A Creed

I hold that when a person dies
___His soul returns again to earth;
Arrayed in some new flesh-disguise
___Another mother gives him birth.
With sturdier limbs and brighter brain
The old soul takes the roads again.

Such is my own belief and trust;
___This hand, this hand that holds the pen,
Has many a hundred times been dust
___And turned, as dust, to dust again;
These eyes of mine have blinked and shone
In Thebes, in Troy, in Babylon.

All that I rightly think or do,
___Or make, or spoil, or bless, or blast,
Is curse or blessing justly due
___For sloth or effort in the past.
My life’s a statement of the sum
Of vice indulged, or overcome.

I know that in my lives to be
___My sorry heart will ache and burn,
And worship, unavailingly,
___The woman whom I used to spurn,
And shake to see another have
The love I spurned, the love she gave.

And I shall know, in angry words,
___In gibes, and mocks, and many a tear,
A carrion flock of homing-birds,
___The gibes and scorns I uttered here.
The brave word that I failed to speak
Will brand me dastard on the cheek.

And as I wander on the roads
___I shall be helped and healed and blessed;
Dear words shall cheer and be as goads
___To urge to heights before unguessed.
My road shall be the road I made;
All that I gave shall be repaid.

So shall I fight, so shall I tread,
___In this long war beneath the stars;
So shall a glory wreathe my head,
___So shall I faint and show the scars,
Until this case, this clogging mould,
Be smithied all to kingly gold.

— John Masefield

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