First World War Poetry Digital Archive

The Ballad Of Many Thorns


A Poet stood in parley With Carls a-reaping corn. Quoth one: 'I curse the Barley, More sharp than any thorn.'

'Although thy hand be torn, Ill-spoken was thy curse: I swear thou art forsworn, If Thistle wound not worse.'

So groaned a footsore Climber, Had scaled the bristly path: 'What thorns, Sir Carl, Sir Rimer, Like these the Thistle hath?'

Behold a wan youth ramble With bleeding cheeks forlorn, And moans: 'The wanton bramble, It is the keenest thorn.'

Rode by a wounded Warrior Deep muttering like a lion: 'Show me the flesh wound sorrier Than by the barb of Iron!'

Out laughed a man of folly, Much wine had made him thick: 'The jolly, festive Holly Deals oft a nasty prick.'

There hung near by a Jesus With crownèd head for scorn. 'Ah by His brow, who sees us, Was any like His thorn?'

So sighed a leprous Palmer. But when he thought afresh: 'Perchance His pain was calmer, Than this thorn in my flesh.'

Then cried the gentle Poet: 'Not one among ye knows: The cruelest thorn, I know it, For having kissed the Rose.'

I saw his round mouth's crimson deepen as it fell, Like a sun, in his last deep hour; Watched the magnificent recession of farewell, Clouding, half gleam, half glower, And a last splendour burn the heavens of his cheek. And in his eyes The cold stars lighting, very old and bleak, In different skies.

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