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Edwin and Paulinus

_The Conversion of Northumbria_

The black-hair'd gaunt Paulinus
  By ruddy Edwin stood:--
"Bow down, O king of Deira,
  Before the blessed Rood!
Cast out thy heathen idols,
  And worship Christ our Lord."
--But Edwin look'd and ponder'd,
  And answer'd not a word.

Again the gaunt Paulinus To ruddy Edwin spake: "God offers life immortal For his dear Son's own sake! Wilt thou not hear his message, Who bears the keys and sword?" --But Edwin look'd and ponder'd, And answer'd not a word.

Rose then a sage old warrior; Was five-score winters old; Whose beard from chin to girdle Like one long snow-wreath roll'd:-- "At Yule-time in our chamber We sit in warmth and light, While cold and howling round us Lies the black land of Night.

"Athwart the room a sparrow Darts from the open door: Within the happy hearth-light One red flash--and no more! We see it come from darkness, And into darkness go:-- So is our life, King Edwin! Alas, that it is so!

"But if this pale Paulinus Have somewhat more to tell; Some news of Whence and Whither, And where the soul will dwell;-- If on that outer darkness The sun of hope may shine;-- He makes life worth the living! I take his God for mine!"

So spake the wise old warrior; And all about him cried: "Paulinus' God hath conquer'd! And he shall be our guide:-- For he makes life worth living Who brings this message plain, When our brief days are over, That we shall live again."


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