Final Speech Of The Last Roman Emperor Constantine XI

Constantine Palaologus XI speaks before his officers and allies before the final siege of Constantinople by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed Bey 

When Constantinople’s walls were finally breached, Constantine XI knew there would be no quarter, but he would not flee with the Genoese generals. He died fighting in the streets of Constantinople.

Most noble leader, illustrious tribunes, generals, most courageous fellow soldiers and all loyal honest citizens! You know well that the hour has come: the enemy of our faith wishes to oppress us even more closely by sea and land with all his engines and skill to attack us with the entire strength of this siege force, as a snake about to spew its venom; he is in a hurry to devour us, like a savage lion. For this reason I am imploring you to fight like men with brave souls, as you have done from the beginning up to this day, against the enemy of our faith. I hand over to you my glorious, famous, respected, noble city, the shining Queen of cities, our homeland. You know well, my brothers, that we have four obligations in common, which force us to prefer death over survival: first our faith and piety; second our homeland; third, the emperor anointed by the Lord and fourth; our relatives and friends.
     “Well, my brothers, if we must fight for one of these obligations, we will be even more liable under the command strength of all four; as you can clearly understand. If God grants victory to the impious because of my own sins, we will endanger our lives for our holy faith, which Christ gave us with his own blood. This is most important of all. Even if one gains the entire world but loses his soul in the process, what will it benefit! Second, we will be deprived of such famous homeland and of our liberty. Third, our empire, renowned in the past but presently humbled, low and exhausted, will be ruled by a tyrant and an impious man. Fourth, we will be separated from our dearest children, wives and relatives.
     “This wretch of a Sultan has besieged our city up to now for fifty seven days with all his engines and strength; he has relaxed the blockade neither day nor night, but, by the grace of Christ, our Lord, who sees all things, the enemy has often been repelled, up to now, from our walls with shame and dishonor. Yet now too, my brothers, feel no cowardice, even if small parts of our fortifications have collapsed from the explosions and engine missiles, as you can see, we made all possible, necessary repairs. We are placing all hope in the irresistible glory of God. Some have faith in armament, others in cavalry, might and numbers but we believe in the name of our Lord, our God and Savior, and second, in our arms and strength granted to us by divine power.
     “I know the countless hordes of the impious will advance against us, according to their custom, violently, confidently and with great courage and force in order to overwhelm and wear out our few defenders with hardship. They attempt to frighten us with loud yells and innumerable battle cries. But you are all familiar with their chattering and I need say no more about it. For a long time they will continue so and will also release over us countless rocks, all sorts of arrows and missiles, like the sand of the sea. But I hope that such things will not harm us; I see, greatly rejoice, and nourish with hopes in my mind that even if we are few, you are all experienced and seasoned warriors- courageous, brave, and well prepared. Protect your heads with shields in combat and battle. Keep your right hand, armed with the sword, extended in front of you at all times. Your helmets, breastplates and suits of armor are fully sufficient together with your other weapons and will prove very effective in battle. Our enemies have no and use no such weapons. You are protected inside the walls, while they will advance without cover and with toil.
     “For these reasons, my fellow soldiers, prepare yourselves, be firm, and remain valiant, for the pity of God, Take your example from the few elephants of the Carthaginians and how they dispersed the numerous cavalry of the Romans with their noise and appearance. If one dumb beast put another to flight, we, the masters of horses and animals, can surely even do better against our advancing enemies, since they are dumb animals, worse even than pigs. Present your shield, swords, arrows, and spears to them, imagining that you are a hunting party after wild boars, so that the impious may learn that they are dealing not with dumb animals but with their lords and masters, the descendants of the Greeks and the Romans.
     “You are well aware that this irreligious Sultan, the enemy of our holy faith, violated for no good reason the peace treaty we had with him and disregarded his numerous oaths without a second thought. Suddenly, he appeared and built his castle in the straights of Asomatosso he might be able to inflict daily harm on us. Then he put our farms, gardens, parks, and houses to the torch, while he killed and enslaved as many of our Christian brothers as he found; he broke the treaty of friendship. He befriended the inhabitants of Galata, the wretches rejoice over this, as they are unaware of the parable of the Farmer’s son who was roasting snails and said, “Oh stupid creature,” etc. Well my brothers, since he started the siege and the blockade, every day he opens his fathomless mouth and is seeking an opportunity to devour us and this city, which thrice-blessed Constantine the Great founded and dedicated to the all holy most chaste Mother of God, our lad, Mar the eternal virgin. She became the Queen of Cities, the shield and aid of our homeland, the shelter of Christians, the hope and joy of all wishes to destroy this city, which was once proud and blooming like a rose of the field.
     “I can tell you that this city mastered the entire universe; She placed beneath her feet Pontus, Armenia, paphlagonia, The Amazonian lands, Cappadocia, Galatia, Media, Georgian Colchis, Bosphoros, Albania, Syria, Cilicia, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Palestine, Arabia, Judea, Bactria, Scythia, Macedonia, Thessaly, Hellas, Boeotia, Locris, Aetolia, Arcarnania, Achaea, the Peloponnese, Epirus, Illyria, Lykhnites, the Adriatic, Italy, Tuscany, the Celts, and Galatian Celts, Spain up to Cadiz, Libya, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Beledes, Scude, Numidia, Africa and Egypt.
     Now he wants to enslave her and throw the yoke upon the Mistress of Citie, our holy churches, where the Holy Trinity was worshipped, where the Holy Ghost was glorified in hymns, where angels were heard praising in chant the deity of and the incarnation of God’s word, he wants to turn into shrines of his blasphemy, shrines of the mad and false Prophet, Mohammed, as well as into stables for his horses and camels.
     “Consider then, my brother and comrades in arms, how the commemoration of our death, our memory, fame and freedom can be rendered eternal.” 

