Ballade of a Street Door

As I came up into the town
Wherein my father's house abide,
I met a man in tattered gown,
In ragged garment blowing wide,
With terror fleet and open-eyed ;
' Ho, whither now so fast, I pray ? '
Fearfully looked he back and cried :
' I pulled the bell and ran away !

' Good sir, if thou hast held renown
Among this people, be my guide !
I from their welcome, not their frown,
In shelter would obscurely hide.
For when, being tired, a latch I tried.
Whence came a sound of revels gay.
Fear rose within me like a tide, —
I pulled the bell and ran away.

' A voice called " Bring the festal crown ! "
And running footsteps gateward hied.
Wherethrough I heard, as they came down.
Great names that challenged and replied.
And torchlight through the chinks I spied
My soul became a wild dismay.
And as the doors began to slide
I pulled the bell and ran away ! '

Prince, was it you and I whose pride
So turned, so fled, upon our Day ?
Was it our voices then which sighed
' I pulled the bell and ran away ' ?

Charles Williams
Poems of Conformity (OUP 1917)

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