TO LOSE A BATTLE

A POEM IN MODERN ENGLISH METER

BY MATTHEW SOAMES


PART ONE
Settled in, the School-Master in his chair,

The Lad by window, gazing out.

To reveal demons, trials, soul – in but one day!

Best be started now: this must end now.


"Twas six months ago, Study-Master,

When we twain were but acquaintance,

When first my eyes did see

That site of beauty most keen.


"Not more than two seats ahead

Did I see her golden head.

Smiled so divine did she,

That all that I could do was see her and me."


The Study-Master's brow did furrow,

Deep in thought, and deep in memories.

The Lad has had inspiration divine;

"Before you start, invoke a muse, my son."


He kneel'd down, and faced North,

Thenceforth he eschewed an invocation to a Muse:

"Oh, Melpomene, so long neglected by the poets,

Sing to me, instruct me, aid my oration.


"To tell the tale of a loss, loss of faith and loss of love,

This is my aim, oh Muse most divine: come to my aid!"

The Boy had invoked well, though the Study-Master.

But it was time for the true tale to begin – of demons, trials, soul!


"Oh Muse, sing to me of that eternal error,

The error at Hands that were My own.

That fatal misjudgment, that one mistake everlasting,

That has barred Me from Her Eden most divine.


"As I had said, not long ago,

That, some time ago, six months by time,

Upon her golden head had rested my own eyes.

From afar, her smile I could see – and entranced was I in her infinitesimal ecstasy.


"From Above, the Gods looked down upon my circumstance,

Saw they I, deeply entranced

In my Beloved's beauty:

They with me were less than impressed:


" 'Why lags he, if heart so full has he?' asked Hephaestus,

A God with more than ample experience with woman's infidelity.

"Has he been stunned by her sheer beauty –

Hermes, tell me! Who the maiden's father be?"


"Merry Hermes took but a glance at my beloved,

Then: 'The Maid so Fair's paternity

Is none other than the one we hail our king – Zeus.

See how she bears beauty divine? Such beauty comes from one, and one alone.'


"The Gods at this point were merely witnesses,

Oh, how that would change later.

But, from this desire for Her – Maiden, she had been called,

My demons, from my heart, from my soul, would suspire."


Greed, thought the Study-Master, Greed is at the root of this.

Tis always a matter of want, and never of the other:

Put thine fellows aside, and develop thineself fully,

At the cost of beauty.


"My Son," the Study-Master began,

"There are times to talk, and times to listen:

Our roles reversed we must make now,

For there is a tale of old, a tale that I must tell thee now.


"It was recorded, in that country full of drunken cheer and crosses changed,

That Hesse the writer wrote this tale that I shall relay:

For, in your love-induced blindness and delusion to reality,

You have forgotten those feelings of thine lady:


"Hesse tells us through his writings

That there once was a lady fair,

While of golden hair unpossessing,

She was of comparable beauty to thine own lady.


"Look thee not that way upon me, lad:

Tis a tale some ways out of his country, as well as ours, too.

While envision a lady fair as yours you might find hard,

Listen, listen to the story.


"In Gaza, a land most ancient, old as time,

There was a lady, whose mane was of great dark black.

She had promised herself to our Lord, in return for a favor:

This favor being of mortal nature.


"This lady, young as yours,

Drew some attention from a man not unlike yourself,

Being of comparable age and standings,

Not to mention comparable devotion."


At this last line,

The Lad could hold back no longer.

"Devotion such as mine!" the youth exclaimed,

"That certainly is a stretch, Study-Master"


"Don't be so quick to judge," the Study-Master replied,

"There are so many things you've yet to know,

So many things you've yet to see –

Just listen, listen to my tale, Hesse's tale.


"This young man sent the object of his heart's tremors

A letter, most beautifully written, most beautifully perfumed –"

Once more, Hewanted to interrupt his Study-Master.

"Yes? Have ye a comment worthy of note?"


"Indeed, my Study-Master," said the Lad.

"This young man of your story and I, we certainly do have similarities.

For, as this young man in your story sent his heart's idol a declaration,

So have I to mine."


END OF BOOK I