Barbarians within the gates
Wait patiently their chance to pounce,
While loyalties and loves and hates
And blind allegiances announce
With urgent importunity
The time to poise on razor-edge
And seize the opportunity
Along the teetering temple-ledge.
While in at that same portal rides
Astride the gentle burden-beast
The king of beasts and all besides
Towards the sacrificial feast.
Now blood and horn and burning flesh
Upon the altar crimp and broil,
Burn and bubble through the mesh
Of firepan and brazen coil.
The darkness falls; a cry rings out.
Then just as soon the shout falls still.
And in the next the rabble rout
Goes driving up the hollow hill,
The cross before, the mob behind,
A knife concealed in every boot.
A veil on every face, the blind
Rush blindly to the judgment-moot.
One hangs there between earth and sky;
A great black thumb blots out the sun.
Rocks split and tumble. Day’s bright eye
Is swallowed up. Cold rivers run
And steam through cracked and crumbled stone.
The dead come forth and go abroad –
Joint on joint, and bone to bone,
Skin on sinew, flesh and blood.
The tomb is sealed. The darkness covers
Weary watchers watching hours
Come and go; corruption hovers
In the air like threatening showers.
All gladness gone, all joy lies crushed
Like trodden grass. All life is done.
But then, as all the world lies hushed,
Hope springs afresh with morning’s sun.