Saturday, October 09, 2010

I Will Rise and Go to Him

An old poem from undergraduate days. "St. Alban's" is the location where the poem was written -- St. Alban the Martyr in Oxford, if I recall correctly. Twelve years ago! It's difficult to believe. The poem's weak in parts, but salvageable, I think.

Danse Macabre

The dirty beggar on the street,
cold of hands and bare of feet,
shivering in his dark, toorn rags,
living out of well-worn bags,
saw a messenger come to him,
divinely tall and ghostly slim:
"I am a herald straight and true;
my lord King Death now calls for you."

Then thought the man, "This world is cold
and I am hungry, ill, and old.
What have I to lose in this?
What is in this pain to miss?
My lord King Death, though harsh and grim:
I will rise and go to him."

A merchant with his goods all sold,
sitting in his house of gold,
heard a knocking at the door
of the threshold to his store
and rose to answer on a whim.
And there the herald said to him:
"I am a herald straight and true:
my lord King Death now calls for you."

Then thought the trader, "How can I
leave and let this world go by?
And yet this King is strong and great;
his word is law, his hand is fate.
My lord King Death, though harsh and grim:
I will rise and go to him."

A king in mighty halls of stone
sitting on his diamond throne
heard in audience the songs
of many choirs joined in throngs.
Then came the herald, wise and tall,
who shouted before great and small:
"I am a herald, straight and true;
my lord King Death now calls for you."

"Alas, I do not wish to die,
but this king's more great than I,"
said the king of many lands,
with many waiting at his hands.
"My lord King Death, though harsh and grim:
I will rise and go to him."

Imagine now a praying man
in the halls of Lateran,
the pope himself, the praying pose,
in the secret of the close.
The messenger to him then came
and said, him greeting by his name,
"I am a herald, straight and true;
my lord King Death now calls for you."

Then said the pope, "I must obey
though I would rather in this stay.
But never was the mortal man
who could this summons e'er withstand.
My lord King Death, though harsh and grim:
I will rise and go to him."

MEMENTO MORI. St. Alban's, 29 July 1998.

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