A knight came riding through the mist,
and on his arm he bore a shield
all covered up in cloth, as if
he did not want his name revealed.
I called to him, “What man art thou
that dare not show his heraldry?
Dost thou forswear to show thy face?
What knight would hide his blazonry?”
He stayed his steed, and looked at me sidelong,
as if ‘twere I, not he, who cherished wrong.
Without a word, he bared his shield,
and in the mist I stared in shock;
for from the middle glared at me
all hate, contempt, and what made mock.
That face within the shield was wroth,
and challenged me to state my name,
as if I were a traitor knight
who sought to hide in shade and shame.
But as I saw the face, I knew the truth;
and saw instead the need for deepest ruth.
This shield would show a man his mind -
not body, but his inner guise;
and who would fight the bearer fought
himself, though cursing otherwise.
Who knew no shame would see their shade,
amidst the riddling buckler framed,
and yet condemn themselves to doom;
for ‘twas themselves they then defamed.
The knight still spoke no word, but waited mine;
my former wrath I wrestled to resign.
“How did you come to bear this shield?”
I asked, for now I knew his name.
“Who gave to you the quest to face
such terror as this shield should frame?
For such as you must face the fight
a hypocrite is wont to bring,
and scarce shall ever have glad thanks
or hope to hear a minstrel sing.”
He covered up the shield, and drew his sword,
as if this weapon held its own reward.
“My name is Truth”, he said; “that name
was won through hardships deep and long,
in which I fought ferociously,
in spite of all who spoke me wrong.
And thus the Truth, whose sign you see,
has given me a sword and shield
that once were promised aye to all,
but yet to most stay unrevealed.
To him who wants such weapons more than gold
shall all the deepest secrets yet be told.
And thus, I cover up my shield;
they judge themselves who challenge me.
I may not lie, nor fail to fight
with those who question my degree;
for if I did, my sword would slip
from fingers idle in their task,
and never could I win it back,
no matter how I chose to ask.”
I pondered on his words, and saw the shape
in which the sword was wrought, and stood agape.
For many say this form is found
in only those whose empty words
do not inform their deeds, nor heed
the Lord whose armour round them girds.
His arms, free-given, hang in rust
about the homes of idle men,
who frown, and say they know no means
to bring truth-telling back again.
This knight used weapons God had given all,
which others thought should decorate a wall.
“Good day to you,” I bowed, and so
the rider rode through misty gloom.
But as he left, I felt a weight
upon my arm, and knew my doom.
For when the truth becomes made plain -
that every man was made a knight
if only he would use his arms,
and love the right enough to fight -
then all who love the truth can wield a sword
and shield of truth, if God is their reward.