Martin Robertson

Now and Then


Here in this rock lie stony semblances

of shells—here was the sea;

and in this coal a leaf—this was a tree.

Leaf and shell

are with us still

but delicately other than these;

a world of life perished and vanished

taps us these messages.

Hearts flower in words, or works of hand and mind,

song and colour and stone,

or in the whispering of two alone;

melting mist

or tough to outlast

their time, their race—perhaps mankind,

featureless in a swarming desolation

as light falls on the blind.

Paris loves Helen in all tongues of the world,

Gorgias Tamynis on a sherd

in a scratched verse, and A.G. on a wall

in chalk R.H.  On the Roman vault

Adam is made man in one image, Eve

in another woman, for love.

Love is the heart’s flower

not only in these lovers’

cries—in all that sprang

from Michelangelo’s hand or Homer’s tongue,

all craft or thought

achieves with heart;

a little known,

world on world gone.

Spare a small grief

for lovely shell or leaf

that loosed or crushed before its hour

left unfulfilled its being, nor

vanishing stamped its image on

the less ephemeral stone.