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One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:

Thrust out past service from the Devil's stud!


Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,

With that red gaunt and colloped neck a-strain,

And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane; Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe; I never saw a brute I hated so;

He must be wicked to deserve such pain.


I shut my eyes and turned them on my heart.

As a man calls for wine before he fights,

I asked one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards the soldier's art:

One taste of the old time sets all to rights.


Not it! I fancied Cuthbert's reddening face

Beneath its garniture of curly gold,

Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he used. Alas, one night's disgrace!

Out went my heart's new fire and left it cold.


Giles then, the soul of honor—there he stands

Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.

What honest man should dare (he said), he durst. Good-but the scene shifts-faugh! what hangman hands Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands

Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst !


Better this present than a past like that;

Back therefore to my darkening path again!

No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.
Will the night send a howlet or a bat?
I asked: when something on the dismal flat

Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.


A sudden little river crossed my path

As unexpected as a serpent comes.

No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms; This, as it frothed by, might have been a bath For the fiend's glowing hoof—to see the wrath

Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.

So petty yet so spiteful! All along,

Low scrubby alders kneeled down over it;

Drenched willows flung them headlong in a fit Of mute despair, a suicidal throng: The river which had done them all the wrong,

Whate'er that was, rolled by, deterred no whit.


Which, while I forded,—good saints, how I feared

To set my foot upon a dead man's cheek,

Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard !
-It may have been a water-rat I speared,

But, ugh! it sounded like a baby's shriek.

Glad was I when I reached the other bank.

Now for a better country. Vain presage !
Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage

Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank
Soil to a plash ? Toads in a poisoned tank,

Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage


The fight must so have seemed in that fell cirque.

What penned them there, with all the plain to choose ?

No footprint leading to that horrid mews,
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk

Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.


And more than that—a furlong on—why, there !

What bad use was that engine for that wheel,

Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel
Men's bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet's tool, on earth left unaware,

Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.


Then came a bit of stubbed ground, once a wood,

Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth

Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth, Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood Changes and off he goes !); within a rood

Bog, clay, and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.


Now blotches rankling, colored gay and grim,

Now patches where some leanness of the soil's

Broke into moss or substances like boils; Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim

Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.

And just as far as ever from the end :

Naught in the distance but the evening, naught

To point my footstep further! At the thought A great black bird, Apollyon's bosom friend, Sailed past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penned

That brushed my cap-perchance the guide I sought.

For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,

'Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place

All round to mountains—with such name to grace Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view. How thus they had surprised me,-solve it, you !

How to get from them was no clearer case.


Yet half I seemed to recognize some trick

Of mischief happened to me, God knows when

In a bad dream, perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click

As when a trap shuts—you're inside the den.


Burningly it came on me all at once,

This was the place! those two hills on the right

Crouched like two bulls locked horn in horn in fight; While to the left a tall scalped mountain . . . Dunce, Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,

After a life spent training for the sight!

What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?

The round, squat turret, blind as the fool's heart,
Built of brown stone, without a counterpart

In the whole world. The tempest's mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf

He strikes on, only when the timbers start.

Not see? because of night, perhaps ?-why, day

Came back again for that! before it left,

The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,-

“ Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!”


Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it tolled

Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears

Of all the lost adventurers my peers,-
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old

Lost, lost ! one moment knelled the woe of years.

There they stood, ranged along the hillsides, met

To view the last of me, a living frame

For one more picture! In a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,

And blew “ Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."




I was the chief of the race he had stricken my father deadBut I gather'd my fellows together, I swore I would strike

off his head.

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