Poem Thomas Hardy

The Church-Builder

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The church flings forth a battled shade
       Over the moon-blanched sward;
The church; my gift; whereto I paid
       My all in hand and hoard;
              Lavished my gains
              With stintless pains
       To glorify the Lord.


I squared the broad foundations in
       Of ashlared masonry;
I moulded mullions thick and thin,
       Hewed fillet and ogee:
              I circleted
              Each sculptured head
       With nimb and canopy.


I called in many a craftsmaster
       To fix emblazoned glass,
To figure Cross and Sepulchre
       On dossal, boss, and brass.
              My gold all spent,
              My jewels went
       To gem the cups of Mass.


I borrowed deep to carve the screen
       And raise the ivoried Rood;
I parted with my small demesne
       To make my owings good.
              Heir-looms unpriced
              I sacrificed,
       Until debt-free I stood.


So closed the task. “Deathless the Creed
       Here substanced!” said my soul:
“I heard me bidden to this deed,
       And straight obeyed the call.
              Illume this fane,
              That not in vain
       I build it, Lord of all!”


But, as it chanced me, then and there
       Did dire misfortunes burst;
My home went waste for lack of care,
       My sons rebelled and curst;
              Till I confessed
              That aims the best
       Were looking like the worst.


Enkindled by my votive work
       No burning faith I find;
The deeper thinkers sneer and smirk,
       And give my toil no mind;
              From nod and wink
              I read they think
       That I am fool and blind.


My gift to God seems futile, quite;
       The world moves as erstwhile;
And powerful Wrong on feeble Right
       Tramples in olden style.
              My faith burns down,
              I see no crown;
       But Cares, and Griefs, and Guile.


So now, the remedy? Yea, this:
       I gently swing the door
Here, of my fane—no soul to wis—
       And cross the patterned floor
              To the rood-screen
              That stands between
       The nave and inner chore.


The rich red windows dim the moon,
       But little light need I;
I mount the prie-dieu, lately hewn
       From woods of rarest dye;
              Then from below
              My garment, so,
       I draw this cord, and tie


One end thereof around the beam
       Midway ‘twixt Cross and truss:
I noose the nethermost extreme,
       And in ten seconds thus
              I journey hence—
              To that land whence
       No ruinour reaches us.


Well: Here at morn they’ll light on one
       Dangling in mockery
Of what he spent his substance on
       Blindly and uselessly! . . .
              “He might,” they’ll say,
              “Have built, some way,
       A cheaper gallows-tree!”

The Lost Pyx: A Mediaeval Legend
In Tenebris III


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