The Gray Inn
AND at the last he came to a gray inn,
About which all was gray,
E’en to the sky that overhung the day;
And though in time long lapsed it might have been
Bedecked with tavern gauds, naught now it bore
Above the shambling door
Saving a creaky sign,
Whereon the storm had blurred each limnèd line.
The portal hung a-cringe,
Belike to fall from off its one bruised hinge ;
And on the deep-set casement’s leaded panes
The spiders wove their geometric skeins.
Hot weariness was on him,—he must rest ;
And though he deemed to find no other guest,
No comradeship, within
The ghostly grayness of that sombre inn,
Lo, as he crossed the lintel he beheld,
In the packed gloom
Of the low-raftered room,
One from whose eyes the mysteries of eld
Shone in lack-lustre wise !
And oh, the unfathomable strangeness of those eyes!
From boot to drooping plume
Gray-garmented was he, and his still face
Was like the wan sea when the banked clouds chase
Above it through the winter’s iron skies.
One lean hand held a box of shaken dice,
And in a trice
This grim and gray one cried, “ Come, throw with me !
Long have I waited thee.”
And he late-entered answered, “Naught have I
To wager ! ” And the gray one made reply,
“Thou hast thy soul, and shouldst thou cast and win,
Lo, all the hoarded treasure of this inn ! ”
They gripped and cast, but, ere he saw which won,
The sleeper stirred and woke, — the dream was done.
Within his breast there throbbed a stabbing sting :
That day, for wealth, and what its trappings bring,
He knew his hand would do an evil thing.