Tiger, Tiger

And then they shot the tigers. It defeats
Me how those who earned their stripes
Stripping the Sultan of his jewels and rings
Carried their greed for carrion and ripe
Red rubies to the cages. In the heat
Of the battle, they did not forget to bring
Home his sword with the tiger hilt;
Kept his tiger throne. The empire built
On death and plunder, cannot cheat
Me of the astounded wonder, at this thing
–        I cannot name it, it baffles me –
That moved an army that killed a country
For its jewels, just like the unnamed soldier
Who killed Tipu for his, crowned its glory
By killing the Sultan’s six tigers. Bolder
Poets than I have battled with history
Finding rhyme, if not reason. Did they see
What Blake did, burning bright
In those striped lords of war?  What
Did they go and kill them for?

 

(Tipu Sultan was killed in battle by an anonymous soldier for his precious ornaments. After the generals found his body, they took over his fort – and killed his 6 tigers.)

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