A curving line is the Devil’s angle —
The straight and narrow is lost in a knot;
“Bend sinister” diverges from “la porte étroite”;
Those whom the Gods condemn they first entangle.
But how can it be that virtue means restraint
On deviations of swale and sward?
A crosier’s not a crutch for a tottering saint
Unequal to the task but bent on reward;
And always the horizon’s proof enough
Of the outcome of a line gone bad;
Branchings everywhere and tangents add
Up and up, and build a faultless bluff:
The bight is glass afar, straits rounded rough —
Grit in nacre girt, sand in pearl clad.
NOTES for Students of English
Bend Sinister – In heraldry, a diagonal band (from upper right to lower left as seen by the onlooker).
La Porte Étroite – French for “strait is the gate” from Matthew 7:14 American King James Version: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few there be that find it.” Matthieu 7:14 “Car étroite est la porte, et resserré le chemin qui mène à la vie, et peu nombreux sont ceux qui le trouvent.”
Bight – A bay formed by a bend in the coastline.