Red Cliffs I. – Su Shih

First Prose Poem On The Red Cliffs

In the autumn of 1082, on the 16th of the seventh month, Master Su and his guests sailed in a boat below the Red Cliffs. Clear wind blew gently, the water was calm. The boaters raised their wine and poured for each other, reciting “The Bright Moon” and singing “The Lovely One.”
After a while, the moon rose above the eastern mountain, and hovered between the Dipper and the Cowherd star. White mist lay across the water; the light from the water reached the sky. They went where their tiny boat took them, floating on a thousand leagues of haze, in the vastness as if resting on emptiness and riding the wind, not knowing where they would stop, floating as if they had left the earth and stood alone, having turned into birds and become immortal. And so they drank and their joy reached its height, and they sang beating on the side of the boat. The song went:

Cassia oars and orchid paddles
Beat the illusory moon,
Rowing against the flow of streaming light.
From a great distance my heart
Yearns for my beloved at one end of the sky.

Among the guests there was one who played the flute, and he played along with their song. The sound of his flute mourned, as if grieving as if loving, as if weeping as if reproaching. Its sound echoed and lingered, not breaking as if a silken thread. It set to dancing the dragon submerged in a deep crevice, and brought to tears the widow in the lonely boat.

Master Su sobered himself, and straightening his collar sat upright. He asked the guest: “Why did you play like that?” The guest replied, “‘The moon is bright, the stars, sparse. The crows and magpies fly south,’ aren’t these the words from Cao Cao’s poem? Looking west towards Xiakou, East towards Wuchang, with the mountains and rivers entwining each other, densely green — isn’t this the place where Cao was beseiged by Zhou Yu? Cao had just broken Jingzhou, and was going to Jiangling, sailing west with the flow of the river. His boats prow to stern stretched for a thousand miles, and his flags and banners blocked the sky. Pouring wine, looking down on the river, chanting poems with a spear across his knees, he was indeed a hero of his times; but today, where is he? And how about you and I, fishermen and woodcutters on the islets in the river, taking the fish and shrimp and deer as our companions, and riding in a leaf of a boat, raising gourds as our goblets and drinking to each other? Entrusted like flies to heaven and earth, as tiny as one grain in a vast ocean. I grieve at my life’s shortness, and envy how the Great River is infinite. I want to fly with the immortals and roam the vastness, embrace the moon and live forever. I know that I cannot quickly achieve this, and I entrusted these sounds to the sad wind.”

Master Su said, “Do you know the water and moon? The one flows on, and yet never goes anywhere, and the other waxes and wanes, yet never diminishes or grows. If you look at them from the point of Change, then heaven and earth never stay the same for even the blink of an eye. If you look from the point of what is unchanging, then all things, and I, are inexhaustible, so what is there to envy? Between heaven and earth, each thing has its master, and if it were not mine, even if only a hair, I would not take it. Only the clear wind on the river, and the bright moon between the mountains: the ear receives one and creates sound, the eye meets the other and makes color; you can take these without prohibition, and use them without exhausting them. This is the infinite treasure of the Creator, and what you and I can share and rejoice in.”

