new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

The Conquerors And Other Poems

Defence of Christ

Lo, it is I . . . in many a street dim-litten,
Tattered with shadows, I have called your names
(Forgetting none, oh fisherman, soldier of Rome,
Though it were far from the Galilean foam
And the laden nets ye turned to a fairytale),
But who would know, in those hurrying dusks wind-bitten,
An old man spent and poor
Warming his twisted hands at the brazier flames,
A child in a ragged dress,
A harlot, thrust away from the tavern door?
(Where was your cloak, to cover her nakedness?)
Faint words beat on the wind ó "Lo, it is I."
Was it nothing unto you, all ye that passed by?

The sepulchre lay empty. And they told
Of words on a hill-crest, a sudden daze of gold . . .
Faint-heart lies of a King who cometh again
With the terror and wrath of God in his cloudy train.

In the angry heart of the world, in the ancient city,
In the Norman church graved like a wide stone rose,
They held me prisoner there. Hands without pity
Set the cord on my wrists, and drew it close.
And my Fatherís name soared up in that singing Hell,
Whilst the dumb crowd listened . . . Lucifer, who fell,
Nearer their hearts than the Christ they thrust on high,
His servile banners flaunted against their sky.
Yet a word and a word were whispered . . . a cry in the night
Smote on the lips of the rich manís boasting and mirth,
Till the sign on the walls was woe to the princesí sight
And my great gold sword of meekness threatened the earth.
Then they drave me forth, to wander a desolate street ó
Madman, cursed with the wounded hands and feet ó
And the tale was lost of a dumb god penned in prison,
Of a buried Word uprisen.

So loose the ancient bloodlust on earth again
And drive me out of the world. I was not made
For the weaponed man, for the proud and perfect blade,
For the lip unshaken of pain;
But for the coward suddenly unafraid
Facing the wild beastís spring, to laugh as he fell;
For the woman with shame like a stone behind her eyes
Who wept, when I bade her arise
And fear not man upon earth nor devil in Hell.
A cripple was mine, and a thief who smiled on the cross . . .
Such is your loss.
Leave my body at Nazareth now to rot
While the name of Christ upon earth is remembered not.

For I stayed but among you to make my peace with the three ó
Judas, the tempted man, who was hid from me
By his cruel silver cloud, in the days of old;
And they that barter me now for pieces of gold,
And ye who betray me at last, for the urgent lust
Of your wine-strong youth, the potency of your dust.
Yet, if the wound be driven under your shield,
I shall be with you at last on the battlefield.
When the strong corn falleth, and knows not the fate of its seed,
That hour I am nigh . . . that hour, ye are mine indeed.



Last updated 11 September, 2003