The man Flammonde, from God knows where, With firm address and foreign air, With news of nations in his talk And something royal in his walk, With glint of iron in his eyes, But never doubt, nor yet surprise, Appeared, and stayed, and held his head As one by kings accredited.
Erect, with his alert repose About him, and about his clothes, He pictured all tradition hears Of what we owe to fifty years. His cleansing heritage of taste Paraded neither want nor waste; And what he needed for his fee To live, he borrowed graciously.
He never told us what he was, Or what mischance, or other cause, Had banished him from better days To play the Prince of Castaways. Meanwhile he played surpassing well A part, for most, unplayable; In fine, one pauses, half afraid To say for certain that he played.
For that, one may as well forego Conviction as to yes or no; Nor can I say just how intense Would then have been the difference To several, who, having striven In vain to get what he was given, Would see the stranger taken on By friends not easy to be won.
Moreover, many a malcontent He soothed and found munificent; His courtesy beguiled and foiled Suspicion that his years were soiled; His mien distinguished any crowd, His credit strengthened when he bowed; And women, young and old, were fond Of looking at the man Flammonde.
There was a woman in our town On whom the fashion was to frown; But while our talk renewed the tinge Of a long-faded scarlet fringe, The man Flammonde saw none of that, And what he saw we wondered at — That none of us, in her distress, Could hide or find our littleness.
There was a boy that all agreed Had shut within him the rare seed Of learning. We could understand, But none of us could lift a hand. The man Flammonde appraised the youth, And told a few of us the truth; And thereby, for a little gold, A flowered future was unrolled.
There were two citizens who fought For years and years, and over nought; They made life awkward for their friends, And shortened their own dividends. The man Flammonde said what was wrong Should be made right, nor was it long Before they were again in line, And had each other in to dine.
And these I mention are but four Of many out of many more. So much for them. But what of him — So firm in every look and limb? What small satanic sort of kink Was in his brain? What broken link Withheld him from the destinies That came so near to being his?
What was he, when we came to sift His meaning, and to note the drift Of incommunicable ways That make us ponder while we praise? Why was it that his charm revealed Somehow the surface of a shield? What was it that we never caught? What was he, and what was he not?
How much it was of him we met We cannot ever know; nor yet Shall all he gave us quite atone For what was his, and his alone; Nor need we now, since he knew best, Nourish an ethical unrest: Rarely at once will nature give The power to be Flammonde and live.
We cannot know how much we learn From those who never will return, Until a flash of unforeseen Remembrance falls on what has been. We've each a darkening hill to climb; And this is why, from time to time In Tilbury Town, we look beyond Horizons for the man Flammonde.