THEY come from the highways of labour,|
From labour and leisure they come;
But not to the sound of the tabor,
And not to the beating of drum.
By thousands the people assemble
With faces of shadow and flame,
And spirits that sicken and tremble
Because of their sorrow and shame!
Their voice is the voice of a nation;
But lo, it is muffled and mute,
For the sword of a strong tribulation
Hath stricken their peace to the root.
The beautiful tokens of pity
Have utterly fled from their eyes,
For the demon who darkened the city
Is curst in the breaking of sighs.
Their thoughts are as one; and together
They band in their terrible ire,
Like legions of wind in fierce weather
Whose footsteps are thunder and fire.
But for ever, like springs of sweet water
That sings in the grass-hidden leas
As soft as the voice of a daughter,
There cometh a whisper from these.
There cometh from shame and dejection,
From wrath and the blackness thereof,
A word at whose heart is affection
With a sighing whose meaning is love.
In the land of distress and of danger,
With their foreheads in sackcloth and dust,
They weep for the wounds of the Stranger
And mourn o’er the ashes of trust!
They weep for the Prince, and the Mother
Whose years have been smitten of grief—
For the son and the lord and the brother,
And the widow, the queen and the chief!
But he, having moved like a splendour
Amongst them in happier days,
With the grace that is manly and tender
And the kindness that passes all praise,
Will think, in the sickness and shadow,
Of greetings in forest and grove,
And welcome in city and meadow,
Nor couple this sin with their love.
For the sake of the touching devotion
That sobs through the depths of their woe,
This son of the kings of the ocean,
As he came to them, trusting will go.