The poet laureate of England, who had been for some time gravely
ill, was not disposed to write anything about his selections, but chose
for the volume the tale in verse "The Rider at the Gate," the two
sonnets "On Growing Old" and the early lyric "Sea-fever."
THE RIDER AT THE GATE
A WINDY NIGHT was blowing on Rome.
The cressets guttered on Caesar's home.
The fish-boats, moored at the bridge, were breaking
The rush of the river to yellow foam.
The hinges whined to the shutters shaking,
When clip-clop-clep came a horse-hoofs raking
The stones of the road at Caesar's gate;
The spear-butts jarred at the guard's awaking.
"Who goes there?" said the guard at the gate.
"What is the news, that you ride so late?"
"News most pressing, that must be spoken
To Caesar alone, and that cannot wait."
"The Caesar sleeps; you must show a token
That the news suffice that he be awoken.
What is the news, and whence do you come?
For no light cause may his sleep be broken."
"Out of the dark of the sands I come,
From the dark of death, with news from Rome,
A word so fell that it must be uttered
Though it strike the soul of the Caesar dumb."