One of the things that sparked this poem was a Father Brown detective story by G.K. Chesterton in which a private detective, summoned to meet a millionaire being pursued by a vengeful minor actor, is trapped in a building looking out of a window while two figures each armed with pistols walk round, one apparently pursuing the other. The first, a well-dressed man of commanding appearance, he assumes to be his new employer and the second, a shabby mess of a man looking nervously around him, to be the stalker. In fact it’s the other way round. These two, though, could be Sherlock Holmes and a Joker-style magician.




One follows the other endlessly

The great detective and the magus

But who stalks whom cannot be said

As they revolve through bar and byre

Nor can the innkeeper discern

Who speaks the truth, who is the liar.


With glass and chemicals and thought

The theorem of a mystery solved

The great detective plots his course

The jigsaw pieces click in place

With mathematics spins a web

And Occam’s razor shaves his face.


The magus makes the pieces fly

With spell and ballad turns the eyes

Of those who would observe his course

He makes the sea to roll and roar

He tricks the clerk and paints the sky

Until the lamps invade his store.


But he is flown in one disguise

The stark pursuer would not know

And round with drawn revolvers pace

The broken brothers of the night

And should they meet and should they touch

What wrong would rule, what reborn right?



Here maybe the great detective is our rational self and the magus, irrational and creative. Maybe.



Copyright Simon Banks 2012


Death and the Magician

Over a period, I wrote several poems which featured a dying or wounded magician, sometimes as the central character, sometimes mentioned in passing. This one was deliberately constructed to resemble a ballad, especially after the first introductory verse.


This is the poem that spellbound a group of 60+ people from the University of the Third Age group in Harwich when I read it at a festival event.  It has been published in “Troubador”.




One day the magician came to me and said,

The fish are leaping in the yellow stream

The oak has turned into an acorn small

And I saw Death in dream.


And I saw Death in dream, he said,

And Death was very kind

He showed me where the roses grow

Though I’m old and blind.


I’m old and blind and lame, he said,

The sea is out of sight

The shell is empty on the shelf

Through the woken night.


The night is all around, he said,

It closes hour by hour

The voices make me fear, my friend,

Should a proud man cower?


But should a proud man cower, my friend,

I think perhaps he should

The wine is turning sour, my friend,

But the bread is good.


The bread of death is good, my friend,

The bread of life is fine

And now I’ve understood, my friend,

Will the starlight shine?


And will the starlight shine, my friend,

And will the starlight shine?

Now let us touch the vine, my friend,

And we will drink the wine.



copyright Simon Banks 2012