Poem by Charles Williams

Ballade of a Street Door 

As I came up into the town 

Wherein my father's house abide, 

I met a man in tattered gown, 

In ragged garment blowing wide, 

With terror fleet and open-eyed; 

'Ho, whither now so fast, I pray?' 

Fearfully looked he back and cried: 

'I pulled the bell and ran away! 

'Good sir, if thou hast held renown 

Among this people, be my guide! 

I from their welcome, not their frown, 

In shelter would obscurely hide. 

For when, being tired, a latch I tried. 

Whence came a sound of revels gay. 

Fear rose within me like a tide,— 

I pulled the bell and ran away. 

'A voice called " Bring the festal crown!" 

And running footsteps gateward hied. 

Wherethrough I heard, as they came down. 

Great names that challenged and replied. 

And torchlight through the chinks I spied 

My soul became a wild dismay. 

And as the doors began to slide 

I pulled the bell and ran away!' 


Prince, was it you and I whose pride 

So turned, so fled, upon our Day? 

Was it our voices then which sighed 

'I pulled the bell and ran away'? 

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

1 Response

  1. Michael Strenk says:

    This poem is helpful in understanding Descent into Hell.