Poem Hunter
(1887-1920 / the United States)


SOMEWHERE I read a strange, old, rusty tale
Smelling of war; most curiously named
The Mad Recreant Knight of the West.
Once, you have read, the round world brimmed with hate,
Stirred and revolted, flashed unceasingly
Facets of cruel splendor. And the strong
Harried the weak …
Long past, long past, praise God,
In these fair, peaceful, happy days.

The Tale:
Eastward the Huns break border,
Surf on a rotten dyke;
They have murdered the Eastern Warder
(His head on a pike).
“Arm thee, arm thee, my father!
Swift rides the Goddes-bane,
And the high nobles gather
On the plain!”

“O blind world-wrath!” cried Sangar,
“Greatly I killed in youth;
I dreamed men had done with anger
Through Goddes truth!”
Smiled the boy then in faint scorn,
Hard with the battle-thrill;
“Arm thee, loud calls the war-horn
And shrill!”

He has bowed to the voice stentorian,
Sick with thought of the grave—
He has called for his battered motion
And his scarred glaive.
On the boy’s helm a glove
Of the Duke’s daughter—
In his eyes splendor of love
And slaughter.

Hideous the Hun advances
Like a sea-tide on sand;
Unyielding, the haughty lances
Make dauntless stand.
And ever amid the clangor,
Butchering Hun and Hun,
With sorrowful face rides Sangar
And his son….

Broken is the wild invader
(Sullied, the whole world’s fountains);
They have penned the murderous raider
With his back to the mountains.
Yet though what had been mead
Is now a bloody lake,
Still drink swords where men bleed,
Nor slake.

Now leaps one into the press—
The hell ’twixt front and front—
Sangar, bloody and torn of dress
(He has borne the brunt).
“Hold!” cries, “Peace! God’s peace!
Heed ye what Christus says—”
And the wild battle gave surcease
In amaze.

“When will ye cast out hate?
Brothers—my mad, mad brothers—
Mercy, ere it be too late,
These are sons of your mothers.
For sake of Him who died on Tree,
Who of all creatures, loved the least—”
“Blasphemer! God of Battles, He!”
Cried a priest.

“Peace!” and with his two hands
Has broken in twain his glaive.
Weaponless, smiling he stands—
(Coward or brave?)
“Traitor!” howls one rank, “Think ye
The Hun be our brother?”
And “Fear we to die, craven, think ye?”
The other.

Then sprang his son to his side,
His lips with slaver were wet,
For he had felt how men died
And was lustful yet;
(On his bent helm a glove
Of the Duke’s daughter,
In his eyes splendor of love
And slaughter)—

Shouting, “Father no more of mine!
Shameful old man—abhorr’d,
First traitor of all our line!”
Up the two-handed sword.
He smote—fell Sangar—and then
Screaming, red, the boy ran
Straight at the foe, and again
Hell began….

Oh, there was joy in Heaven when Sangar came.
Sweet Mary wept, and bathed and bound his wounds,
And God the Father healed him of despair,
And Jesus gripped his hand, and laughed and laughed….

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Other poems of REED (2)

Comments (1)

Facet of cruel splendor. Marvelous conceptualization. Thanks for sharing it here.