2006-04-24

The War (after Simonides)

This is a villanelle, a very special verse form that I have taken some liberties with. I had always wanted to write one, but I never could come up with a couplet strong enough to support all the required repetitions. It finally dawned on me that the couplet didn't have to be original with me, if I was clever enough about it.

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"Go and tell the Spartans, passerby,"
   The man of Keos sings in lines that soar,
"That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."
The king of Lakedaimon will not fly,
   Though "Kill them all!" the hordes of Persia roar:
Go and tell the Spartans, passerby.
The news is carried of their terse goodbye
   From Hot Gates to far Atlantic shore
That there, obedient to their laws, they lie.
The law of nations ready to defy,
   Atlantis rising plots aggressive war --
Go and tell the Persians, passerby.
The Archon smiles, and smiles: real men don't cry.
   His friends sell not reality but lore
As here, obedient to his will, they lie.
Boxed in flags, the dead all verse deny.
   They cannot serve their country any more.
"Go and tell our people, passerby,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie."

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