Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cobham
My friend should meet me somewhere hereabout
To take me to that hiding in the hills.
I have broke their cage, no gilded one, I trow
I read no more the prisoners mute wail
Scribbled or carved upon the pitiless stone;
I find hard rocks, hard life, hard cheer, or none,
For I am emptier than a friars brains;
But God is with me in this wilderness,
These wet black passes and foam-churning chasms
And Gods free air, and hope of better things.
I would I knew their speech; not now to glean,
Not nowI hope to do itsome scatterd ears,
Some ears for Christ in this wild field of Wales
But, bread, merely for bread. This tongue that waggd
They said with such heretical arrogance
Against the proud archbishop Arundel
So much Gods cause was fluent in itis here
But as a Latin Bible to the crowd;
Bara!what use? The Shepherd, when I speak,
Vailing a sudden eyelid with his hard
Dim Saesneg passes, wroth at things of old
No fault of mine. Had he Gods word in Welsh
He might be kindlier: happily come the day!
Not least art thou, thou little Bethlehem
In Judah, for in thee the Lord was born;
Nor thou in Britain, little Lutterworth,
Least, for in thee the word was born again.
Heaven-sweet Evangel, ever-living word,
Who whilome spakest to the South in Greek
About the soft Mediterranean shores,
And then in Latin to the Latin crowd,
As good need wasthou hast come to talk our isle.
Hereafter thou, fulfilling Pentecost,
Must learn to use the tongues of all the world.
Yet art thou thine own witness that thou bringest
Not peace, a sword, a fire.
What did he say,
My frighted Wiclif-preacher whom I crost
In flying hither? that one night a crowd
Throngd the waste field about the city gates:
The king was on them suddenly with a host.
Why there? they came to hear their preacher. Then
Some cried on Cobham, on the good Lord Cobham;
Ay, for they love me! but the kingnor voice
Nor finger raised against himtook and hangd,
Took, hangd and burnthow manythirty-nine
Calld it rebellionhangd, poor friends, as rebels
And burnd alive as heretics! for your Priest
Labelsto take the king along with him
All heresy, treason: but to call men traitors
May make men traitors.
Rose of Lancaster,
Red in thy birth, redder with household war,
Now reddest with the blood of holy men,
Redder to be, red rose of Lancaster
If somewhere in the North, as Rumour sang
Fluttering the hawks of this crown-lusting line
By firth and loch thy silver sister grow,*
That were my rose, there my allegiance due.
Self-starved, they saynay, murderd, doubtless dead.
So to this king I cleaved: my friend was he,
Once my fast friend: I would have given my life
To help his own from scathe, a thousand lives
To save his soul. He might have come to learn
Our Wiclifs learning: but the worldly Priests
Who fear the kings hard common-sense should find
What rotten piles uphold their mason-work,
Urge him to foreign war. O had he willd
I might have stricken a lusty stroke for him,
But he would not; far liever led my friend
Back to the pure and universal church,
But he would not: whether that heirless flaw
In his thrones title make him feel so frail,
He leans on Antichrist; or that his mind,
So quick, so capable in soldiership,
In matters of the faith, alas the while!
More worth than all the kingdoms of this world,
Runs in the rut, a coward to the Priest.
Burntgood Sir Roger Acton, my dear friend!
Burnt too, my faithful preacher, Beverley!
Lord give thou power to thy two witnesses!
Lest the false faith make merry over them
Twonay but thirty-nine have risen and stand,
Dark with the smoke of human sacrifice,
Before thy light, and cry continually
Him, who should bear the sword
Of Justicewhat! the kingly, kindly boy;
Who took the world so easily heretofore,
My boon companion, tavern-fellowhim
Who gibed and japedin many a merry tale
That shook our sidesat Pardoners, Summoners,
Friars, absolution-sellers, monkeries
And nunneries, when the wild hour and the wine
Had set the wits aflame.
Harry of Monmouth,
Or Amurath of the East?
Better to sink
Thy fleurs-de-lys in slime again, and fling
Thy royalty back into the riotous fits
Of wine and harlotrythy shame, and mine,
Thy comradethan to persecute the Lord,
And play the Saul that never will be Paul.
