Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Ballad of the Forty-seven Ronin

No heros could exemplify
This role's epitome,
Like forty-seven samurai
Who turned to banditry.

Eschewing ritual suicide
To expiate their shame,
They never took their daimyo's side
And thus renounced his claim.

The honor due their feudal lord
They kept and so lost face,
As in disgust Japan deplored
How they preferred disgrace.

The samurai had heard the tale
Of how it came to be,
Their lord was tempted to assail
His bitter enemy.

The insults given at the court
Were more than he could bear,
And rather than allow such sport
His sword flashed through the air.

The sharp katana cut its prey
Before they could arrest
And take the criminal away
To where the man confessed.

"I bear the shogun no ill will
And I apologize,
Because I failed and did not kill
The man whom I despise."

The victim had been slightly hurt
As had been his intent,
And he could easily assert
That he was innocent.

Yet all the people in the know
Could swear with certainty,
No samurai would undergo
Such gross indignity.

The daimyo offered no defense
And so the shogunate
Decreed the vassal should commence
To self-eviscerate.

The sentence soon was carried out
And when the death occurred,
The feudal nobles had no doubt
Revenge would be assured.

The evil coward could expect
The daimyo's samurai
Immediately to effect
A violent reply.

Their master's enemy at first
Prepared a strong defense,
But marveled as the men dispersed
Without belligerence.

Each man proceeded to betray
His daimyo's memory,
Engaging in an exposé
Of shameless frippery.

A few of them in sorrow drank
Their troubles to avoid,
While some took jobs below their rank
So as to stay employed.

Still others turned to prostitutes
And left their families
To suffer through the attributes
Of frightful miseries.

And as the months and seasons passed,
The vagrant samurai
Invented follies to aghast
The lowly and the high.

The haughty courtier often smiled
When hearing of the news,
And over time he was beguiled
Not knowing of the ruse.

Oh yes! The daimyo's entourage
Was loyal to a man,
And used disgrace as camouflage
To hide the secret plan.

The men assembled for the clash
Appointed long before,
Selecting weapons from the cache
That held a hidden store.

In dead of night they all attacked
The house in Tokyo,
Where slept the enemy who lacked
The means to stop their blow.

The forty-seven ronin killed
The foe and took his head,
To demonstrate they had fulfilled
Their duty to the dead.

The forty-six survivors set
The trophy where their lord
Would recognize revenge, and let
His spirit be restored.

And though the shogun sentenced them
For what they did to die,
The men who used this stratagem
Eclipsed the sun on high.

By wrapping honor in disgrace
They made the contrast clear.
The forty-seven ronins' place
Will never disappear.

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