Onward led the road again Through the sad uncoloured plain Under twilight brooding dim, And along the utmost rim Wall and rampart risen to sight Cast a shadow not of night, And beyond them seemed to glow Bonfires lighted long ago. And my dark conductor broke Silence at my side and spoke, Saying, "You conjecture well: Yonder is the gate of hell." Ill as yet the eye could see The eternal masonry, But beneath it on the dark To and fro there stirred a spark. And again the sombre guide Knew my question, and replied: "At hell gate the damned in turn Pace for sentinel and burn." Dully at the leaden sky Staring, and with idle eye Measuring the listless plain, I began to think again. Many things I thought of then, Battle, and the loves of men, Cities entered, oceans crossed, Knowledge gained and virtue lost, Cureless folly done and said, And the lovely way that led To the slimepit and the mire And the everlasting fire. And against a smoulder dun And a dawn without a sun Did the nearing bastion loom, And across the gate of gloom Still one saw the sentry go, Trim and burning, to and fro, One for women to admire In his finery of fire. Something, as I watched him pace, Minded me of time and place, Soldiers of another corps And a sentry known before. Ever darker hell on high Reared its strength upon the sky, And our football on the track Fetched the daunting echo back. But the soldier pacing still The insuperable sill, Nursing his tormented pride, Turned his head to neither side, Sunk into himself apart And the hell-fire of his heart. But against our entering in From the drawbridge Death and Sin Rose to render key and sword To their father and their lord. And the portress foul to see Lifted up her eyes on me Smiling, and I made reply: "Met again, my lass," said I. Then the sentry turned his head, Looked, and knew me, and was Ned. Once he looked, and halted straight, Set his back against the gate, Caught his musket to his chin, While the hive of hell within Sent abroad a seething hum As of towns whose king is come Leading conquest home from far And the captives of his war, And the car of triumph waits, And they open wide the gates. But across the entry barred Straddled the revolted guard, Weaponed and accoutred well From the arsenals of hell; And beside him, sick and white, Sin to left and Death to right Turned a countenance of fear On the flaming mutineer. Over us the darkness bowed, And the anger in the cloud Clenched the lightning for the stroke; But the traitor musket spoke. And the hollowness of hell Sounded as its master fell, And the mourning echo rolled Ruin through his kingdom old. Tyranny and terror flown Left a pair of friends alone, And beneath the nether sky All that stirred was he and I. Silent, nothing found to say, We began the backward way; And the ebbing luster died From the soldier at my side, As in all his spruce attire Failed the everlasting fire. Midmost of the homeward track Once we listened and looked back; But the city, dusk and mute, Slept, and there was no pursuit.