The traveller hard cast down his chafing load,
And stretched his weary limbs upon the bank
Of an oily tarn beside the dusty road,
His lips yet drier still since last he drank.
Bright-burnished high, within a cloudless sky,
The sun shone down upon his bronzen face,
Cracked black peat stiff bed on which to lie
For want of time denied a tavern’s place.
Soon drawn near, the drone of hopeful fly
Took certain path to sweat-stained redingote,
To settle, had it not been swiped awry,
Sent stunned upon the tranquil tarn to float.
Soft stole in fair sleep it seemed, for leaden
Were his lids anon, breath long shallow drawn
Through mouth agape, like empty nest of wren
Long lost of fledgling to a Summer born.
Still the open air then hung ‘pon moorland high,
No stir of stem nor breeze to brush back blade,
So pipit’s distant call, a punctuated cry,
Could mark the bag’s own low tirade.
“’Pon what leave think thee to cast me down,
As charge o’erlooked beside now silent feet?
Did wonder thee, O Master Thief o’ Crown,
What noble worth of realm thou tries to cheat?”
Yet spoke the traveller ‘lone by simple snore,
That stilled the bag as though it pondered new
‘Til muffled thoughts soon through the canvas bore,
“Despite my bounds, ‘tis time to say adieu.”
Thus to and fro awhile that pack did roll,
Trapped within its tussock cup ‘til rim gave way
And let it fall beyond the traveller’s bowl,
Fast down the slope to where dark water lay.
There, soft it slid within such wet-held world,
Mere moments kept afloat ‘til cloth did soak
And drag it down where deepest depths enfold,
With mantle cloth of peaty tarn’s cold cloak.
When stretch and yawn at last met dying day,
And bleary eyes fast sought their burden there,
Cold truth crept in until, in sharp dismay,
The traveller cried, “What now of Excalibur?”
Clive S. Johnson
Poet for August