A Duel, In Moonlight
From glaring smoke creeps a shadow of night
Amid the moonbeams' quivering light
Parting the dirt with a knife of black.
The songbirds flutter in fear and take flight-
Shrieking and sobbing of peril and plight-
Out of the dying forest, the knight.
The fangs that stud his armour are sheer
And glinting in the moonlight clear
Out of the dark of steel and ash.
No squire to help his horse to steer-
No squire for him; no earthly peer-
And at his waist, a lonely spear.
He strangles his ebony horse's gait
And watches the pool of shadows conflate-
Amidst the circle of hanging trees.
Smothered in steel and chainmail plate-
Smothered in sweat and shadows' weight-
Smothered in darkened blood, they wait.
And then- a stir in the trees, but no fresh winds blow!
A flash of cloth as light as snow!
Another rider emerges from the green.
His hair a golden river flow-
Sunlight's half-remembered glow-
Here, the Black Knight's ancient foe.
His chest an army of sigils displayed
An army of butchered friends arrayed
Friends now lost- to an ocean of dusk.
The white knight trots out from a world of shade-
And at his side, a glittering blade-
The debt of blood about to be paid.
The White Knight's chest is strong and wide
And steady goes he- sure of stride
Helmless, ready, vengeful and good
No desire to flee, or time to bide
No desire to flee, or beg, or hide
Into the moon-lit glade he rides.
No words they speak; in such a place
As this, at such a time is this, none are needed-
Let actions speak more loudly, draw weapons
And let the weapons have your mind-
Approach your foe, ride close-
So it goes.
A spear flashes through the air
A horse's whinny rushes like blood
Ignored; the White Knight dodges, a spear-head barely
Misses his eyes. What follows- a flood;
A rush of sword-strokes, some slicing armour,
Others air- the Black Knight retreats, conceding a few steps.
And then- oh, the White Knight's valiant yell!
His horse roaring forward, as if followed by hell!
The intoxicating courage so foreign to other men.
The heart of anyone would swell
To hear the White Knight's glorious yell
As onward he bravely charged, and well.
His sword but a blur upon the Black Knight's side
Crushing through ribs, and eliciting, as it does
A cascade of blood, of pain, but not death- not yet;
And his foe is still standing.
The Black Knight makes cruel, dishonourable reply
He stabs his spear through the White Knight's eye
The yell now not glorious, but horrid, and high
Now it's the White Knight's turn to retreat!
Now it's his horse, who with agile, light feet
Hurries back, and back again, saving its rider's life.
The White Knight sobs and groans in his seat
But knows the battle is incomplete
He shrugs off the pain- an impossible feat?
Back into the fray, his sword swings unbidden
By thought of disarming, or capture, or anything
But death of dark! of evil! and sin!
He swings at the Black Knight's throat, and comes near
Near enough- in the dim moonlight clear-
To rip the chainmail choker apart.
But the Black Knight, unkilled, and unremitting
Thrusts his spear into the White Knight's breast-plate, splitting
The steel, and cloth, and then the heart.
Perhaps he finds it good and fitting
Than in his valiant, gloried life a-quitting
The White Knight should die from his heart a-slitting.
Either way, the White Knight falls from his horse, into the dirt;
Into the mud, and the skies start to sob
And lightning falls, to no avail.
Evil, still alive, drinks a moment of quiet glee
Before riding beneath a dead elm tree-
Leaving, behind him, the last good knight
Dead and forgotten, and wrapped in moonlight.
Remember that darkness takes its toll on people-
But also that there is a power in evil-
A freedom unfelt by any good people.
A freedom lending itself to unspoken of glory
And victory eternal in all history.
Thus does good fight an unwinnable war
In modern times, as with knights of yore-
But what better than good, and justice, to fight for?
Martin Dyke's Other Poems
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