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 embalmers 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)
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 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!
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 mans 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 mans due share
In mans fit licence, wrung by Adams 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 natures 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 worlds,
Over these dismalest of documents
Which drew night down on me ere eve befell,
Pleadings and counter- pleadings, figure of fact
Beside facts 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, tortures feat
When law grew brutal,
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