Obeisance

The Roman asked the Celt,
traveling in his lands,
“Your graven art puzzles:
In this image, a pagan man I see.
Why do rings pierce his tongue?”

“The links are silver, the man is old.”

“An old pagan, then,” the Roman said,
with silver rings from which hang further rings,
chains, in fact, that trail to others.… ”

“The ears of others.”

“Indeed, chains that pierce the ears of others,
these then forced to follow.
Seven slaves they are,
by your jewelers bound? Yet they smile?”

“No, free men they are, my Roman friend,
free men and women free,
who were they loosed, would despair,
for to Eloquence we Celts do bind ourselves,
a god not known to bless the young.”

—Leonard O’Brian