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Poetry: History


Kung Fu-tze

It is hard now, even for me,
to distinguish my words from those
later attributed by clever minds
seeking convenient authority.
I was no epigrammist, only
a civil servant during
civil wars, and not particularly
successful.    Like the Italian,
I was better, perhaps, at theory
than practice: neither of us was 
steadily employed, except in
the search for a position.

At that, I outstripped, for I
served several in succession, and
had no time to leave a written corpus.
Perhaps he was the wiser, if not
the more honoured, for, though
he left no school, and few
would dare claim him, he
is known by his face, and by his
clear and focussed obsession.

My face is unpainted, my name on
every tongue, chanted like
an ordinary spell, to conjure
vulgar common sense.      His lack
of simple competence has given him
serene mastery, while I remain
itinerant, unteachable, in search
perpetually of some comfortable
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