St. George and the Sifting (For the Feast of St George, Martyr)

Who does not think of St. George as a quasi-impossible personage slaying a dragon and rescuing a princess? And by all means let us so picture him, only turning the wild legend into a parable of truth…Fabrications, blunders, even lies, frequently contain some grain of truth: and though life at the longest cannot be long enough for us to sift all, one occasionally may repay the sifting.
(Christina Rossetti, on the Feast of St. George, in Time Flies: A Reading Diary)
And did he really slay the dragon,
Clad, as Raphael would have him,
In blackest metal, cape a-flying,
Crested helm with halo circling,
Damsel in the waiting, praying
Patiently, the dragon cowering
Beneath the horse’s lifted hoof?
Does there lie, in this, the truth?
Or did he rise, as icons have him,
O’er the flames that licked around him,
Skewering the dragon’s throat,
Horse and dragon both afloat
Above a raging sea of ground,
Damsel tying dragon down
With a rope around his neck,
An angel on the horse’s back?
Or did Diocletian rise
Upon his own proud horse and ride
Against the saints and claim with his
Emperor’s spear the lives of those
Who knelt in treason down before
Another, higher rival Lord?
And did George stand faithful through
The blazing fire that grew and grew?
And did the dragon emperor cower
When Saint George denied his power?
Did the bride of Christ stand tall
From her frightened castle wall,
Proud and confident to see
That saint who would not lie or flee,
Purified by the flames from the dragon,
Sifted, found pure from the sifting?

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