new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

The Conquerors And Other Poems

The Traitor
It is you who were traitor, not I —
You who turned
From the wet knife-edges of pain,
From dull red hours, that burned
To flickering dawn in the sky
And a steady falling of rain
To an infinite starlit meadow,
To Her who stood in the shadow,
Waters of comfort deep-cupped in her quiet hands;
To the fragrance hid in her hair
And her tender mouth bent near,
And the gentle glimmering ways of her ghostly lands.

How shall I conquer, knowing you not at my side?
Knowing none stands to guard
Naked shoulder and brow?
Poor weapons you leave me now —
The tinsel armour of pride
And an old, unlucky sword,
And for grail, a broken shard
Carved in the youth of some dead tragic city.
Yet for all this, my lord
(You whose face lies hid on the breast of Pity),
I shall fight on, for sake of a faithful ghost
Who keeps your laughter, the lost brave light of your eyes;

I shall follow your quest to the last strange forests curled
Round the sea-murmuring fringes of the world,
And find your garland, and come at last to the throne . . .
Then, if I stand alone —
If, when the rays of a naked sunrise shine
Kindling the purple boast in the victor’s wine
You are not there, to set your lips on the bowl —
I shall be done with seeking, even as you:
Even as you, sickened and spent with strife,
I shall he done with this tale of a far-off goal,
And turn my back on the marching standards of Life
And look to the west, where billows of sunset roll
Fierce on the stricken chariots of the soul,
Where the implacable waters of mystery meet
Over the poor, rash army, the stumbling feet.
There will be peace, perchance, when the dusk burns blue . . .
For the hills are friendly there . . . for the stars are true.


Last updated 11 September, 2003