new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

The Conquerors And Other Poems

I care not if from shoulder now to feet
They strip my poor rags of pretence away —
Torn lace of pride that once seemed very meet,
Bedraggled crest that in the lists shone gay,
And, with strange darker scarlet soaking through,
The soiled wet scarlet of a tattered shoe.

One will say, "See — a wound got in no fight,
The ash-white kiss of some old venomed knife,
And not across his breast, as it were right —
Draining his honour pale, but not his life."
And one, "A little scar stands well apart,
Flame-crooked just above a coward’s heart."

"See, on his wrists the fresh marks of the gyves —
Slave was he to some Thing unholy, such
As would weave cobweb strands about our lives
And prison us, should we Its servant touch."
Presently they will go. I lie as still
As the small scent of grasses on the hill.

Their pebbles cannot sting; not when they say,
"There is no surgeon who would think to heal
A serf not worth the healing." For the sway
Of tender grass against my breast I feel . . .
Nor care I when one murmurs, very low,
"That hand had swung a right sword, long ago."

So — they were gone. A little noiseless wind
Touched my scarred wrists. "See, knight, how you are free.
No dark enchantments can your poor hands bind —
They were so strong . . ." She sought to comfort me,
And one white star over the black pines stole —
I think her joy was to make sick men whole.


Last updated 11 September, 2003