Saturday, August 04, 2007

By the North Gate

No real reason for this post. I just came across this poem by Ezra Pound and remember why I always liked it.
I scribbled "By the north gate...where the wind blows full of sand/I climb the towers and towers/to watch out the barbarous land" inside the plywood wall of the guard shack at Remote Site 3-5 when I was stationed in the Sinai and got my ass righteously reamed by the squad leader for 1) defacing MFO property, and 2) being an intellectual asshole. Which has nothing to do with the poem, just my memory of it. It has always made me think of the countless number of other men who have idled hot (or cold), and bored under palm or pine trees, in the cold stone towers, in damp foxholes where the raw earth walls breathe steam into the air, or bare linoleum corridors under the hard flourescent light, passing the time with pugio, dagger or Skilcraft pen scratching a warning to their reliefs of the long expanse of nothing waiting for them there.

"The Lament of the Frontier Guard"

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
To watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars - men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku's name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

By Rihaku.

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