allow'dof God: and lo! His empire come:and night is vast above them, dumb.

They hunger? give them men to slay:they lack for light and air? then roomis free, yonder, and chance of playwhere the hill-scarring cannons boom.

The house is rotting? flags will mask,and trophies best, where damps intrude:lift lights and song, and none will ask(being fools) if this be to their good.

And they who fall will vex us not,and those who stay shall feed full mealof glory: while their pride is hotno need to whistle them to heel.

These be your gods, O Israel!--And who am I to blame their law?--Nay, an they will not learn, 'tis wellthat fools should chew the husks and straw.

--Not this, not this my word to you!O you, to whom our hope is boundand love, whoever brood anew,each age, on the dread lot you found,

Seeing you, in the dark of timeforever that dumb battlefield,piteous, ignored, trampled, sublime,where God and Night struggle nor yield

till there be won that glorious birththat weds them, slain, embraced, and fusedin man, the arisen soul of Earth--how many a time have ye refused!

Was this your faith to them whose trusturged within your flesh, your bone,compulsive, moulding--which ye mustobey, or madden, all unknown--

to them that in the rearward darkbow'd them above the clod and fedthe brooding earth with dream, with starksweat, and with sorrow of their dead;

and laid them in her lap, contentto pass, if so her sacred mornmight show some time the grave-clothes rentaround the Saviour, Easter-born!

and that high sorrow of the stars,long-sunder'd, suff'ring, shall it helpnothing against the hate that mars?and this, your street-long bloodhound-yelp,

shall this be all the note our earthsends outward to the night, to greether sisters, bound in mutual dearth?Is Eden nought but the loud street?

© Christopher John Brennan