Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Robert Hass


Heroic Simile


When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai
in the gray rain,
in Cinemascope and the Tokugawa dynasty,
he fell straight as a pine, he fell
as Ajax fell in Homer
in chanted dactyls and the tree was so huge
the woodsman returned for two days
to that lucky place before he was done with the sawing
and on the third day he brought his uncle.

They stacked logs in the resinous air,
hacking the small limbs off,
tying those bundles separately.
The slabs near the root
were quartered and still they were awkwardly large;
the logs from midtree they halved:
ten bundles and four great piles of fragrant wood,
moons and quarter moons and half moons
ridged by the saw's tooth.

The woodsman and the old man his uncle
are standing in midforest
on a floor of pine silt and spring mud.
They have stopped working
because they are tired and because
I have imagined no pack animal
or primitive wagon. They are too canny
to call in neighbors and come home
with a few logs after three days' work.
They are waiting for me to do something
or for the overseer of the Great Lord
to come and arrest them.

How patient they are!
The old man smokes a pipe and spits.
The young man is thinking he would be rich
if he were already rich and had a mule.
Ten days of hauling
and on the seventh day they'll probably
be caught, go home empty-handed
or worse. I don't know
whether they're Japanese or Mycenaean
and there's nothing I can do.
The path from here to that village
is not translated. A hero, dying,
gives off stillness to the air.
A man and a woman walk from the movies
to the house in the silence of separate fidelities.
There are limits to imagination.


-----------------------------------------------------
From Praise by Robert Hass, published by the Ecco Press. 1978.
HarperCollins Publishers.

4 comments:

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

I really like Hass. Praise is a powerful read.

Nick said...

Re: Hass - agreed...

Kurosawa's Seven Samurai ain't too shabby either.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Samurai is wonderful. If you don't have the new Criterion edition of the film, do get it. Marvelous. I'm still partial to Rashomon and Ikiru. It's hard to go wrong with Kurosawa.

Nick said...

I'm also kinda partial to John Sturges' "The Magnificent Seven". ...Gee, I haven't seen Rashomon or Ikiru in a long time.