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Robert the Bruce (To Douglas in Dying)

Edwin Muir 1887 (Orkney) – 1959 (Cambridge)

'MY life is done, yet all remains,
The breath has gone, the image not,
The furious shapes once forged in heat
Live on though now no longer hot.
'Steadily the shining swords
In order rise, in order fall,
In order on the beaten field
The faithful trumpets call.
'The women weeping for the dead
Are not sad now but dutiful,
The dead men stiffening in their place
Proclaim the ancient rule.
'Great Wallace's body hewn in four,
So altered, stays as it must be.
0 Douglas do not leave me now,
For past your head I see
'My dagger sheathed in Comyn's heart
And nothing there to praise or blame,
Nothing but order which must be
Itself and still the same.
'But that Christ hung upon the Cross,
Comyn would rot until time's end
And bury my sin in boundless dust,
For there is no amend.
'In order; yet in order run
All things by unreturning ways,
If Christ live not, nothing is there
For sorrow or for praise.'
So the king spoke to Douglas once
A little while before his death,
Having outfaced three English kings
And kept a people's faith.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Edwin Muir

Edwin Muir was an Orcadian poet, novelist and translator, born on a farm in Deerness on the Orkney Islands. He is remembered for his deeply felt and vivid poetry in plain language with few stylistic preoccupations. more…

All Edwin Muir poems | Edwin Muir Books

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