L’EMPEREUR

L'Empereur
A reading by the poet

The Little Corsican (whose island folk
had long fought off that great usurping power)
took his blood vengeance, as the usurpers’ Caesar:
spending their men in triumphs, that filled their breasts
with glory, first, and after with cannonshot;
for him each victory was twice sublime
and made him swoon for grandeur in his heart,
for of his triumph was each wretched bone a part.

He led a great troop marching on the Rush,
their provender being glory, victory, pride:
whereof they would eat their fill till it was gone.
Alone he returned, in state, a solemn ride.

He dreamed of a land of freedom – freed of himself –
free of the quibbles of all the greatest thieves –
and ruled by such law as would end the law of theft;
he dreamed of peace indestructible by such as he.

When he had voided the Empire of all its troop
and had brought down its banners, and all its pride –
he was taken, chained, transported; perforce to dine
on their cuisine of rat’s-bane, and bad wine:
still he could pledge his service to his land of birth
in triumph! and rich reward - to the most sanguine of traitors.

From A Peck O' Poems for the 99%
by JK Burnham