John Masefield

from The Faithful (1915)

1. Song of the Fifth Ronin

We lay on the reeds
In the marshy places.
They cried for food,
For the sweet cakes of old.
“Father, father,
I am so hungry!
May I have a rice-cake?
I have had no rice-cake
All to-day.”

All around
Were the marshy places.
They cried for food,
Those sons of mine.
“Father,” they said,
“Will it soon be food-time?”
Can you feed us, father?”
I told them, “No.”
And then they cried.

Kira it was,
The great Lord Kira,
Who burnt our home
And drove us forth.
It was his deed
That starved my children,
My little sons
in the wild swans’ lair.

We cannot kill him,
We cannot harm him,
We cannot rob him
Of a moment’s pleasure,
The unatoned blood
Cries unheeded.
We are poor men
Lost in the snow.

2. A Mother’s Song, to Kira

Queens long ago
Knew sorrowful days,
Seeing their husband’s killed,
Their sons destroyed.
Death makes the full heart void,
The cold heart filled,
Those women knew Death’s ways,
I also knew.

Father and mother gone,
He whom I loved, and now
My sons, my lovely sons,
My three bright boys
Killed, while the sunlight shone,
And blossom filled the bough;
I was so happy once
But Death destroys.

Yet, although Death is great,
Earth’s many million tears
Move on the heart of things
Quickening a change to be;
And drop by drop the sea
Moans from its springs,
Its cry will reach God’s ears;
Man has not long to wait.
Death is but a tool of Fate.

The cup is brimmed in time and then it spills over.




For notes about The Faithful see the Bibliography CA5.

The play was reprinted in 2000 as part of the Classic Books edition of The Collected Works of John Masefield and is offered with limited availability in the US here. Several other Masefield titles are in print both in the UK and the US but none of these concern Japanese subjects.






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