Martin Robertson

Now and Then


He had reached the ends of the earth,

done all in order as the witch had said,

and now, sitting over the blood-filled trench,

the hero peered into the opening shadows

and held his sword against the shades crowding

to the blood.  


When he had let Tiresias drink

the old ambivalent spirit spoke:

“You shall win home

and find your wife waiting for you, your son

a man now and a friend, a few old friends.

Between you you shall clear your house and your kingdom

of the parasitic clutter.  But do not think

to live in peace.  The angry sea-god

is not assuaged.  


This you shall do.

Take ship again.  Yes, take ship again

and sail distance and days,

beach on an unknown shore.

Then take an oar, turn your back to the sea

and walk inland with the oar on your shoulder.

You will meet with men from time to time,

and after you do not know how many miles

and after you have forgotten how many days

you will meet a man

who says “That’s a funny kind of winnowing-fan.”

Plant the oar in the ground,

mark out a temenos, build an altar, sacrifice

there to Him of the sea.

He will accept it,

forget his anger.

And much good may it do you.

I don’t think you’ll get home a second time.”