2 And they were bent and gray; 3 They burned the charcoal for their Lord, 4 Who lived long leagues away. 5 Deep in the wood the old pair dwelt, 6 Far from the paths of men, 7 And saw no face but their poor son's, 8 And a wanderer's now and then. 9 The son, alas! Had grown apace, 10 And left his wits behind; 11 He was as helpless as the air, 12 As empty as the wind. 13 With puffing lips and shambling feet, 14 And eyes a-staring wide, 15 He whistled ever as he went, 16 And little did beside. 17 He whistled high, he whistled low, 18 He whistled sharp and sweet; 19 He brought the redbreast to his hand, 20 And the brown hare to his feet. 21 Without a fear of beast or bird, 22 He wandered all the day; 23 But when the light began to fail 24 His courage passed away. 25 He feared the werewolf in the wood, 26 The dragon in the dell, 27 And home he fled as if pursued 28 By all the hosts of hell. 29 "Ah! we are old," the woman said, 30 "And soon shall we be gone, 31 And what will our poor Michael do 32 When he is left alone? 33 "We are forgotten of all men; 34 And he is dead, I fear, 35 That good old priest, who used to come 36 And shrive us thrice a year. 37 "We have no kin," the mother said, 38 "We have no friend," said she; 39 The father gazed upon the fire, 40 And not a word said he. 41 Again she spoke, "No friend or kin, 42 'Death, only Death,' is near; 43 And he will take us both away, 44 And leave our Michael here. 45 "And who shall give him bite or sup? 46 And who shall keep him neat? 47 Ah! what were Heaven if we must weep 48 Before God's mercy-seat!" 49 And when the woman ceased, the man 50 A little waited still, 51 And then he said, "We have one friend -- 52 The Christ upon the Hill." PART II. 53 The Christ upon the Hill --so gaunt 54 And lean and stark and drear; 55 It made the heart with pity start, 56 It smote the soul with fear. 57 High reared against a cliff it stood, 58 Just where the great roads met; 59 And many a knee had worn the stone 60 Wherein the Rood was set. 61 For deadly was the pass beyond, 62 And all men paused to pray 63 For courage, or to pour their thanks 64 For dangers passed away. 65 But not for fear of beast or fiend, 66 But boding deeper ill, 67 The charcoal-burner and his wife 68 Slow climbed the weary hill. 69 Before the Rood their simple son 70 Lay stretched upon the ground, 71 And crumbled black bread for the birds 72 That hopped and pecked around. 73 (For he had gone before with feet 74 As wild and light as air, 75 And borne the basket on his back 76 That held their frugal fare.) 77 And they were faint, and, ere they prayed, 78 They sat them down to eat; 79 And much they marvelled at their son, 80 Who never touched his meat, 81 But, now the birds were flown away, 82 Sat up, and only gazed 83 Upon the Christ upon the cross, 84 As one with wonder dazed. 85 Full long he sat and never moved; 86 But then he gave a cry, 87 And caught his mother by the wrist 88 And said, "I heard a sigh." 89 "It is an image made of wood, 90 It has no voice," she said; 91 "'Twas but the wind you heard, my son," 92 But Michael shook his head, 93 And gazed again, so earnestly 94 His face grew almost wise; 95 And now he cried again, and said, 96 "Look, how he closed his eyes!" 97 "'Tis but the shadow of a bird 98 That passed across his face," 99 The mother said; "see, even now 100 It hovers near the place." 101 And then the father said, "My son, 102 The image is of wood; 103 And do you think a man could live 104 Without a taste of food?" 105 "No food?" the silly youth replied, 106 And pointed to a wren, 107 Who with a crumb upon Christ's lip 108 Had just alighted then. 109 And now the old man held his peace, 110 And the woman ceased to strive, 111 For still he shook his silly head, 112 And said, "The man's alive." 113 "It is God's will," they said, and knelt, 114 And knew not what to say; 115 But when they rose they felt as though 116 All fear had passed away. 117 And they could smile when Michael left 118 His dinner on the stone; 119 He said, "The birds will feed the Christ 120 When they are quite alone." PART III. 121 The couple sat before the fire, 122 More old, and sad, and poor, 123 For there was winter at the heart, 124 And winter at the door. 125 It shook the roof with shocks of wind; 126 It caked the pane with snow; 127 The candle flickered on the sill, 128 Like a soul that longed to go. 129 'Twas Michael's beacon, -- gone to feed 130 The Christ upon the Hill; 131 And midnight long had passed and gone, 132 And he was absent still. 