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Either for hope, nor yet for bread.
Then the dead Pope knew that he was dead.

He walked onwardnobody stopping him,
Ever onwardno lip dropping him
A salve reverentia,
Till the streets behind him, one by one,
Fell off, and left him standing alone
In the mighty waste of Rome's decay.
Meanwhile, the night was coming on
Over the wide Campagna:
Hot, fierce, a blackness without form,
And in her breast she bore the storm.
I never shall forget that night:
You might tell by the stifling stillness there,
And the horrible wild-beast scent on the air,
That all things were not right.

On Monte Cavi the dark was nurst,
And the Black Monks' belfry towers above;
Then vast the sea of vapour burst
Where forlorn Territian Jove
Hears only the owlet's note accurst
'Mid his fallen fanes no more divine;
And, from the sea to the Apennine,
And swift across the rocky line
Where the blighted moon dropp'd first
Behind Soracte, black and broad
Up the old Triumphal Road,
From Palestrino post on Rome,
Nearer, nearer you felt It come
The presence of the darkening Thing;
As when, dare I say, with outspread wing,
By some lean Prophet summon'd fast
To preach the guilt of a stiff-neck'd king,
Over the desert black in the blast
On Babylon or Egypt red
The Angel of Destruction sped.
Earth breathed not, feigning to be dead,
While the whole of heaven overhead
Was overtaken unaware,
First here, then there, then everywhere!
Into the belly of blackness sackt
Sank the dwindling droves of buffaloes
That spotted the extreme crimson glare;
Then the mighty darkness stronger rose,
Washing all the width of air,
And cross'd the broken viaduct
Flung forth in dim disorder there
Like the huge spine bone
Of the skeleton
Of some dead Python pleased to obstruct
The formless Night-hag's filmy path;
Thence on, mid the glimmering creeks and nooks,
Putting out quite
The palèd light
Of the yellow flowers by the sulphur brooks
That make a misty brimstone bath
For the Nightmare's noiseless hoof:
And, leaving the quench'd-out east aloof
The plague from Tophet vomited
Struck at the west, and rushing came
Right against the last red flame
Where in cinders now the day
Self-condemn'd to darkness lay,
With all his sins upon his head
Burning on a fiery bed,
Shapeless, helpless, overthrown!

Now to all the world it is well known
How the Devil rides the wind by night,
Doing all the harm he can,
In the absence of heaven's light,
To the world's well-order'd plan,
And with murrain, mildew, blight
Marring the thrift of the honest man,
Which most doth move his spite.
Certainly he was out that night
Before the fearful storm began,
For, lo, on a sudden, left, and right
The heaven was gash'd from sky to sky,
Seam'd across, and sunder'd quite
By a swift, snaky, three-forkt flash
Of brightness intolerably bright,
As, ever, the angry Cherub, vow'd
To vengeance, fast thro' plunging cloud,
Wielding wide his withering lash,
That wild horseman now pursued;
Who lurk'd, his vengeance to illude,
In deep unprobèd darkness still.
Forthwith, the wounded night 'gan spill
Great drops; then fiercecrash crusht on crash
As it grieved beneath each burning gash,
The darkness bellow'd; and outsprang
Wild on the plain, whilst yet it rang
With thunder, the infernal steed,
And dash'd onward at full speed
Blind with pain, with streaming mane
And snorting nostril on the strain,
Where, dasht from off his flanks the rain
Thro' all the desolate abyss
Of darkness now began to hiss.

Alas! for any poor ghost of a Pope
In such a night to be doom'd to grope
Blind beneath the hideous cope
Of those black skies without a star
For the way to where the Blessèd are!
And if the Evil One himself
Was his conductor thro' the dark,
Or, if dislodged from its sky-shelf
Some cloud was made his midnight bask,
Or if the branding bolt that rent
The skies asunder hewed for him
Thro' that disfeatured firmament
Beyond the utmost echoing rim
Of thunder-brewage, and the black
Enormous night, some shining track
Up to the Sapphire Throne where throng
The Voices crying, "Lord, how long?"
While the great years are onward roll'd
With moans and groanings manifold,
I know not, for it was not told.

The story here (as you may conceive it)
Becomes in every way perplexing.
As from others it happen'd to me to receive it,
Nothing novel thereto annexing,
Neither diminishing, nor augmenting,
Nor inserting out of my own inventing,
I would wish to relate it; but, each way I state it,
There remains sufficient cause to doubt.
I cannot convince myself about it,
So many different versions
From so many different persons.

It would seem, however, that all agree
(And this should suffice us, at any rate)
In assuming for certain that, early or late,
The dead Pope got to the golden Gate
Where the mitred Apostle sits with the key
Peter, whose heir on earth was he.

And further than this to speculate
We surely should not be justified.
Tho' a fact there is, I am bound to state:
A renegade Monk avers he descried
In a vision that very night,