"Mother of God," the wanderer said, "I am but a common king, Nor will I ask what saints may ask, To see a secret thing. "The gates of heaven are fearful gates Worse than the gates of hell; Not I would break the splendours barred Or seek to know the thing they guard, Which is too good to tell. "But for this earth most pitiful, This little land I know, If that which is for ever is, Or if our hearts shall break with bliss, Seeing the stranger go? "When our last bow is broken, Queen, And our last javelin cast, Under some sad, green evening sky, Holding a ruined cross on high, Under warm westland grass to lie, Shall we come home at last?" And a voice came human but high up, Like a cottage climbed among The clouds; or a serf of hut and croft That sits by his hovel fire as oft, But hears on his old bare roof aloft A belfry burst in song. "The gates of heaven are lightly locked, We do not guard our gain, The heaviest hind may easily Come silently and suddenly Upon me in a lane. "And any little maid that walks In good thoughts apart, May break the guard of the Three Kings And see the dear and dreadful things I hid within my heart. "The meanest man in grey fields gone Behind the set of sun, Heareth between star and other star, Through the door of the darkness fallen ajar, The council, eldest of things that are, The talk of the Three in One. "The gates of heaven are lightly locked, We do not guard our gold, Men may uproot where worlds begin, Or read the name of the nameless sin; But if he fail or if he win To no good man is told. "The men of the East may spell the stars, And times and triumphs mark, But the men signed of the cross of Christ Go gaily in the dark. "The men of the East may search the scrolls For sure fates and fame, But the men that drink the blood of God Go singing to their shame. "The wise men know what wicked things Are written on the sky, They trim sad lamps, they touch sad strings, Hearing the heavy purple wings, Where the forgotten seraph kings Still plot how God shall die. "The wise men know all evil things Under the twisted trees, Where the perverse in pleasure pine And men are weary of green wine And sick of crimson seas. "But you and all the kind of Christ Are ignorant and brave, And you have wars you hardly win And souls you hardly save. "I tell you naught for your comfort, Yea, naught for your desire, Save that the sky grows darker yet And the sea rises higher. "Night shall be thrice night over you, And heaven an iron cope. Do you have joy without a cause, Yea, faith without a hope?" Even as she spoke she was not, Nor any word said he, He only heard, still as he stood Under the old night's nodding hood, The sea-folk breaking down the wood Like a high tide from sea. He only heard the heathen men, Whose eyes are blue and bleak, Singing about some cruel thing Done by a great and smiling king In daylight on a deck. He only heard the heathen men, Whose eyes are blue and blind, Singing what shameful things are done Between the sunlit sea and the sun When the land is left behind. GK Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse
Hattip to commenter Dale Price.