The guest was pleased and smiled, they washed the cups and refilled them. All the dishes were finished, and the cups and plates were scattered all over. Pillowing on each other in the middle of the boat, they didn’t see that the sky was already brightening in the east.

Su Shih / Su DongPo
(1057-1101)

Translated by Pauline Chen

The Crumbling Theodosian

Every day
Another brick falls.
Every day
The vines creep closer.
The statues are ground to dust.
The words are fading.
The blood is covered with earth and forgotten.
The happy heart decays
Until only beasts once more remain

游崇真观南楼睹新及第题名处 Visiting the South Tower of Lofty-Truth Temple, I View the Newly Inscribed Names of Imperial Graduates – 鱼玄机 Yu Xuanji

游崇真观南楼,
睹新及第题名处

云峰满目放春晴,
历历银钩指下生。
自恨罗衣掩诗句,
举头空羡榜中名。

-鱼玄机

Visiting the South Tower of Lofty-Truth Temple,
I view the newly inscribed names of Imperial Graduates

Cloudy summits fill my eyes this fine spring day,
I catch every silver stroke beneath my fingertips.
How I hate this silk dress which conceals my poetry,
I raise my head in hopeless envy of the names that are listed.

– Yu XuanJi

Translation by Dean Marais

About Yu Xuanji:

Yu XuanJi wrote her first poem at 6 years old. When she was older, being exceptionally beautiful, she was sold as a concubine to an official who fell in love with her. However, his jealous wife forced him to throw her out. With no home or income she had to turn to prostitution in Chang’An. She met many of the poets of her day there, and ended up at a taoist temple where she continued to write poems. The story goes that she was falsely accused of murder, and though many of her poet friends pleaded for her life, she was executed in Chang’An at 26 years of age.

Blood Of My Ancestors

Wanderer’s blood coursed through my ancestors’ veins,
Boiling under wind-stretched sails off Africa’s coast,
Thousands of miles from their European homes.
Their blood stirred at the vast mysteries before them,
Legends and rumors of the dark continent, devourer of men,
Pulsating through their thoughts
As they stepped onto the red soil for the first time.
Their wanderlust stirs and boils within my blood too.
Echoes of the distant past rushing through me at the sight of Snow Mountain,
Burning lungs and painful satisfaction on the slopes of a Tiger Leaping Gorge,
Himalayan wind raging in the night against the window shutters of my room
Like the remnants of some rustic song composed a thousand years ago.
The world intoxicates me with her hidden beauties,
And taunts me with her ancient virtue.
Her histories haunt and humble me.
She consumes me like the hundred thousand poets before me;
I want to kiss her face; I want to drink her wine,
And write my poems upon the surfaces of her body.
Even if she eventually tramples over me,
Crushing my body into her soft rich soil,
I will love her forever,
For my home is here;
My home is nowhere.

Every Step a Thought of You: Poems from my Travels in China

Two months ago I spent 31 days backpacking China. I didn’t write much on my adventure, but here’s what  I did.

A Sun Kissed Phoenix From Dali

She stood in the aisle,
Sun kissed through the windows of the train,
Like Zhou Yu’s ghost.
She stood as though
She wanted my eyes upon her,
She smiled as though
She knew they were.
She looked left and right and back
But she wouldn’t look my way.
All I wanted was a second
And now she’s gone forever,
Leaving me haunted and hungry
For even just the briefest glance
Into her dark Yunnan eyes.

……..

Ten thousand steps to the top of Mount Hua,
Every step a thought of you.

……..

Two mopeds, unattended in the empty field
As the copper sun slides behind rocky peaks.
Two lovers, embrace each other in secret
Hidden beneath the orchard trees.

……..

That melody, those words
Resounding through this foreign land.
Ten thousand miles away
Racing through rice paddies
And early morning fog –
Dark red sun rising
In the distant city smog.
Ten thousand miles away
And yet you’re here now
Present and real in my mind
Like Byron’s muse before me
Clouding my tired and weary thoughts.

……..

Every night
It snows on Jade Dragon Mountain
But every day
The sun steals it away.

And so it goes with my dreams

……..

I want you to stick
The paper cuttings of my heart
To the windows of your home.
I want to drink the monsoon
While you lay in my arms
Under the red rain silhouettes of my love.

……..

I spent two days
Breathing dust the color of your skin
And striving through a summer sun
As fiery as your presence
Beating my head dizzy.
Consuming the mountain landscapes,
Which taunt me with their beauty,
Landscapes as difficult to reach
As the landscapes of your body.

