A Damascus Sword-maker

It was not purity but impurity
that lent strength to these swords,
ingots of iron with carbon
traced in tungsten and vanadium.

Folds upon folds ran through each blade,
rivers of darkness and light
shimmering like moonbeams on water.

Stronger and sharper than plain steel,
these edges bent without breaking,
cut without dulling.

Say that history found and lost a treasure,
say that Greece and Syria exchanged hidden wisdoms,
say that the broken god of the forge came down
and showed men how to make something imperfect
that outperformed anything perfect.

Say what you will, but remember,
once there was steel finer than silk fabric
and all the science of our latter days
cannot uncover its making,
only let us marvel at the tiny features
that enclose its secrets like so many walls.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning