new zealand electronic poetry centre


Robin Hyde

Persephone in Winter

The Loyalist
Judas he was a trencher-hound
Of large and pleading eyes.
His use for earth’s white-flowering ground
Was burying bones — and lies.
An anxious palpitating mass
His spirit wriggled on the grass,
His being melted in the shout,
"Don’t find me out — don’t find me out."

Some kick in childhood, some obscure
Unpardoned thrust of words,
Some levity beyond all cure
From hissing gander-birds
Bedraggled the whole grave and fine
Conception of the gabardine,
Betrayed his nervous hands, and smeared
The taste of spittle on his beard.

He knew the Lord, effect and cause,
He was not taken in;
A hothead boy, too kind with whores,
Too garrulous with sin,
Who, when he thought the followers slept,
Ran back to Bethlehem, and wept.
The flowery Hands, the riven Breast,
He knew them, loved them, gulled them best.

He knew stout Peter for a cheat,
John for a Jew-boy cupid,
Old Matthew, docile at the Feet,
A trifle glazed and stupid.
Or when he looked away from men
He met the flush of Magdalen.
A smiling curse was in his eye . . .
"We guess each other, thou and I."

The others watched a haloed Face,
A trembling light of candles,
But Judas saw the patchy place,
The little doubts and scandals.
Close-up of Christ: the vision blurred,
The lips half-lovely, half-absurd,
The feet that stamped on dung and pelf —
"Racca," thought Judas, "know Thyself."

Yet stayed he patient with the Lord,
His kindness at its best
While little John lapped up the Word
And leaned against the Breast.
"Ah, yes," thought Judas, "best despise
All but the favourite sheepish eyes.
But come to me, when fortunes lag . . ."
And smiling still, he took the bag.

Into the love Christ scattered free
He stirred the little leaven
Lest that white bread invidiously
Should feed old earth on Heaven.
Yet shrank when Magdalen’s hair like soot
Fell sprinkling on a naked Foot,
And loathed the purple vulture-glare
Of priestly garments on the air.

He did not care for money much,
That was so vile a thing
He sold a fallen Friend for such
Small change as He might bring.
He sold the love that must be lies,
The peasant woman’s streaming eyes,
And the white Face, that pitch-defiled
Gazed suddenly on his scorn — and smiled.

Yet when the others beat their breasts
And cursed the ground he trod,
Remaining veiled from the arrests
Of either man or God,
Or dreamed that He would rise again,
Or talked of Zion in golden rain,
Old Judas, naked by his tree,
Muttered, "Oh Lost . . . I follow Thee."


Last updated 24 September, 2003