Who Lights and Guards Macbeth

King Alfred

Alas! O prince, once worthy Glamis,
What have you done? Alas!
That bold ambitious blade has murdered
So much more than man.
Trust not the eyes!
For Sun is gone and Moon is dead,
And Nature trembles from the shock,
Hart rebels and hunts the hound,
And sky expels the hawk.
Trust not the heart!
For dark deeds and darker thoughts
Rise and set within Macbeth,
And Nature and the Soul are set
Upon the glamorous road to Death.

Beware! O brave, ambitious thane,
Of pretty lies beware!
Already eager to believe,
Enchanted by those sirens three,
My warnings you dismissed, and fell.
Why heed them, but hear not me?
Before the cunning traps they set
Your restless heart was such easy prey.
Don’t you know the Devil’s game,
To promise, lie, and then betray?

Prepare! O royal shade of Scotland,
Your fate is drawing near!
Look to yourself and see inside
A soul to fire and Death condemned.
While men were bound to greet Your Grace,
See now the irony they kenned.
O lying word! O empty shell!
You traded truth for name and now,
Alone, bereft of wife and friends,
You’ve touched the golden gates of Hell.

Now hear, O charge so close to lost,
These words of doom and fear:
For Birnam wood has come for Duncan’s bane,
And Nature, man, and God are come to claim
Your flesh – and soul, perhaps.
Be not surprised!
Shake off the shock of treason from your face.
Such truthful lies the Devil always tells;
Thus always ends Ambition’s petty race.
Fear not Macduff, though not of woman born,
And though he may dispatch you to the grave.
But fear instead to fail the greater Cause:
The Soul, which you have damned but yet can save.
For therein lies the fatal choice before you,
The final chance that God has deigned to give:
To fear, despair, and die in vain desire,
Or fear and learn and die and, after, live.
Trust not in prophecies unnatural.
Trust not the strength of your accursed knife.
But trust, for once, in Him who day to day
Lights sinful fools the way to eternal Life.

But speak repentance now, if you’ll be heard:
Tomorrow will be too late for such a word.


  1. AK Abeille says

    This is gorgeous. As a Shakespeare enthusiast and a long-time lamenter of the dearth (death?) of formal poetry in our “post-modern” wasteland, I was delighted to read, and re-read, this selection. Lovely!