Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Companions

They lie in scattered tumuli
from Samarkand to Kyushu:
the Prince's true friends who died with him
at the last extremity, clad in
the gorgeous silks and the silver amulets
he gave them.
They sleep uneasily, reaching
an occasional hand to pat the horses
and the dogs that are buried with them.

In their group barrows they sigh, and shift;
the weight of their golden armbands
reassures them.
Shall we call it love? They did.
They swore to share their Prince's death,
to fall in battle with him or to stand
for loving execution, with their dogs and horses,
to follow him into the next world. Loyalty,

they thought, was not a thing just of today.
It was forever, and, faithful, they wait
to rise from sleep and follow the man
who was to them what you are to your dog:
always right, always kind: to be kicked
or accidentally stepped on was a better gift
from him than any ordinary man's caress.

We think we know more of love than they did.
I wonder if when we stir in our narrow coffins,
no dog or horse to greet us, no Prince to take our hand,
I wonder, then, if we will be so sure.

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