From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
- in The Guards Came Through and Other Poems (16 december 1919, John Murray [UK])
- in The Guards Came Through and Other Poems (1920, George H. Doran Co. [US])
The foolish Roman fondly thought
That gods must be the same to all,
Each alien idol might be brought
Within their broad Pantheon Hall.
The vision of a jealous Jove
Was far above their feeble ken;
They had no Lord who gave them love,
But scowled upon all other men.
But in our dispensation bright,
What noble progress have we made!
We know that we are in the light,
And outer races in the shade.
Our kindly creed ensures us this—
That Turk and infidel and Jew
Are safely banished from the bliss
That's guaranteed to me and you.
The Roman mother understood
That, if the babe upon her breast
Untimely died, the gods were good,
And the child's welfare manifest.
With tender guides the soul would go
And there, in some Elysian bower,
The tiny bud plucked here below
Would ripen to the perfect flower.
Poor simpleton! Our faith makes plain
That, if no blest baptismal word
Has cleared the babe, it bears the stain
Which faithless Adam had incurred.
How philosophical an aim!
How wise and well-conceived a plan
Which holds the new-born babe to blame
For all the sins of early man!
Nay, speak not of its tender grace,
But hearken to our dogma wise:
Guilt lies behind that dimpled face,
And sin looks out from gentle eyes.
Quick, quick, the water and the bowl!
Quick with the words that lift the load!
Oh, hasten, ere that tiny soul
Shall pay the debt old Adam owed!
The Roman thought the souls that erred
Would linger in some nether gloom,
But somewhere, sometime, would be spared
To find some peace beyond the tomb.
In those dark halls, enshadowed, vast,
They flitted ever, sad and thin,
Mourning the unforgotten past
Until they shed the taint of sin.
And Pluto brooded over all
Within that land of night and fear,
Enthroned in some dark Judgment Hall,
A god himself, reserved, austere.
How thin and colourless and tame!
Compare our nobler scheme with it,
The howling souls, the leaping flame,
And all the tortures of the pit!
Foolish half-hearted Roman hell!
To us is left the higher thought
Of that eternal torture cell
Whereto the sinner shall be brought.
Out with the thought that God could share
Our weak relenting pity sense,
Or ever condescend to spare
The wretch who gave Him just offence!
'Tis just ten thousand years ago
Since the vile sinner left his clay,
And yet no pity can he know,
For as he lies in hell to-day
So when ten thousand years have run
Still shall he lie in endless night.
O God of Love! O Holy One!
Have we not read Thy ways aright?
The godly man in heaven shall dwell,
And live in joy before the throne,
Though somewhere down in nether hell
His wife or children writhe and groan.
From his bright Empyrean height
He sees the reek from that abyss—
What Pagan ever dreamed a sight
So holy and sublime as this!
Poor foolish folk! Had they begun
To weigh the myths that they professed,
One hour of reason and each one
Would surely stand a fraud confessed.
Pretending to believe each deed
Of Theseus or of Hercules,
With fairy tales of Ganymede,
And gods of rocks and gods of trees!
No, no, had they our purer light
They would have learned some saner tale
Of Balaam's ass, or Samson's might,
Or prophet Jonah and his whale,
Of talking serpents and their ways,
Through which our foolish parents strayed,
And how there passed three nights and days
Before the sun or moon was made!
O Bigotry, you crowning sin!
All evil that a man can do
Has earthly bounds, nor can begin
To match the mischief done by you—
You, who would force the source of love
To play your small sectarian part,
And mould the mercy from above
To fit your own contracted heart.