Sunday, February 10, 2013

Your Sunday Poem

This by Jack Gilbert, another of my favorite poets, from "Collected Poems," published by Alfred A Knopf, (2012) shortly before his death. 

Seen From Above

In the end, Hannibal walked out of his city
saying the Romans wanted only him.  Why should
his soldiers make love to their swords?
He walked out alone, a small figure in
the great field, his elephants dead at
the bottom of the Alps' crevasses.  So might we
go to our Roman death in triumph.  Our love
is of marble and large tawny roses,
in the endless harvests of our defeat.
We have slept with death all our lives.
It will grind out its graceless victory,
but we can limp in triumph over the cold
intervening sand.


Sewertoons AKA Lynette Tornatzky said...

Phew. This one will take more than four readings to understand!

Alon Perlman said...

Maybe even Three. But Hannibal is reported to have taken poison in his guarded villa therefore leaving by the only exit the centurions could not follow him through. And long before his final encounter had a second set of elephants successfully killed by the Romans in Africa in a campaign known by their use of his own legendary tactics.
At least that is in the little history I picked up. Is Gilbert relating to a specific historical or literary account?

Churadogs said...

Alon, I suspect the poem relates to each of us -- our own deaths, i.e. bravely go out to meet it alone . . . that walk over the sands.

Gilbert tragically died, slowly, of Alzheimers, a particularly cruel death for a wordsmith. so that image of a man walking out alone into the darkness that waited for him might be some of the point.