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Poetry: History

 

Richard III

It is not what I did,
but what I could not do;
not who I was,
but what they made of me
that is remembered:
and, all that was his by nature
he has put on to me,
to make his crimes seem fitting
on my memory.

It was not a time for compassion,
when all, even governance
followed the Italian model;
yet, I dreaded unkindness,
and forgiveness undid me.

They were a breed for that age:
ruthless, illegitimate, ignorant
of family ties, but wise
in the arts of manipulation.
To England, they brought glory:
I had no offer but peace,
and justice.

In every generation since,
justice has spoken for me.
Nonetheless, men love glory,
and the clamour of mobs
drowns the few voices
that proclaim my innocence,
my friendship, my justice.

It is not what I did,
but what she did, they crave;
not who I was,
but what she made of them
that is remembered:
an England of riches, a people
rich in glory, doing
justice.
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