John Masefield


I hold that when a person dies 
      His soul returns again to earth; 
Arrayed in some new flesh-disguise 
      Another mother gives him birth. 
With sturdier limbs and brighter brain 
The old soul takes the road again. 

Such is my own belief and trust; 
      This hand, this hand that holds the pen, 
Has many a hundred times been dust 
      And turned, as dust, to dust again; 
These eyes of mine have blinked and shown 
In Thebes, in Troy, in Babylon. 

All that I rightly think or do, 
      Or make, or spoil, or bless, or blast, 
Is curse or blessing justly due 
      For sloth or effort in the past. 
My life's a statement of the sum 
Of vice indulged, or overcome. 

I know that in my lives to be 
      My sorry heart will ache and burn, 
And worship, unavailingly, 
      The woman whom I used to spurn, 
And shake to see another have 
The love I spurned, the love she gave. 

And I shall know, in angry words, 
      In gibes, and mocks, and many a tear, 
A carrion flock of homing-birds, 
      The gibes and scorns I uttered here. 
The brave word that I failed to speak 
Will brand me dastard on the cheek. 

And as I wander on the roads 
      I shall be helped and healed and blessed; 
Dear words shall cheer and be as goads 
      To urge to heights before unguessed. 
My road shall be the road I made; 
All that I gave shall be repaid. 

So shall I fight, so shall I tread, 
      In this long war beneath the stars; 
So shall a glory wreathe my head, 
      So shall I faint and show the scars, 
Until this case, this clogging mould, 
Be smithied all to kingly gold.