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.
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
For weal or woe 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 we were:
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.
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.
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 day was near.
But why he said so strange a thing
No warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher's doom
Is given as
Must set a lock upon his lips,
And make his face a mask.
With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
Devils' Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.
We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.
We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.
So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for
fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.
Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
shuffling through the gloom:
And I trembled as I groped my way
Into my numbered tomb.
That night the empty corridors
Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
Stole feet we
could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
White faces seemed to peer.
But there is no sleep when men must weep
Who never yet have wept:
So we--the fool, the fraud, the
That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
Another's terror crept.
Alas! it is a fearful thing
To feel another's guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
Pierced to its poisoned
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
For the blood we had not spilt.