The Pilgrims of Hope, by William Morris

Ready to Depart

I said of my friend new-found that at first he saw not my lair;

Yet he and I and my wife were together here and there;

And at last as my work increased and my den to a dwelling grew,

He came there often enough, and yet more together we drew.

Then came a change in the man; for a month he kept away,

Then came again and was with us for a fortnight every day,

But often he sat there silent, which was little his wont with us.

And at first I had no inkling of what constrained him thus;

I might have thought that he faltered, but now and again there came,

When we spoke of the Cause and its doings, a flash of his eager flame,

And he seemed himself for a while; then the brightness would fade away,

And he gloomed and shrank from my eyes.

Thus passed day after day,

And grieved I grew, and I pondered: till at last one eve we sat

In the fire-lit room together, and talked of this and that,

But chiefly indeed of the war and what would come of it;

For Paris drew near to its fall, and wild hopes ‘gan to flit

Amidst us Communist folk; and we talked of what might be done

When the Germans had gone their ways and the two were left alone,

Betrayers and betrayed in war-worn wasted France.

As I spoke the word “betrayed,” my eyes met his in a glance,

And swiftly he turned away; then back with a steady gaze

He turned on me; and it seemed as when a sword-point plays

Round the sword in a battle’s beginning and the coming on of strife.

For I knew though he looked on me, he saw not me, but my wife:

And he reddened up to the brow, and the tumult of the blood

Nigh blinded my eyes for a while, that I scarce saw bad or good,

Till I knew that he was arisen and had gone without a word.

Then I turned about unto her, and a quivering voice I heard

Like music without a meaning, and twice I heard my name.

“O Richard, Richard!” she said, and her arms about me came,

And her tears and the lips that I loved were on my face once more.

A while I clung to her body, and longing sweet and sore

Beguiled my heart of its sorrow; then we sundered and sore she wept,

While fair pictures of days departed about my sad heart crept,

And mazed I felt and weary. But we sat apart again,

Not speaking, while between us was the sharp and bitter pain

As the sword ‘twixt the lovers bewildered in the fruitless marriage bed.

Yet a while, and we spoke together, and I scarce knew what I said,

But it was not wrath or reproaching, or the chill of love-born hate;

For belike around and about us, we felt the brooding fate.

We were gentle and kind together, and if any had seen us so,

They had said, “These two are one in the face of all trouble and woe.”

But indeed as a wedded couple we shrank from the eyes of men,

As we dwelt together and pondered on the days that come not again.

Days passed and we dwelt together; nor Arthur came for awhile;

Gravely it was and sadly, and with no greeting smile,

That we twain met at our meetings: but no growth of hate was yet,

Though my heart at first would be sinking as our thoughts and our eyes they met:

And when he spake amidst us and as one we two agreed,

And I knew of his faith and his wisdom, then sore was my heart indeed.

We shrank from meeting alone: for the words we had to say

Our thoughts would nowise fashion — not yet for many a day.

Unhappy days of all days! Yet O might they come again!

So sore as my longing returneth to their trouble and sorrow and pain!

But time passed, and once we were sitting, my wife and I in our room,

And it was in the London twilight and the February gloom,

When there came a knock, and he entered all pale, though bright were his eyes,

And I knew that something had happened, and my heart to my mouth did arise.

“It is over,” he said “— and beginning; for Paris has fallen at last,

And who knows what next shall happen after all that has happened and passed?

There now may we all be wanted.”

I took up the word: “Well then

Let us go, we three together, and there to die like men.”

“Nay,” he said, “to live and be happy like men.” Then he flushed up red,

And she no less as she hearkened, as one thought through their bodies had sped.

Then I reached out my hand unto him, and I kissed her once on the brow,

But no word craving forgiveness, and no word of pardon e’en now,

Our minds for our mouths might fashion.

In the February gloom

And into the dark we sat planning, and there was I in the room,

And in speech I gave and I took; but yet alone and apart

In the fields where I once was a youngling whiles wandered the thoughts of my heart,

And whiles in the unseen Paris, and the streets made ready for war.

Night grew and we lit the candles, and we drew together more,

And whiles we differed a little as we settled what to do,

And my soul was cleared of confusion as nigher the deed-time drew.

Well, I took my child into the country, as we had settled there,

And gave him o’er to be cherished by a kindly woman’s care,

A friend of my mother’s, but younger: and for Arthur, I let him give

His money, as mine was but little, that the boy might flourish and live,

Lest we three, or I and Arthur, should perish in tumult and war,

And at least the face of his father he should look on never more.

You cry out shame on my honour? But yet remember again

That a man in my boy was growing; must my passing pride and pain

Undo the manhood within him and his days and their doings blight?

So I thrust my pride away, and I did what I deemed was right,

And left him down in our country.

And well may you think indeed

How my sad heart swelled at departing from the peace of river and mead,

But I held all sternly aback and again to the town did I pass.

And as alone I journeyed, this was ever in my heart:

“They may die; they may live and be happy; but for me I know my part,

In Paris to do my utmost, and there in Paris to die!”

And I said, “The day of the deeds and the day of deliverance is nigh.”

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07