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The Wood Cutter

We came behind him by the wall,
My brethren drew their brands,
And they had strength to strike him down--
And I to bind his hands.

Only once, to a lantern gleam,
He turned his face from the wall,
And it was as the accusing angel's face
On the day when the stars shall fall.

I grasped the axe with shaking hands,
I stared at the grass I trod;
For I feared to see the whole bare heavens
Filled with the face of God.

I struck: the serpentine slow blood
In four arms soaked the moss--
Before me, by the living Christ,
The blood ran in a cross.

Therefore I toil in forests here
And pile the wood in stacks,
And take no fee from the shivering folk
Till I have cleansed the axe.

But for a curse God cleared my sight,
And where each tree doth grow
I see a life with awful eyes,
And I must lay it low.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton