They said: "He is an honest man, J.A." And I believed; knowing full well that they Had evidence of unpretentious worth That proved him, past all doubting, salt of earth -- An honorable foe, a trusty friend, Who cleaved to duty to the bitter end. Yet, seeing him, I marked a subtle change, Made patent by a mannerism strange -- A swift, sharp glance across the shoulder thrown, As if he greatly feared to walk alone. And, ever as he went, his gaze turned back, Seeming alert for treacherous attack. They said: "He is a humble man, J.A., A simple man who treads the simple way." And I believed them; for I'd seen him throw Preferment, power, place aside and go Into retirement quietly, there to make A greater name, who served for honor's sake. Again I marked that glance of nervous fear, That wary, watchful mien, and deemed it queer That be, who many a fierce attack had burked, Should seem to fear that secret menace lurked Even within the ranks of goodly friends, Who might, thro' friendship, scheme for devious ends. They said: 'He is a strong man. this J.A." And I believed them; for I'd known the day When he had stood four-square and unafraid -- Yet knowing fealty oft ill-repaid -- Deaf to the sophists' clamorous appeals, While the pack yelped and snarled about his heels. Yet this new fear in him? I asked them then How it had come to this most brave of men. "Indeed," they answered, "one must watch for tricks Who dabbles in the trade of politics. And doubly has he cause for fear, alack; For, lately, he'd a knife thrust in his back."
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002-11|