Burnt, burnt! and while this mitred Arundel
Dooms our unlicensed preacher to the flame,
The mitre-sanctiond harlot draws his clerks
Into the suburbtheir hard celibacy,
Sworn to be veriest ice of pureness, molten
Into adulterous living, or such crimes
As holy Paula shame to speak of them
Among the heathen
To bandit, thief, assassinyea to him
Who hacks his mothers throatdenied to him,
Who finds the Saviour in his mother tongue.
The Gospel, the Priests pearl, flung down to swine
The swine, lay-men, lay-women, who will come,
God willing, to outlearn the filthy friar.
Ah rather, Lord, than that thy Gospel, meant
To course and range thro all the world, should be
Tetherd to these dead pillars of the Church
Rather than so, if thou wilt have it so,
Burst vein, snap sinew, and crack heart, and life
Pass in the fire of Babylon! but how long,
O Lord, how long!
My friend should meet me here.
Here is the copse, the fountain anda Cross!
To thee, dead wood, I bow not head nor knees.
Rather to thee, green boscage, work of God,
Black holly, and white-flowerd wayfaring-tree!
Rather to thee, thou living water, drawn
By this good Wiclif mountain down from heaven,
And speaking clearly in thy native tongue
No LatinHe that thirsteth, come and drink!
Eh! how I angerd Arundel asking me,
To worship Holy Cross! I spread mine arms,
Gods work, I said, a cross of flesh and blood
And holier. That was heresy. (My good friend
By this time should be with me.) Images?
Bury them as Gods truer images
Are daily buried. Heresy.Penance? Fast,
Hairshirt and scourge-nay, let a man repent,
Do penance in his heart, God hears him. Heresy
Not shriven, not saved? What profits an ill Priest
Between me and my God? I would not spurn
Good counsel of good friends, but shrive myself
No, not to an Apostle. Heresy.
(My friend is long in coming.) Pilgrimages?
Drink, bagpipes, revelling, devils-dances, vice.
The poor mans money gone to fat the friar.
Who reads of begging saints in Scripture?Heresy
(Hath he been herenot found megone again?
Have I mislearnt our place of meeting?) Bread
Bread left after the blessing? how they stared,
That was their main test-questionglared at me!
He veild Himself in flesh, and now He veils
His flesh in bread, body and bread together.
Then rose the howl of all the cassockd wolves,
No bread, no bread. Gods body! Archbishop, Bishop,
Priors, Canons, Friars, bellringers, Parish-clerks
No bread, no bread!Authority of the Church,
Power of the keys!Then I, God help me, I
So mockd, so spumd, so baited two whole days
I lost myself and fell from evenness,
And raild at all the Popes, that ever since
Sylvester shed the venom of world-wealth
Into the church, had only provn themselves
Poisoners, murderers. WellGod pardon all
Me, them, and all the worldyea, that proud Priest,
That mock-meek mouth of utter Antichrist,
That traitor to King Richard and the truth,
Who rose and doomd me to the fire.
Nay, I can burn, so that the Lord of life
Be by me in my death.
Those three! the fourth
Was like the Son of God! Not burnt were they.
On them the smell of burning had not past.
That was a miracle to convert the king.
These Pharisees, this Caiaphas-Arundel
What miracle could turn? He here again,
He thwarting their traditions of Himself,
He would be found a heretic to Himself,
And doomd to burn alive.
So, caught, I burn.
Burn? heathen men have borne as much as this,
For freedom, or the sake of those they loved,
Or some less cause, some cause far less than mine;
For every other cause is less than mine.
The moth will singe her wings, and singed return,
Her love of light quenching her fear of pain
How now, my soul, we do not heed the fire?
Faint-hearted? tut!faint-stomachd! faint as I am,
God willing, I will burn for Him.
A thousand marks are set upon my head.
Friend?foe perhapsa tussle for it then!
Nay, but my friend. Thou art so well disguised,
I knew thee not. Hast thou brought bread with thee?
I have not broken bread for fifty hours.
None? I am damnd already by the Priest
For holding there was bread where bread was none
No bread. My friends await me yonder? Yes.
Lead on then. Up the mountain? Is it far?
Not far. Climb first and reach me down thy hand.
I am not like to die for lack of bread
For I must live to testify by fire.**
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