Martin Robertson

Now and Then


Under the grey sky

he stood by the grey lake

and turned the sword in his hands.

There were gems in the gold hilt, but it was not that

—the work was wonderful, and the much-used blade

marvellously fresh and keen—it was not that,

not that at least chiefly which made him hesitate,

and laying it carefully in the reeds at last, go back

and tell the king he had tossed it in the lake.

But the dying king knew better

and sent him back to the lake.

He turned the sword in his hands.

The king his master was dying, this was his sword,

the sword was beautiful and it was his master’s,

his master was dying, the bright circle was broken,

withdrawn all brightness to this brightness of a sword

He laid it among the reeds again, went slowly back

to tell the king he had tossed it in the lake.

The king was not deceived.

Angry?  No.  Hardly sad.

Beyond sadness and anger,

but still the king, his master to be obeyed.

“Toss it in the lake,” He went back to the lake

and stood and turned the bright sword in his hands

then tossed it flashing towards the middle of the lake.

A hand came up and caught it, swung it, a bright circle

in the last light, before it sank in the lake.