Heroic Simile

By Robert Hass b. 1941 Robert Hass
When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai
in the gray rain,
in the 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 the 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.

Robert Hass, "Heroic Simile" from Praise. Copyright © 1979 by Robert Hass, published by HarperCollins Publishers Inc. Reprinted by permission of Robert Hass.

Source: Praise (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1979)

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Poet Robert Hass b. 1941

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Landscapes & Pastorals, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire, Nature, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Allusion

 Robert  Hass

Biography

Robert Hass is one of contemporary poetry’s most celebrated and widely-read voices. In addition to his success as a poet, Hass is also recognized as a leading critic and translator, notably of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and Japanese haiku masters Basho, Buson and Issa. Critics celebrate Hass’s own poetry for its clarity of expression, its conciseness, and its imagery, often drawn from everyday life. “Hass has noted his own . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Landscapes & Pastorals, Poetry & Poets, Humor & Satire, Nature, Arts & Sciences

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Allusion

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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