It was not meant for human eyes,
That combat on the shabby patch
Of clods and trampled turf that lies
Somewhere beneath the sodden skies
For eye of toad or adder to catch.
And having seen it I accuse
The crested animal in his pride,
Arrayed in all the royal hues
Which hide the claws he well can use
To tear the heart out of the side.
Body of leopard, eagle's head
And whetted beak, and lion's mane,
And frost-grey hedge of feathers spread
Behind -- he seemed of all things bred.
I shall not see his like again.
As for his enemy there came in
A soft round beast as brown as clay;
All rent and patched his wretched skin;
A battered bag he might have been,
Some old used thing to throw away.
Yet he awaited face to face
The furious beast and the swift attack.
Soon over and done. That was no place
Or time for chivalry or for grace.
The fury had him on his back.
And two small paws like hands flew out
To right and left as the trees stood by.
One would have said beyond a doubt
That was the very end of the bout,
But that the creature would not die.
For ere the death-stroke he was gone,
Writhed, whirled, into his den,
Safe somehow there. The fight was done,
And he had lost who had all but won.
But oh his deadly fury then.
A while the place lay blank, forlorn,
Drowsing as in relief from pain.
The cricket chirped, the grating thorn
Stirred, and a little sound was born.
The champions took their posts again.
And all began. The stealthy paw
Slashed out and in. Could nothing save
These rags and tatters from the claw?
Nothing. And yet I never saw
A beast so helpless and so brave.
And now, while the trees stand watching, still
The unequal battle rages there.
The killing beast that cannot kill
Swells and swells in his fury till
You'd almost think it was despair.
Edwin Muir's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (The Combat by Edwin Muir )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(27 October 1914 – 9 November 1953)
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
- Algernon Charles Swinburne
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
Sir Walter Scott
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Sonnet XVII, Pablo Neruda
- Bluebird, Charles Bukowski
- A Child's Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- A Dream Within A Dream, Edgar Allan Poe
Poem of the Day
- Mystic Blake, Joseph Narusiewicz
- Today's World, Leong Ming Loong
- Thoughts in the Moonlight, Luo Zhihai
- Tales Of A Wife: Honeymoon, Onyekachukwu Vincent Onyeche
- Guard well, gajanan mishra
- The Photographer, Ravikumar C.P.
- Tuavatara!, Ravikumar C.P.
- Mystery Caller, Ravikumar C.P.
- Do, my dear, gajanan mishra
- Cinders of Life, Tim Labbe