new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

online works


Somewhere I read how, long since oh very
Long ago a certain Knight (most certain
In his faith) fought with the Beast
Who was his unbelief, his lack-faith contrary
In all contrarieties; yet again,
        Again the Beast would hoist
Himself up from injudiciously being dead
        And not done with
        However he bled,
Stank or staggered, a corrupt patch-pelt
Scurfy verminous draggletail, caricature
        Of piety’s detestably impure
Other. The Knight, now – how was it he felt?

Variously, he felt, variously. There was his pride
Going triumphantly before his fall
With his humility, taxed
Excessive – the Beast was, and could not be, denied.
He felt this way, that way, as temporal
        Lords, lords spiritual passed
Before him deferential. So he retired
        To a wilderness
        Where his absurd
Pitying servile victim followed him,
His handy monster who sustained him in that place.
        Strict in his hour Beast washed his tired face,
Digged deep, and chose to die, a lasting whim.

Man and a Brute lie proper in one pit,
Whom warring could not sunder: how deep should
We read the tale? I give it
No commentary, only wonder (autumn night
Dropping dropping leaves from a dying wood)
        What medieval wit
Intended how far, how much is left unsaid.
        I sit, your virtue’s
        Beast, my day not played
Wholly away or so far undone
That I cannot see marriage with this parable
        Could have some truck; you, admirable,
Brave, chaste, vowed to your Brute. Think – how alone
Should either face on Wilderness who have
So much together fought, so much one mind,
A little understanding,
As much need? Flaunt handsome on your high horse. Improve
My scruffy riots: they will again down, bend
        Their craggy knee, commending
Their deathly due the tax of a humbled blood
        night of autumn
        moonshine pricking the wood
that is a wilderness
… I trick
No one (you less than any) with this metaphor
       In which I hide what I should declare
Plainly, a debt that needs no rhetoric.

Selected Poems. AUP 1989, p. 70.



Last updated 11 May 2001