Dives In Torment

written by

« Reload image

(Latter Half)

THIS was my failure, who thought that the feast
Rivalled the rapture of bird on the wing;
Rivalled the lily all robed like a priest;
Smoke of the pollen when Rose-censers swing.

This was my folly, who gave for a gown–
Purple and gold, and a bracelet and rings,
Shouts in the streets as I rode through the town–
Life in the love of the kinship of things.

Lazarus, Lazarus, this is my thirst,
Fever from flame of the love I have missed;
Ache of the heart for the friends I have cursed;
Longing for lips that I never have kissed!

Hell is for him who hath never found God
Hid in the bramble that burns by the way;
Findeth Him not in the stone and the clod;
Heareth Him not at the cool of the day.

Hell is for him who hath never found Man.
God and my Brother, I failing to find,
Failed to find me; so my days were a span
Void of the triumph of Spirit and Mind.

Once, I recall, at the table I leaned
Back on the breast of Pomona, my slave,
Saw through the window, with lattice-work screened,
Thee in thy rags, and I laughed! then grew grave:

Up the white street came a Man with a face
Sad with the woe and the pain of the world;
Moving with kingliness, ease, and a grace;
Crowned with wine-coloured hair wavy and curled

Over broad shoulders, so broad that I vowed
Here was Messias–the Samson–the King!
Leaped from the table and joined with the crowd;
Offered my purple, my bracelet, my ring!

Then through the clamour and dust of the street
Words of rebuke were directed to me:
'Lift thou up Lazarus; give him a seat
High among all who are feasting with thee.'

Lift up the beggar! I laughed at Him there–
'Thou and Thy tattered ones take to the street–
I to the palace . . Begone! . . And beware!
Caiaphas comes, and the Sanhedrin meet!

'Go! or I hale Thee to judgment of them;
Go! or Thy God shall avail Thee in vain;
Thou art of Japheth, and I am of Shem,
Lazarus, outcast and cursèd with Cain!

'Needs must there be a division of men;
Hewer of wood is the Gibeonite,
Cutter of stone in the quarries, and then
Slave to the Covenant-Israelite.'

'Nay, all are equal and loved of the Lord,'
Whispered the Stranger. The listening street
Filled with the murmur of those who adored,
Hushed at the sound of His voice that was sweet,

Stirring my heart as a harp in the hail,
Silent for ages, is stirred by the wind
Breathed through the arras; and memories call
Over the summits of spirit and mind.

Yea, for a moment I struggled with Love;
Yearned to embrace thee and pour on thy hair
Oil of anointing, and place thee above
All of the guests who were gathering there–

There in my palace of pleasure and ease,
Builded by Herod, and bought with my gold,
Portaled and curtained with soft tapestries
Woven at looms of the Orient, sold

Down in Damascus. A palm in the sands,
That was my palace; a palm with a soul
Breathing of beauty when each leaf expands
Out to the desert which brims like a bowl–

Brims like a bowl of Falernian wine
Turned to the sun! O my palace and hall!
O sound of the psaltery under the vine
Grown in the garden! O footsteps that fall

Soft as the leaves in a pomegranate grove,
Soft on the pavement of beryl and pearl
Under the moon when my Miriam strove,
Laughing, to dance down the Syrian girl!

These thrust between my compassion and thee–
Beauty that mocked like a maid from her bower–
Beauty that looked through the lattice at me;
Sighed: 'I have tarried, my Love, for this hour!'

Then to the palace all flaming I went,
Flaming with love for Pomona, my pride.
Back like a bow her dear body I bent,
Kissed her and placed her in joy at my side;

Crowned her with myrtle, proclaimed her a queen;
Drank to her eyes and her lips and her hair;
Clasped on her throat of an ivory sheen
Gems of an order kings only might wear.

Oh, how she sparkled and gleamed like a sword!
Oh, how the cymbals and tabours did sound!
Oh, My Pomona, my loved and adored–
Dust of the body is dust of the ground!

. . . . .

For I forgot Him, and bought with my gold
Houses and lands. Yea, I sought far and wide
Pleasure and ease. Then one day I was old.
Darkness came over the noon . . . and I died!

Dead and companioned in pomp to the grave!
Dead and forgotten in less than a day
Save by Pomona, my mistress and slave
Sold unto Herod! . . Oh, she had a way,

Turn of the head and glance of the eye!
Touch of the hand and a fall of the feet!
Voice that was coo of the dove and a cry
Heard in the night when the seraphim meet!

Sometimes I fancy Gehenna's abyss
Gleams with a light that is love; and I feel
Lips on my lips in the tenderest kiss,
Making hell heaven: as though the appeal

Sent from my soul to Pomona had gained
Heart and the whole of her throned on a star,
Where for an æon of bliss she hath reigned
Lonely for Dives so lost and afar!

Lazarus! Nearer! The light on thy face
Shines through the dark! Oh, what glory is thine!
Nay, not too near lest thou see my disgrace
Naked! behold bruised the image divine!

Lazarus! Pity! Pursue not my soul
Down the last gulf! I am fearful of thee–
Not of Jehovah, Whose thunders may roll
Over my head–Have thou pity on me!

This have I learned in the torment of hell:
Man is the judge of the soul that hath sin;
Man must raise man from the depths where he fell,
Hurled by the hand of his passion. Begin,

Lazarus, Lord of the Light and the dark;
Stand on the cloud that hath bridged the abyss,
Judging my cause; for my spirit is stark
Under thy glance in abandon of bliss!

Yea, there is joy in the judgment; a peace
I have not known in an æon of pain;
Joy in the thought that thy love will not cease
Till it hath cleansed all my spirit from stain.

Therefore I hail thee, O Lazarus! cry:
'Hail to the love that restoreth the years
The locusts have eaten! Search me and try
Thought of my heart and tale of my tears!'

Try me and prove me; for I am undone,
Conquered by love of a love that hath sought
Me unto hell! Thou hast triumphed and won,
Lazarus, who for my spirit hath fought.

Yield I the trophies of battle; lay down
All of the pride and the hatred of heart;
Weeping I give thee my sceptre and crown;
Nothing I claim; not a tithe, not a part!

. . . . .

Lazarus, art thou the same that I saw
Begging for crumbs? Thou hast changed, thou hast changed!
Through what dominions of wonder and awe,
Beauty and joy, hast thou ranged, hast thou ranged?

Kingly and glorious, mantled with flame,
Lo! in thyself the Messias I see.
Lazarus, thou and the Christ art the same,
Thou art the Christ and the Master of me–

Thou art Messias! . . . . And this Paradise! . . .
There is Pomona! . . . . There Mother who gave
Breast to her babe! . . . . From Gehenna I rise
Cleansed by a love that is mighty to save!

Light, and the sound of a song that is love!
Light, and the freedom of spirit to soar!
Light, and Messias enthronèd above
High where the seraphim bow and adore!

© Robert Norwood