Many Years after Return of the King
In the mirror I see an old face, eyes peering
Out of wrinkles and a neck with wattles like a chicken.
My hands are knotted and swollen, my arms are thin,
I could not hold a sword, nor yet wield it.
It hangs there on the wall, next to my shield,
Below it the chain mail and the helm I wore.
Skinny arms and legs, but the belly between
Would keep the waistcoat open.
Out there, in the garden, children shout and play
And bees drone in the flowers.
Womenfolk go about, keeping house and home,
Men play at bowls, or drink beer and tell tales.
A long step for me, now, out the door and down
Into the arbour. Grapes ripen, their perfume
Sweet and heavy, already like wine,
And the birds and the boys come raiding.
Old times, old times I remember.
I was young, and the sword whistled when I swung it,
And sliced the air. My heart was fierce,
And I was strong, and my enemy fell before my blade.
My youth spent in war, in the heyday of blood.
Laughter we had then, for we knew no fear,
Only our power and quickness and courage.
Bold and free, we joyed in peril and slaughter.
Never after that did my blood run so hot,
Nor my joys seem so sweet. How can it be
That my days wear out in weariness,
That I dream of battle, and the bright sword?
These folk here, they are only half-alive,
They do not live that have not faced death.
Their blood runs thick and slow,
They plod here and there, and never lift their eyes.
The wind brings the scent of heather, and the fern
That is brown now on the uplands.
Once we lay in such a place and held our breath,
Waiting. They came and we fell upon them.
Cannot it be that tomorrow I will wake,
And my hand will take up the sword?
It is not the battle I long for, nor the peril,
But my youth, that has worn away in peace.