Injustice

Justice is the lifeblood of society.
It runs and fights
And bleeds through my veins.
Justice is the highest calling of good men.
A man who cares not for justice is not a man but a beast.

I am also for truth.
I distrust the justice of this world
I’m skeptical of anything people tell me
“Look at this injustice! look here and here and here”
Everyone echoes everyone.

People cry out when one man is killed by the state,
And it’s right that they do so,
But then they go on about their day
When thousands of children
Are poisoned, burned, and cut to pieces by their mothers.

Fuck you and your “justice”
Fuck you and your utopia

You wouldn’t know injustice
If it were ripped from its womb
And placed in a hazmat bag
To be discarded with the rest of the days trash.

Lord Byron – Stanzas To The Po

Stanzas To The Po

River, that rollest by the ancient walls,
Where dwells the lady of my love, when she
Walks by thy brink, and there perchance recalls
A faint and fleeting memory of me;

What if thy deep and ample stream should be
A mirror of my heart, where she may read
The thousand thoughts I now betray to thee,
Wild as thy wave, and headlong as thy speed!

What do I say -a mirror of my heart?
Are not thy waters sweeping, dark, and strong?
Such as my feelings were and are, thou art;
And such as thou art were my passions long.

Time may have somewhat tamed them, -not for ever;
Thou overflow’st thy banks, and not for aye
The bosom overboils, congenial river!
Thy floods subside, and mine have sunk away.

But left long wrecks behind, and now again,
Born in our old unchanged career, we move;
Thou tendest wildly onwards to the main,
And I -to loving one I should not love.

The current I behold will sweep beneath
Her native walls and murmur at her feet;
Her eyes will look on thee, when she shall breathe
The twilight air, unharmed by summer’s heat.

She will look on thee, -I have looked on thee,
Full of that thought; and, from that moment, ne’er
Thy waters could I dream of, name, or see,
Without the inseparable sigh for her!

Her bright eyes will be imaged in thy stream, –
Yes! they will meet the wave I gaze on now:
Mine cannot witness, even in a dream,
That happy wave repass me in its flow!

The wave that bears my tears returns no more:
Will she return by whom that wave shall sweep?
Both tread thy banks, both wander on thy shore,
I by thy source, she by the dark-blue deep.

But that which keepeth us apart is not
Distance, nor depth of wave, nor space of earth,
But the distraction of a various lot,
As various as the climates of our birth.

A stranger loves the lady of the land,
Born far beyond the mountains, but his blood
Is all meridian, as if never fanned
By the black wind that chills the polar flood.

My blood is all meridian; were it not,
I had not left my clime, nor should I be,
In spite of tortures, ne’er to be forgot,
A slave again of love, -at least of thee.

‘Tis vain to struggle -let me perish young –
Live as I lived, and love as I have loved;
To dust if I return, from dust I sprung,
And then, at least, my heart can ne’er be moved.

Lord George Gordon Byron

Some of the Greatest Scene’s In Film – Spoiler Alerts

 

Tears In Rain – Blade Runner

I Love You – True Romance

Tango de Roxanne – Moulin Rouge

Only God Forgives Trailer – Ok so the trailer was better than the film. Had to put it in here.

Creation Sequence – The Tree of Life

Reconciliation – The Mission
Rodrigo Mendoza who was once a slaver and conquistador, carries his armor up to the Jesuit Mission in the Guarani’s jungle as penance for his sins.

Revenge – Unforgiven

I’ve Wasted My Whole Life – Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Li MuBai a Monk who has spent his life in pursuit of enlightenment faces his death and looks back on his life.

Mexican Standoff – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Monday Night Beneath The Towers

It’s a Monday night beneath the towers,
And for no particular reason,
I’ve decided to get drunk.
Maybe it’s the city
Maybe it’s that sucking sound
Coming from my innermost being.
Daoist tears from a thousand years,
Collected in the taste of a beer.
I drink to Li Bai,
I drink to lovers from another time,
I drink to those nails
Which put Christ on the cross,
I drink to all I’ve given up,
I drink to all that’s lost,
And I drink to the hope,
The hope that warms me
In a world gone cold with decadence.

Portrait of YuXuanji – 鱼玄机

YuXuanji - 鱼玄机

(Translation)

Melancholy Thoughts (For Zi’an)

Falling leaves fill the evening, mingling with the rain;
I stroke vermilion strings alone, sing a pure song.
I let go my resentment at having no soulmate;
I cultivate my character, leave the bitter sea’s waves.
Wealthy people’s carriages pass outside the dark gate;
piles of Daoist books lie stacked before my pillow.
Commonly clad once, now a traveller of the sky,
at times still I pass green waters, verdant hills.

