Came across this tucked away in a Chesterton journal. I'd not come across it before. It's a bit like his narrative poem "The White Horse", but shorter and punchier..
The Grave of Arthur by G.K. Chesterton
This Chesterton poem was first published in October 1930 by Faber & Faber, London, as Number 25 in a series of what were called "The Ariel Poems."
Down through the rocks where the dark roots dry,
The last long roots of the Glaston Thorn,
Dead is the King that never was born,
Dead is the King that never shall die.
They found him between the pyramids
In the subterranean land, men say,
And there was not rending nor rolling
Of linen nor lifting of coffin-lids,
But the giant bones like the columns lie,
The far-flung towers of a flattened city
That is dead with a doom too old for pity
(Dead is the King who does not die).
Coiled on his left from neck to knee,
Huge and hollow the horn is curled,
White as the worm that devours the world,
Carved with the cold white snakes of the sea.
Flat on his right, in the dust grown grey,
Is patterned the vast cross-hilted sword
Graven with the Coming of Christ the Lord,
Gold with the trumpets of Judgment Day.
Between the first and the last he lies
And between the false and the true dreams he:
Born without birth of a fabled sea
Amoured in death till the dead shall rise.
And back and forth as a tolling bell
And forth and backward the Roman rhyme
Rolls in a ring that mocks at time
Tolling the truth that none can tell.
In the high still hollow where Time is not
Or all times turn and exchange and borrow
In the glass wherein God remembers tomorrow
And truth looks forward to times forgot.
Where God looks back on the days to be
And heaven is yet hoping for yesterday;
The light in which time shall be taken away
And the soul that faces all ways is free,
The rune shall be read though it twist and turn,
And the riddle be learnt that is past all learning,
Of the Man unborn who is ever returning
And ever delaying, till God return.
And for ever and ever till death discover
Why truth speaks double in dreams and day;
And the Myth and the Man that wandered away
Make tryst together as lover to lover,
A dream shall wail through the worm-shaped horn
"Dead is a King that never was born"
And a trumpet of truth from the Cross reply
"Dead is the King who shall not die."
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