Ill of the dead
Armed with a chisel and equipped with the time
Between the burdens of age and doubts of youth,
With magical mana and the manner of a mime,
I set out under darkness, to seek my truth.
My poise was proper but my focus was flawed:
I began before my ideas were solid.
By morning I’d amassed an audience who were awed
By my work, so I shirked my chores and grew squalid
In my observance of all that was torrid;
My beard grew matted with the fruit they fed me,
My forehead sported flowers and my cheeks, hued florid,
Bore testimony to luxuries deadly.
I eschewed untruths like they asked me to do,
Completed tasks on time – and budget, to boot.
Growing wearier by the day with their treasures, I threw
Down my tools one evening and declared a moot.
We met between the roots of an immense oak;
The mayor and the cardinal, the king and I,
Observed in reverential quiet by the common folk:
I addressed them all, though I spoke to the sky.
“As long as I lived, and as long as I spoke,
As long as grass became flat beneath my tread,
As long as I built with every stone my chisel broke,
I’ve longed to be let to speak ill of the dead;
“Ill of the men from whom we inherited
All of the blood that now ferments in our tuns;
Ill of the men to whom history has merited
Statues for their sins and mansions for their sons;
“Ill of the dead man whose bust I cast this day,
Whose first six wives were beheaded, one and all,
To whom the suffering of others was sport and play,
Who tripped his own servants just to watch them fall,
“And ill of my very own dear grandfather
Who beat my own dad, who then beat me in turn;
He might not be dead yet but, you know, I’d much rather
The old bastard lived to see his empire burn—”
And I’d have continued my jeremiad
But that at that moment the cumuli broke:
And I felt a pain both in the brain and the backbone,
And a voice I recognized not at all spoke:
Mistaken for art or rubbish