If you from here must damn what I did there,
You too would’ve faltered on that tower,
Beneath the wreath of that thousand-yard stare.
Will you measure the sins of one hour
Against ten years of duty served with care?
A day’s courage to a second’s error
One minute foul against four fortnights fair
Then, my judges, when you pass your sentence,
If you would light the truth ‘neath this affair,
That you judge the crimes not their repentance.
Do you think fear drove me away from there?
Rendered still a loyalty whose currents
Carried my soul through ten years of warfare?
Then you condense my disobedience.
At last I fled, of this become aware:
My betrayal came long before the flight.
It ended when at last I fled from there.
Cowardice? Dereliction due to fright?
Would that I had at once fled down that stair.
But can mere brute fear shut out the sharp light
Of ten years service as a legionnaire?
Did not scare but enthralled; it overawed.
No clearer centre had the world but there;
No sight more vivid, no more shining gaud.
The world fell deaf and dumb before its flare.
If I had banged the bell, would it have drawled?
It laid your every civil impulse bare
And there at once you knew them for a fraud.
It appeared, convulsing atop the stair.
Throwing that stare first at me, then downward
At my poor charges below in the square.
Its weight pulled the feathered heavens earthward.
They bent around its edge, first bled of their
Blue, then breaking outward at its halyard
To plates of colour wreathed about its stare.
Impose itself despite our sky’s outcries;
Despite our foursquare tower, walls and prayer;
And every elaborate enterprise
Of civility to send it elsewhere.
Our guise of redemption could not disguise
Us before those special eyes; it saw bare
The I, with those specialised, special eyes.