Friday, October 12, 2012

Letters, and Other Prayers

Yet another work, this one essentially complete, is a tome of poetry written in English and Polish during my first year at Cornell. It is inspired by letters written in verse to those dearest to my heart.

Please, do indulge.

The Apology of Cleomysthenes


King, do you ask for my counsel, or my consent?

If it is a word that will move this war-council then

I say: “Seize, and lay the arms that need not glisten

With blood,” and the cursed enterprise forsake now.


But if you ask me to my word bind to this fool war,

How can I, if I must write it in my blood, affirm it,

By the flight of three souls instead of mine alone,

Such pledge terrible make good with unholy acts?


For I must think thrice now, King, I who am bound

By golden chain I wear with joy, the chain of children

That God imposed to temper my anger, check my fever

Words of state let fall slowly, and order with thought.


When I was young, unlimited by fear and my sons,

I would first succumb to zest of war, and behind my

Warlord march to slay the faceless Enemy, make fall

Their crested helmets in my fury, partake of their life.


But now even in those boys impressed to serve I see

My children, and think of their fathers, the pains to

Raise them exerted by their mothers, and dare to

Think I would hesitate, and bring ridicule upon you.


How easy is it to spend the public coin! How freely

At war’s demand do treasure and children flow, to be

Wasted in the fire of the frenzy, the men ordered

To ope their veins at the touch of the enemy’s sword!


Far away they will be in a stranger land, as their life

Drips upon the burning sands, far from the wails of

My wife, the stream of tears with which I shall anoint them,

but will not be even able to cover with home-ground.


Shall your majesty exert the duress of law? Shall your

Men seize my children, pry them from their wives,

Orphan my grandchildren and twist consent from my

Mouth? All this save the last you can force right now.


But beware: should you compel, I here resign my office,

The trust I enjoyed until this final test. For no office

Is worth so high a price, the price of progeny’s blood,

No land of mine can so demand, such house I shake now.


If you will not grant me exile, I shall myself decree we go,

Found a new home in those far-off sands, which seem

By instant more and more like our destined country,

The foes you invented, and that plain show our iniquity.


Behold! Now I raise arms only to defend what my King

Eternal had given in trust, made holy by the justice of

A father’s love. In all else I promote the peaceful art,

Which of men is hallmark, or discharge from the court.

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