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THE EXECUTION OF SIR THOMAS MORE


Sir Thomas More

Holbein's More, my patron saint as a convert,

the gold chain of S's, the golden rose,

the plush cap, the brow's damp feathertips of hair,

the good eyes' stern, facetious twinkle, ready

to turn from executioner to martyr-

or saunter with the great King's bluff arm on your neck,

feeling that friend-slaying, terror-dazzled heart

balooning off into its awful dream-

a noble saying, 'How the King must love you!'

And you, 'If it were a question of my head,

or losing his meanest village in France . . .'

then by the scaffold and the headsman's axe-

'Friend, give me your hand for the first step,

as for coming down, I'll shift for myself.'

 

-- Robert Lowell