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This poem is taken from PN Review 3, Volume 4 Number 3, April - June 1978.

Two Poems Charles Tomlinson

O Vertu! le poignard, seul espoir de la terre,
Est ton arme sacrée . . .
                                               Chénier

Courteously self-assured, although alone,
With voice and features that could do no hurt,
Why should she not enter? They let in
A girl whose reading made a heroine-
Her book was Plutarch, her republic Rome:
Home was where she sought her tyrant out.

The towelled head next, the huge batrachian mouth:
There was a mildness in him, even. He
Had never been a woman's enemy,
And time and sickness turned his stomach now
From random execution. All the same,
He moved aside to write her victims down,
And when she approached, it was to kill she came.
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