And quench in a wreath

Of engulfing death

This fight for a God, or this devil's game.

A Tale of Starvation

There once was a man whom the gods didn't love,

And a disagreeable man was he.

He loathed his neighbours, and his neighbours hated him,

And he cursed eternally.

He damned the sun, and he damned the stars,

And he blasted the winds in the sky.

He sent to Hell every green, growing thing,

And he raved at the birds as they fly.

His oaths were many, and his range was wide,

He swore in fancy ways;

But his meaning was plain: that no created thing

Was other than a hurt to his gaze.

He dwelt all alone, underneath a leaning hill,

And windows toward the hill there were none,

And on the other side they were white-washed thick,

To keep out every spark of the sun.

When he went to market he walked all the way

Blaspheming at the path he trod.

He cursed at those he bought of, and swore at those he sold to,

By all the names he knew of God.

For his heart was soured in his weary old hide,

And his hopes had curdled in his breast.

His friend had been untrue, and his love had thrown him over

For the chinking money-bags she liked best.

The rats had devoured the contents of his grain-bin,

The deer had trampled on his corn,

His brook had shrivelled in a summer drought,

And his sheep had died unshorn.

His hens wouldn't lay, and his cow broke loose,

And his old horse perished of a colic.

In the loft his wheat-bags were nibbled into holes

By little, glutton mice on a frolic.

So he slowly lost all he ever had,

And the blood in his body dried.

Shrunken and mean he still lived on,

And cursed that future which had lied.

One day he was digging, a spade or two,

As his aching back could lift,

When he saw something glisten at the bottom of the trench,

And to get it out he made great shift.

So he dug, and he delved, with care and pain,

And the veins in his forehead stood taut.

At the end of an hour, when every bone cracked,

He gathered up what he had sought.

A dim old vase of crusted glass,

Prismed while it lay buried deep.

Shifting reds and greens, like a pigeon's neck,

At the touch of the sun began to leap.

It was dull in the tree-shade, but glowing in the light;

Flashing like an opal-stone,

Carved into a flagon; and the colours glanced and ran,

Where at first there had seemed to be none.

It had handles on each side to bear it up,

And a belly for the gurgling wine.

Its neck was slender, and its mouth was wide,

And its lip was curled and fine.

The old man saw it in the sun's bright stare

And the colours started up through the crust,

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