new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

The Conquerors And Other Poems

The Dweller
These were my children, my beloved . . . Hands
That have felt shining sands
Trickle between their fingers, in a day
Of building castles that were swept away.
Watching their shapely childishness, I thought
How deep and hidden powers within them wrought.
These were for gathering blossoms, or to wield
A hero’s sword . . . or, braver yet, to shield
Some maimed and piteous thing, broken in strife
And left for vultures on the field of Life.
These hands might comfort Age, or cup the breast
Of one who like the young moon in the west
Was white and strange and slender. Their caress
Promised some statue’s fierce blind loveliness.
Music was hidden in their finger-tips,
Or power to shape the soaring lines of ships . . .
Or they might turn to winnowing evil grain,
Grasp at the flowers of death, the joys that stain . . .
I might not guide them. Who would heed my touch,
In the blind, fleshly throng that cry and clutch?
Only at night, when they were clasped in prayer,
I strove, unseen, to keep them strong and fair.

Now may the dusk be very cool and sweet
That laps about these pilgrim ones, the feet,
And let some siren voice take up the song
Of roadways that they travelled . . . white and long
Roadways, that burned towards far-shining seas,
Stained with the supple shadows of olive trees.
Tell of a little pausing, and how sweet
The jasmine-fragrance clung in one dear street,
And then how sharply, wounding that holy night,
Hoofbeats rang out, and through the eerie light
Flashed a new road, unsheathing like a knife.
Say how a seeker journeyed on through Life,
And chose strange paths, traversing unafraid
Great desert . . . and so little of green shade.
I would have taken mountain paths . . . the clear
Unfaltering ways, that need not venture near
The caves of those cold giants, Fear, Mistrust.
And yet, these feet are stained by gallant dust.

But I, who dwelt behind these darkened eyes,
Dare hardly think on them, lest I surmise
What dream, sharp-etched upon them, I may see
And still remember throughout Eternity.
What did they look on last? The silver boughs
Of a moonlit orchard, masoned to the house
Wherein Love dwelt, and kept a king’s estate?
Or did they watch the blind, cold eyes of fate,
And flinch not, being proud; yet slowly guess
How like a stone flung down through emptiness
Echoing, echoing fall the hopes of men,
And the quiet dust takes back its flower again?
Yet, where the lashes touch each deep-curved lid,
Surely a smile is hid . . .
Surely these eyes, the seekers, kept their tryst
With messengers who shone in amethyst,
And watched the fierce, tumultuous wings ascend . . .
And, at the end,
Felt a light touch . . . And at that sweet caress
In twain was broken the sword of bitterness.

Now like a mother, in this darkened room,
I gather things too little for the tomb.
Half-finished work of hands; the pilgrim ways
Of feet that wandered lonely all their days,
And the deep light lost from human eyes, that shone
Like lamps in the temple where Beauty dreams alone.
And God Himself, whose Son was fashioned man,
Shall judge of these as best His pity can.


Last updated 11 September, 2003