133 And now and then they turned a log, 134 And now they dropped a word: 135 "'Twas all the wind," the mother said; 136 The father said, "The bird." 137 "I hoped that it was God himself," 138 The mother muttered low; 139 "It must have been the fiend," he said, 140 "For to deceive him so." 141 And then the mother cried aloud, 142 "What matter it?" she said; 143 "Or wind, or bird, or fiend, or God, 144 For he is dead -- is dead!" 145 "Hark!" cried the man, and through the storm 146 A note came high and clear; 147 It was the whistle of their son, 148 That sound they longed to hear. 149 And then a cry for help, and out 150 Into the snow they ran; 151 And there was Michael. On his back 152 He bore a helpless man. 153 "He lives, he lives," he wildly cried; 154 "His wounds are dripping still;" 155 And surely, red from hand and side 156 There ran a tiny rill. 157 They brought Him in and laid Him down, 158 Upon the warm hearthstone; 159 It was the Christ, but not of wood, 160 But made of flesh and bone. 161 They washed His wounds, and at their touch 162 They turned to purple scars, 163 Like a young moon upon the breast, 164 On hands and feet like stars. 165 They brought to moisten His dry lips 166 They hoarded flask of wine; 167 They wrapped Him round with blankets warm, 168 And waited for a sign. 169 And soon without the help of hand 170 He rose upon His feet, 171 And like a friend beside the fire 172 He took the vacant seat. 173 He sat up in the chair then, 174 And straight began to shine, 175 Until His face and raiment poured 176 A glory most divine. 177 The thorns upon His forehead 178 Broke out in leaves of gold; 179 The blood-drops turned to berries, 180 Like rubies rich and bold. 181 The blankets that bewrapped Him 182 Flowed into folds of white, 183 Bestarred with gold and jewels 184 Which sparkled in the light. 185 The very chair He sat on 186 Became a crystal throne; 187 The oaken stool beneath His feet 188 Turned to a jasper stone. 189 He stretched an arm to Michael, 190 And touched him with His hand, 191 And he arose beside the throne 192 An angel, bright and grand. 193 And then His lips were opened, 194 And strong and sweet and clear, 195 Like water from a fountain, 196 His voice was good to hear. 197 "I am the King of Glory; 198 I am your brother too; 199 And even as you do to Me, 200 So do I unto you. 201 "You took Me in and clothed Me; 202 You washed My body pierced; 203 You gave me of your wine to drink 204 When I was sore athirst. 205 "And you have suffered also, 206 And you must suffer still; 207 I suffered upon Calvary; 208 I suffer on the Hill. 210 And I am Lord of Care; 211 I come to bring you comfort, 212 And save you from despair. 213 "Your son, your only son, is safe 214 And beautiful to see; 216 You know he is with Me. 217 "And I will give him peace and joy 218 As no man every knew -- 219 A little grief, a little pain, 220 And I will come for you." 221 He rose, His arms around their son; 222 And through the open door 223 They only saw a whirl of snow, 224 And heard the tempest roar. Notes 1] In Pasiteles the Elder & Other Poems, with a prefatory note by Austin Dobson (London: R. Brimley Johnson, 1901): 52 (011651.i.74 British Library), Monkhouse published "Sonnet ( On being asked whether "The Christ upon the Hill," was a version of an old legend.)":
1 No legend of old Time in verses drest
2 Is my dear tale, "The Christ upon the Hill." 3 But, like some perfumed breeze, it came to fill 4 My empty heart, and all my soul possessed. 5 If from the East it came, or from the West, 6 From the loud sea, or from the desert still, 7 I had no thought to ask, for all my will 8 Was bent to entertain my sudden guest.
9 A Christian I, in that I hold the Christ
10 The human essence of the Spirit divine, 11 The real response of Heaven to Earth's distress, 12 Yet of no creed of priest or dogmatist, 13 It spoke to me, but rather seemed a sign 14 Of Everlasting Truth in human dress.
Back to Line 209] The version of the poem in Pasiteles the Elder & Other Poems (1901) replaces lines 209-210 with the following: "But I'm the end to sorrow, Other minor changes in punctuation appear throughout the poem. And I'm the end to care, Back to Line