Martin Robertson

Now and Then

The Embankment

The river to the sea

yields, slides up the stone the insidious tide.

The darkness stirs along its lifting spine

in slight but bitter wind.

Stir the bare trees, and on the benches stir

against the deepened chill the worse than poor,

the driven and lost,

who cast or crushed out of the casual world,

drawn to the river but from it still withheld,

take by its side their rest.

Monks, harnessing the hungers of the flesh

to spiritual flights, less cold, less hard

make their deliberate bed

than those that huddle to the bleak and harsh

night here; whose lives, which life has tried to quench,

seem shrunk now to their end;

who here not even in dreams can reach the fields

of peace and hope,

when up from foot and finger hourly creeps

stronger the tide of cold.