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The Pilgrim

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The Pilgrim
written by Walter de la Mare
Songs of Childhood (1902) Link to further information

    'Shall we carry now your bundle,
        You old grey man?

    Over hill and over meadow,
    Lighter than an owlet's shadow,
    We will whirl it through the air,
    Through blue regions shrill and bare;

    Shall we carry now your bundle,
        You old grey man?'

    The Pilgrim lifted up his eyes
    And saw three fiends, in the skies,
    Stooping o'er that lonely place
        Evil in form and face.

    'O leave me, leave me, leave me,
        Ye three wild fiends!

    Far it is my feet must wander,
    And my city lieth yonder;
    I must bear my bundle alone,
    Help nor solace suffer none:

    O leave me, leave me, leave me,
        Ye three wild fiends!'

    The fiends stared down with greedy eye,
    Fanning the chill air duskily,
    'Twixt their hoods they stoop and cry:-

    'Shall we smooth the path before you,
        You old grey man?

    Sprinkle it green with gilded showers,
    Strew it o'er with painted flowers?
    Shall we blow sweet airs on it,
    Lure the magpie there to flit?

    Shall we smooth the path before you,
        You old grey man?'

    'O silence, silence, silence!
        Ye three wild fiends!

    Over bog, and fen, and boulder,
    I must bear it on my shoulder,
    Beaten of wind, torn of briar,
    Smitten of rain, parched of fire:

    O silence, silence, silence!
        Ye three wild fiends!'

    It seemed a smoke obscured the air,
    Bright lightning quivered in the gloom,
    And a faint voice of thunder spake
    Far in the lone hill-hollows - 'Come!'
    Then half in fury, half in dread,
    The fiends drew closer down and said:-

    'Grey old man but sleep awhile;
        Sad old man!

    Thorn, and dust, and ice, and heat;
    Tarry now, sit down and eat;
    Heat, and ice, and dust, and thorn;
    Stricken, footsore, parched, forlorn,-
    Juice of purple grape shall be
    Joy and solace unto thee.

    With sweet wire and reed we'll haunt you;
    Songs of the valley shall enchant you;
    Rest now, lest this night you die:
    Sweet be now our lullaby:

    'Grey old man, come sleep awhile,
        Stubborn old man!'

    The pilgrim crouches terrified
    At stooping hood, and glassy face,
    Gloating, evil, side by side;
    Terror and hate brood o'er the place;
    He flings his withered hands on high
    With a bitter, breaking cry:-

    'Pity have, and leave me, leave me,
        Ye three wild fiends:
    If I lay me down in slumber,
      Then I lay me down in wrath;
    If I stir not in sweet dreaming,
      Then I wither in my path;
    If I hear sweet voices singing,
        'Tis a demon's lullaby,
    And in "hideous storm and terror"
        Wake but to die!'

    And even while he spake, the sun
    From the sweet hills pierced the gloom,
    Kindling th' affrighted fiends upon.
    Wild flapped their wings, as if in doom,
    He heard a dismal hooting laughter:-

    Nought but a little rain fell after,
    And from the cloud whither they flew
    A storm-sweet lark rose in the blue:
    And his bundle seemed of flowers
        In his solitary hours.

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