And the woman, with a woman’s eyes
Of pity at once and ire,
Said, when that she had glared a span,
“There is a cake for any man
If he will watch the fire.”
And Alfred, bowing heavily,
Sat down the fire to stir,
And even as the woman pitied him
So did he pity her.
Saying, “O great heart in the night,
O best cast forth for worst,
Twilight shall melt and morning stir,
And no kind thing shall come to her,
Till God shall turn the world over
And all the last are first.
“And well may God with the serving-folk
Cast in His dreadful lot;
Is not He too a servant,
And is not He forgot?
“For was not God my gardener
And silent like a slave;
That opened oaks on the uplands
Or thicket in graveyard gave?
“And was not God my armourer,
All patient and unpaid,
That sealed my skull as a helmet,
And ribs for hauberk made?
“Did not a great grey servant
Of all my sires and me,
Build this pavilion of the pines,
And herd the fowls and fill the vines,
And labour and pass and leave no signs
Save mercy and mystery?
“For God is a great servant,
And rose before the day,
From some primordial slumber torn;
But all we living later born
Sleep on, and rise after the morn,
And the Lord has gone away.
“On things half sprung from sleeping,
All sleepy suns have shone,
They stretch stiff arms, the yawning trees,
The beasts blink upon hands and knees,
Man is awake and does and sees—
But Heaven has done and gone.
“For who shall guess the good riddle
Or speak of the Holiest,
Save in faint figures and failing words,
Who loves, yet laughs among the swords,
Labours, and is at rest?
“But some see God like Guthrum,
Crowned, with a great beard curled,
But I see God like a good giant,
That, labouring, lifts the world.
“Wherefore was God in Golgotha,
Slain as a serf is slain;
And hate He had of prince and peer,
And love He had and made good cheer,
Of them that, like this woman here,
Go powerfully in pain.
GK Chesterton, The Ballad of the White Horse