Martin Robertson

Now and Then

Sur le Pont d’Avignon

Timbers driven deep through summer-slack

water, through mud; winter’s boisterous flow

broken by stone piers, its attack

turned, its wild movement mastered—so

there, not there, the trained current shall go.

And so it went, gentle, reflective, blue

or swelling black boiling to white, through

its vaulted ways.  Suddenly the firm stance

falters, joined banks are sundered anew.

But dance, dance on the jutting stump, dance.

Along the paved and parapeted track

forgetful of the tamed wildness below

once-separated worlds long wandered, back

and forth.  The trader found his markets grow.

Friendship joined hands there.  And the singular glow

of lovers’ meeting was a thing it knew.

On days of merrymaking they would strew

flowers in the road.  Who gave fear a glance?

All this now in its turn forgotten, few

but dance, dance on the jutting stump, dance.

“Why do you paint the past so rosy?  Wrack

and doom along that same roadway would blow.

Wheatfields fired, a pleasant city’s sack

—these in the other scale-pan you must throw.

Record, since you’re recording, all you know,

and then admit that to an honest view

it seems (as surely it must seem to you)

that all smooth ways are ways for hate’s advance.

The road’s gone now.  Rejoice with us then, who

but dance, dance on the jutting stump, dance.”

Prince of Lies, no.  The dark aspect is true,

yet we must pledge our lifeblood to renew

the link, when choice can muster strength and chance.

Yet, while the arch is down, what should we do

but dance, dance on the jutting stump, dance?