First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Outlaws

OUTLAWS by ROBERT GRAVES

Owls---they whinny down the night; Bats go zigzag by. Ambushed in shadow beyond sight The outlaws lie.

Old gods, tamed to silence, there In the wet woods they lurk, Greedy of human stuff to snare In nets of murk.

Look up, else your eye will drown In a moving sea of black; Between the tree-tops, upside down, Goes the sky-track.

Look up, else your feet will stray Into that ambuscade Where spider-like they trap their prey With webs of shade.

For though creeds whirl away in dust, Faith dies and men forget, These agèd gods of power and lust Cling to life yet---

Old gods almost dead, malign, Starving for unpaid dues: Incense and fire, salt, blood and wine And a drumming muse,

Banished to woods and a sickly moon, Shrunk to mere bogey things, Who spoke with thunder once at noon To prostrate kings:

With thunder from an open sky To warrior, virgin, priest, Bowing in fear with a dazzled eye Toward the dread East---

Proud gods, humbled, sunk so low, Living with ghosts and ghouls, And ghosts of ghosts and last year's snow And dead toadstools.

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