Martin Robertson

Now and Then

Time’s Reach

Who so firmly set in time and place

as the Empress Eugénie?

High nineteenth-century

Paris.  Rich, squalid, whirling Paris:

Winterhalter, Gounod, Offenbach, Guys,

Viollet-le-Duc, Dumas fils,

red velvet drapes, glittering chandeliers

(and dark past draped glass, Les Misérables).

Then, 1870.

Sedan, Paris besieged, France lost,

exile, chilled in English Chislehurst,

widowhood, soon to mourn

her killed, her only, son,

fighting a foreigners’ war in a far country.



But Time has tricks.  


The old lady

who in this century

took her cliff-top walk at Cap Martin

with a clever little boy, Kenneth Clark,

how many lifetimes earlier,

a fourteen-year-old countess from proud Spain,

exchanged letters, friendship, with the aging author

of Le Rouge et le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme.