Poem of the day

The Dead Hero
by Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)

We never saw you, like our sires,
⁠   For whom your face was Freedom’s face,
Nor know what office-tapes and wires⁠
⁠   With such strong cords may interlace;
We know not if the statesmen then
⁠   Were fashioned as the sort we see,
We know that not under your ken
⁠   Did England laugh at Liberty.

Yea, this one thing is known of you,
⁠   We know that not till you were dumb,
Not till your course was thundered through,
⁠   Did Mammon see his kingdom come.
The songs of theft, the swords of hire,
⁠T   he clerks that raved, the troops that ran
The empire of the world’s desire,
⁠   The dance of all the dirt began.

The happy jewelled alien men
⁠   Worked then but as a little leaven;
From some more modest palace then
⁠   The Soul of Dives stank to Heaven.
But when they planned with lisp and leer
⁠   Their careful war upon the weak,
They smote your body on its bier,
⁠   For surety that you could not speak.

A hero in the desert died;
⁠   Men cried that saints should bury him,
And round the grave should guard and ride,
⁠   A chivalry of Cherubim.
God said: “There is a better place,
⁠   A nobler trophy and more tall;
The beasts that fled before his face
⁠   Shall come to make his funeral.

“The mighty vermin of the void
⁠   That hid them from his bended bow,
Shall crawl from caverns overjoyed,
⁠   Jackal and snake and carrion crow.
And perched above the vulture’s eggs,
⁠   Reversed upon its hideous head,
A blue-faced ape shall wave its legs
⁠   To tell the world that he is dead.”

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