A Marriage in Gaia  (1900) 
by William James Roe

Published in November

At the cathedral door I paused, amazed,
Confounded at the beauty seen within;
For all without was barren and forlorn,
Gaunt, gray and lustreless.
A throng stood there
Waiting and watching, as they watch and
Who hope to find their faith and fate fulfilled.

So I fixed their interest, so intent their joy,
I could not partake their curious zeal;
And so I asked a verger:
Tell me, pray,
What is’t impels the throng, and why they
And may I, if I choose, go in?
A smile,
Part pitying and part scornful, lit his lips;
They wait, he said, I cannot tell thee more.
As for thy choice, thou hast none; come thou
Must! In hot blood I spoke:
That word to me is a word unknown.
Yon rabble go perchance because they may,
Or must, by will more mighty than their own;
But he I serve, more mighty than their lord,
My sovereign and my liege from whom I got
Mine accolade, demands my only service.
In passing by I felt a transient throb
Of curious interest. Now I go on my way.
Turning upon my heel
I would have gone, But, as I moved, a hand
Mailed, irresistible, but all unseen, smote me,
And whirled me round and held me hard.
Forth blazed a light,

Not as the light of earth; but colors vast,
Innumerable,—beyond the violet and red;
And a strange voice, not human speech,
Nor sound, but vaster still, as full
Of Truth, encompassing all sound,
And far beyond the treble and the bass,
Spoke as a whispering thunderbolt, and said:
I tell thee, no,
Not yet; for not thy king hath pow’r,
Or ever had or shall, to thwart my will.
His word, Thou must! the idiom of Truth;
His voice the concentrated argument of God.

So I went in and waited with the rest.
Silence at first, and then a sudden shriek
Rang out, and footsteps fell in madd’ning
Upon the marble floor. I turned to look
(For all there turned to look) and saw a
Clad if filthy rags, with hair unkempt and
Down her back.
    Her eyeballs, deeply sunken, glittered blank;
From her lank jaws oozed drops of filthy
One long, lean arm entwined a coiling
A deadly cobra hissing through its fangs,—
And one uplifted grasped a curling kreese.

By her side
A knightly form in solid armor strode,
Armed, yet unweaponed, with a placid face.
The likeness and the mien of a young god.
From his shoulders fell in tawny foam
A bright cascade of hair. Upon his head
A helm, and ‘neath the plume for motto
Graved these words: I sanctify the world.
So side by side
They two,—the worst and best, the noble and
     the base,
The height and depth of all created things,
Moved forward up the long cathedral aisle.

At first sight of those
Discordant ones silenced the rabble; then
They shuddering shrank from the mad woman.
But at sight of him, so grave, so beautiful,
A whispered sigh, strange looks from each to
A feeble cheer, hushed quickly; murmurs rose,
And mocking questions:
Why was he demeaned
By such a low companion?
But at sight
Of that proud crest wheron the motto blazed
Some laughed in scorn, and some with bitter
Reviled the knight and mocked.
He caring not
Looked neither down nor up, nor yet to either
Strode straight towards the altar at the east.
To the chancel rail, all garbed in white,
A shadowy shape stepped forth amid a throng
Of acolytes. His voice the same that thrilled
Through all my soul in mighty thunder tones
At the cathedral door. There they twain,—
Woman and man,—before the altar stood in
     silence deep.
In silence deep

Of knightly presence his and godly grace,
But hers of hellish hate and weird, wild eyes.
Willing the man, yet willing as one wills,—
The nvoy and the nuncio of Will
Inhabiting Eternity.
But she reluctant, trembling with the force
That conquered fury,—loathing to submit.

To have and hold, he said, with all my hope,—
My holy hope and all my heavenly goods,
The upwardness and onwardness of life,
The peace of pardon that are mine to give,
The potency and promise of all words
I thee endow.
And, as he spoke the words, a sudden change
Came o’er the woman’s face. From her fierce
The frown and fury passed; from her bold eyes
     the gleam
Of concentrated hate, and from her lips the
The demon look
Slipped from her like a mask, and in their
The lovely likeness of a new born soul.
And one by one
All base and odious things were changed or
Curled up her hair and coiled in placid plaits;
The filthy rags grew into lawn and lace;
The glittering kresse dropped clanging on the
The snake untwined,
And hissing crawled away.
A radiant princess stood, hang clasped in his
Who gave her life and love.

This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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