II.Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
In a suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.
I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
Its ravelled fleeces by.
He did not wring his hands, as do
Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
And drank the morning air.
He did not wring his hands nor weep,
Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
With open mouth he drank the sun
As though it had been wine!
And I and all the souls in pain,
Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
A great or
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
The man who had to swing.
And strange it was to see him pass
With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
Had such a debt to pay.
For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
That in the spring-time shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
Before it bears its fruit!
The loftiest place is that seat of grace
For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
a scaffold high,
And through a murderer's collar take
His last look at the sky?
It is sweet to dance to violins
When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!
So with curious eyes and sick surmise
We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
His sightless soul may stray.
At last the dead man walked no more
Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
black dock's dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
In God's sweet world again.
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we
said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.
A prison wall was round us both,
Two outcast men were we:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.
III.In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard,
And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
For fear the man might die.
Or else he sat with those who watched
His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to
And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
Their scaffold of its prey.
The Governor was strong upon
The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
A scientific fact:
twice a day the Chaplain called
And left a little tract.
And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
The hangman's hands were near.