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A name of the Year. Some say the word means a march of wolves,
which wolves, running in single file, are the Months of the Year.
Others say the word means the path of the light.

O ye months of the year,
Are ye a march of wolves?
Lycabas! Lycabas! twelve to growl and slay?
Men hearken at night, and lie in fear,
Some men hearken all day!

Lycabas, verily thou art a gallop of wolves,
Gaunt gray wolves, gray months of the year, hunting in twelves,
Running and howling, head to tail,
In a single file, over the snow,
A long low gliding of silent horror and fear!
On and on, ghastly and drear,
Not a head turning, not a foot swerving, ye go,
Twelve making only a one-wolf track!
Onward ye howl, and behind we wail;
Wail behind your narrow and slack
Wallowing line, and moan and weep,
As ye draw it on, straight and deep,
Thorough the night so swart!
Behind you a desert, and eyes a-weary,
A long, bare highway, stony and dreary,
A hungry soul, and a wolf-cub wrapt,
A live wolf-cub, sharp-toothed, steel-chapt,
In the garment next the heart!

One of them hurt me sore!
Two of them hurt and tore!
Three of them made me bleed!
The fourth did a terrible deed,
Rent me the worst of the four!
Rent me, and shook me, and tore,
And ran away with a growl!
Lycabas, if I feared you a jot,
You, and your devils running in twelves,
Black-mouthed, hell-throated, straight-going wolves,
I would run like a wolf, I too, and howl!
I live, and I fear you not.

But shall I not hate you, low-galloping wolves
Hunting in ceaseless twelves?
Ye have hunted away my lambs!
Ye ran at them open-mouthed,
And your mouths were gleamy-toothed,
And their whiteness with red foam frothed,
And your throats were a purple-black gulf:
My lambs they fled, and they came not back!
Lovely white lambs they were, alack!
They fled afar and they left a track
Which at night, when the lone sky clears,
Glistens with Nature's tears!
Many a shepherd scarce thinks of a lamb
But he hears behind it the growl of a wolf,
And behind that the wail of its dam!

They ran, nor cried, but fled
From day's sweet pasture, from night's soft bed:
Ah me, the look in their eyes!
For behind them rushed the swallowing gulf,
The maw of the growl-throated wolf,
And they fled as the thing that speeds or dies:
They looked not behind,
But fled as over the grass the wind.

Oh my lambs, I would drop away
Into a night that never saw day
That so in your dear hearts you might say,
"All is well for ever and aye!"
Yet it was well to hurry away,
To hurry from me, your shepherd gray:
I had no sword to bite and slay,
And the wolfy Months were on your track!
It was well to start from work and play,
It was well to hurry from me away-
But why not once look back?

The wolves came panting down the lea-
What was left you but somewhere flee!
Ye saw the Shepherd that never grows old,
Ye saw the great Shepherd, and him ye knew,
And the wolves never once came near to you;
For he saw you coming, threw down his crook,
Ran, and his arms about you threw;
He gathered you into his garment's fold,
He kneeled, he gathered, he lifted you,
And his bosom and arms were full of you.
He has taken you home to his stronghold:
Out of the castle of Love ye look;
The castle of Love is now your home,
From the garden of Love you will never roam,
And the wolves no more shall flutter you.

Lycabas! Lycabas!
For all your hunting and howling and cries,
Your yelling of woe! and alas!
For all your thin tongues and your fiery eyes,
Your questing thorough the windy grass,
Your gurgling gnar, and your horrent hair,
And your white teeth that will not spare-
Wolves, I fear you never a jot,
Though you come at me with your mouths red-hot,
Eyes of fury, and teeth that foam:
Ye can do nothing but drive me home!
Wolves, wolves, you will lie one day-
Ye are lying even now, this very day,
Wolves in twelves, gaunt and gray,
At the feet of the Shepherd that leads the dams,
At the feet of the Shepherd that carries the lambs!

And now that I see you with my mind's eye,
What are you indeed? my mind revolves.
Are you, are you verily wolves?
I saw you only through twilight dark,
Through rain and wind, and ill could mark!
Now I come near-are you verily wolves?
Ye have torn, but I never saw you slay!
Me ye have torn, but I live to-day,
Live, and hope to live ever and aye!
Closer still let me look at you!-
Black are your mouths, but your eyes are true!-
Now, now I know you!-the Shepherd's sheep-dogs!
Friends of us sheep on the moors and bogs,
Lost so often in swamps and fogs!
Dear creatures, forgive me; I did you wrong;
You to the castle of Love belong:
Forgive the sore heart that made sharp the tongue!
Your swift-flying feet the Shepherd sends
To gather the lambs, his little friends,
And draw the sheep after for rich amends!
Sharp are your teeth, my wolves divine,
But loves and no hates in your deep eyes shine!
No more will I call you evil names,
No more assail you with untrue blames!
Wake me with howling, check me with biting,
Rouse up my strength for the holy fighting:
Hunt me still back, nor let me stray
Out of the infinite narrow way,
The radiant march of the Lord of Light
Home to the Father of Love and Might,
Where each puts Thou in the place of I,
And Love is the Law of Liberty.

© George MacDonald