“Holy, just, true in thought and word and deed.
“Next Theodore, who reigned but twenty days,
“Therein convoked a synod, whose decree
“Did reinstate, repope the late unpoped,
“And do away with Stephen as accursed. (110)
“So that when presently certain fisher-folk
“(As if the queasy river could not hold
“Its swallowed Jonas, but discharged the meal)
“Produced the timely product of their nets,
“The mutilated man, Formosus,—saved
“From putrefaction by the embalmer’s spice,
“Or, as some said, by sanctity of flesh,—
“‘Why, lay the body again’ bade Theodore
“‘Among his predecessors, in the church
“‘And burial- place of Peter!’ which was done. (120)
“‘And’ addeth Luitprand ‘many of repute,
“‘Pious and still alive, avouch to me
“‘That as they bore the body up the aisle
“‘The saints in imaged row bowed each his head
“‘For welcome to a brother-saint come back.’
“As for Romanus and this Theodore,
“These two Popes, through the brief reign granted each,
“Could but initiate what John came to close
“And give the final stamp to: he it was,
“Ninth of the name, (I follow the best guides) (130)
“Who,—in full synod at Ravenna held
“With Bishops seventy-four, and present too
“Eude King of France with his Archbishopry,—
“Did condemn Stephen, anathematise
“The disinterment, and make all blots blank.
“‘For,’ argueth here Auxilius in a place
De Ordinationibus, ‘precedents
“‘Had been, no lack, before Formosus long,
“‘Of Bishops so transferred from see to see,—
“‘Marinus, for example’: read the tract. (140)

“But, after John, came Sergius, reaffirmed
“The right of Stephen, cursed Formosus, nay
“Cast out, some say, his corpse a second time.
“And here,—because the matter went to ground,
“Fretted by new griefs, other cares of the age,—
“Here is the last pronouncing of the Church,
“Her sentence that subsists unto this day.
“Yet constantly opinion hath prevailed
“I’ the Church, Formosus was a holy man.”

Which of the judgments was infallible? (150)
Which of my predecessors spoke for God?
And what availed Formosus that this cursed,
That blessed, and then this other cursed again?
“Fear ye not those whose power can kill the body
“And not the soul,” saith Christ “but rather those
“Can cast both soul and body into hell!”
John judged thus in Eight Hundred Ninety Eight,
Exact eight hundred years ago to-day
When, sitting in his stead, Vice-gerent here,
I must give judgment on my own behoof. (160)
So worked the predecessor: now, my turn!

In God’s name! Once more on this earth of God’s,
While twilight lasts and time wherein to work,
I take His staff with my uncertain hand,
And stay my six and fourscore years, my due
Labour and sorrow, on His judgment-seat,
And forthwith think, speak, act, in place of Him—
The Pope for Christ. Once more appeal is made
From man’s assize to mine: I sit and see
Another poor weak trembling human wretch (170)
Pushed by his fellows, who pretend the right,
Up to the gulf which, where I gaze, begins
From this world to the next,—gives way and way,
Just on the edge over the awful dark:
With nothing to arrest him but my feet.
He catches at me with convulsive face,
Cries “Leave to live the natural minute more!”
While hollowly the avengers echo “Leave?
“None! So has he exceeded man’s due share
“In man’s fit licence, wrung by Adam’s fall, (180)
“To sin and yet not surely die,—that we,
“All of us sinful, all with need of grace,
“All chary of our life,—the minute more
“Or minute less of grace which saves a soul,—
“Bound to make common cause with who craves time,
“—We yet protest against the exorbitance
“Of sin in this one sinner, and demand
“That his poor sole remaining piece of time
“Be plucked from out his clutch: put him to death!
“Punish him now! As for the weal or woe (190)
“Hereafter, God grant mercy! Man be just,
“Nor let the felon boast he went scot-free!”
And I am bound, the solitary judge,
To weigh the worth, decide upon the plea,
And either hold a hand out, or withdraw
A foot and let the wretch drift to the fall.
Ay, and while thus I dally, dare perchance
Put fancies for a comfort ’twixt this calm
And yonder passion that I have to bear,—
As if reprieve were possible for both (200)
Prisoner and Pope,—how easy were reprieve!
A touch o’ the hand-bell here, a hasty word
To those who wait, and wonder they wait long,
I’ the passage there, and I should gain the life!—
Yea, though I flatter me with fancy thus,
I know it is but nature’s craven-trick.
The case is over, judgment at an end,
And all things done now and irrevocable:
A mere dead man is Franceschini here,
Even as Formosus centuries ago. (210)
I have worn through this sombre wintry day,
With winter in my soul beyond the world’s,
Over these dismalest of documents
Which drew night down on me ere eve befell,—
Pleadings and counter- pleadings, figure of fact
Beside fact’s self, these summaries to wit,—
How certain three were slain by certain five:
I read here why it was, and how it went,
And how the chief o’ the five preferred excuse,
And how law rather chose defence should lie,— (220)
What argument he urged by wary word
When free to play off wile, start subterfuge,
And what the unguarded groan told, torture’s feat
When law grew brutal,

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