May I Learn To Love You Like This

Too late I loved Thee,
O thou beauty of ancient days, yet ever new!
Too late I loved Thee!
And behold, Thou wert within and I abroad,
And there I searched for Thee;
Deformed I, plunging amid those fair forms which Thou hadst made.
Thou wert with me but I was not with Thee.
Things held me far from Thee which,
Unless they were in Thee,
Were not at all.
Thou calledst, and shoutedst, and burstedst my deafness.
Thou flashedst, shonest, and scattered my blindness.
Thou breathedst odors, and I drew in breath and pant for Thee.
I tasted, and hunger and thirst.
Thou touchedst me and I burned for Thy peace.
When I shall with my whole soul cleave to Thee,
I shall nowhere have sorrow or labor,
And my life shall live as wholly full of Thee.
-Saint Augustine

“Oh my God, sweetness unspeakable, turn into bitterness all my fleshly consolation, which draweth me away from love of eternal things, and wickedly allureth towards itself by setting before me some present delight. Let not, oh my God, let not flesh and blood prevail over me, let not the world and its short glory decieve me, let not the devil, and his craftiness supplant me. Give me courage to resist, patience to endure, constancy to persevere. Grant in place of all consolations of the world, the most sweet unction of thy spirit, and in place of carnal love, pour into me the love of thy name.”
-Thomas A Kempis

Music That Moves You #6

Some of my favorite tunes as of late. As always – LISTEN TO IT LOUD

Shapeless – Wild Cub

Open – Rhye

Drive – Wild Cub

MTN Tune – Trails and Ways

What I Might Do (Kilter Remix) – Ben Pearce

A Variation on Scotty Tails Madelain – Shigeru Umebayashi

Poems of an Executed Revolutionary

A LETTER TO LADY T’AO CH’IU

All alone with my shadow
I whisper and murmur to it,
And write strange characters
In the air, like Yin Hao.
It is not sickness, nor wine,
Nor sorrow for those who are gone,
Like Li Ch’ing-chao, that causes
A whole city of anxiety
To rise in my heart.
There is no one here I can speak to
Who can understand me.
My hopes and visions are greater
Than those of the men around me,
But the chance of our survival is too narrow.
What good is the heart of a hero
Inside my dress?
My perilous fate moves according to plan.
I ask heaven
Did the heroines of the past
Encounter envy like this?

UNTITLED

How many wise men and heroes
Have survived the dust and dirt of the world?
How many beautiful women have been heroines?
There were the noble and famous women generals
Ch’in Liang-yu and Shen Yun-yin.
Though tears stained their dresses
Their hearts were full of blood.
The wild strokes of their swords
Whistled like dragons and sobbed with pain.

The perfume of freedom burns my mind
With grief for my country.
When will we ever be cleansed?
Comrades, I say to you,
Spare no effort, struggle unceasingly,
That at last peace may come to our people,
And jewelled dresses and deformed feet
Will be abandoned.
And one day, all under heaven
Will see beautiful free women,
Blooming like fields of flowers,
And bearing brilliant and noble human beings.

-Ch’iu Chin

Ch’iu Chin was a woman poet and a leader in Sun Yat-sen’s early rebellion. She longed for her country to be free from the Manchu’s and embrace democracy, and for Chinese women to be free. She was executed in 1907 by the Manchu’s for treason and her poems were used against her as evidence in her trial.

Living in the Summer Mountains – Yu Xuanji

If I could travel back in time 1100 years, I would find this woman and marry her.

Living in the Summer Mountains

I have moved to this home of Immortals.
Wild shrubs bloom everywhere.
In the front garden, trees
Spread their branches for clothes racks.
I sit on a mat and float wine cups
In the cool spring.
Beyond the window railing
A hidden path leads away
Into the dense bamboo grove.
In a gauze dress
I read among my disordered
Piles of books.
I take a leisurely ride
In the painted boat,
And chant poems to the moon.
I drift at ease, for I know
The soft wind will blow me home.

……

On a Visit to Ch’ung Chen Taoist Temple
I See In The South Hall The List of
Successful Candidates in The Imperial Examinations

Cloud capped peaks fill the eyes
In the Spring sunshine.
Their names are written in beautiful characters
And posted in order of merit.
How I hate this silk dress
That conceals a poet.
I lift my head and read their names
In a powerless envy.

-Yu Hsuan-Chi
-Yu XuanJi

Translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung