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IV 



There is no chapel on the day

  On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,

  Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes

  Which none should look upon.


So they kept us close till nigh on noon,

  And then they rang the bell,
And the warders with their jingling keys

  Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,

  Each from his separate Hell.


Out into God's sweet air we went,

  But not in wonted way,
For this man's face was white with fear,

  And that man's face was gray,
And I never saw sad men who looked

  So wistfully at the day.


I never saw sad men who looked

  With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue

  We prisoners called the sky,
And at every happy cloud that passed

  In such strange freedom by.


But there were those amongst us all

  Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,

  They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived,

  Whilst they had killed the dead.


For he who sins a second time

  Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud

  And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,

  And makes it bleed in vain!


Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb

  With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round

  The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,

  And no man spoke a word.


Silently we went round and round,

  And through each hollow mind
The Memory of dreadful things

  Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,

  And Terror crept behind.


The warders strutted up and down,

  And watched their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were spick and span,

  And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at,

  By the quicklime on their boots.


For where a grave had opened wide,

  There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand

  By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,

  That the man should have his pall.


For he has a pall, this wretched man,

  Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,

  Naked, for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,

  Wrapt in a sheet of flame!


And all the while the burning lime

  Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bones by night,

  And the soft flesh by day,
It eats the flesh and bone by turns,

  But it eats the heart alway.


For three long years they will not sow

  Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot

  Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky

  With unreproachful stare.


They think a murderer's heart would taint

  Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God's kindly earth

  Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but glow more red,

  The white rose whiter blow.


Out of his mouth a red, red rose!

  Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,

  Christ brings His will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore

  Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?


But neither milk-white rose nor red

  May bloom in prison air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,

  Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal

  A common man's despair.


So never will wine-red rose or white,

  Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies

  By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who tramp the yard

  That God's Son died for all.


Yet though the hideous prison-wall

  Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit may not walk by night

  That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may but weep that lies

  In such unholy ground,


He is at peace- this wretched man-

  At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,

  Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies

  Has neither Sun nor Moon.


They hanged him as a beast is hanged:

  They did not even toll
A requiem that might have brought

  Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,

  And hid him in a hole.


The warders stripped him of his clothes,

  And gave him to the flies:
They mocked the swollen purple throat,

  And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud

  In which the convict lies.


The Chaplain would not kneel to pray

  By his dishonoured grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross

  That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those

  Whom Christ came down to save.


Yet all is well; he has but passed

  To  Life's appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him

  Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners be outcast men,

  And outcasts always mourn.

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