A Tale of Honor

Hristo Smirnenski


It was an honour I never
have hoped for, to be sure!
The Devil invited me in
to try his best liqueur.1

A candle lit his sharp profile.
Through smoke-rings in a haze,
With moist eyes Mephistopheles
upon me fixed his gaze.

His mien, though tinged with autumn grief,
was proud and cheerful too.
He cried: “In vino veritas” –
I shall be frank with you!

I can no longer bear the yoke
of cunning and deceit.
Here’s to your other-worldly warmth
and worldly woes we meet!

Long, long ago I came to earth
and as a joke, you see,
took worldly Truth to be my wife,
but she cuckolded me.

My honour to avenge I vowed.
In jealousy and pain,
I trampled human honour down
but mine I’ve not regained.

I sought in exploits to excel –
I died in many frays.
Though worthy causes I upheld,
no honours came my way.

Then in the street one day I propped
a sign I had prepared.
‘Here is a man without a scrap
of honour,’ it declared.

But, strangely, no one looked askance!
And why I never knew.
All men around me doffed their hats:
‘No honour? Good for you!’

A gentleman kissed me on sight:
‘Pal, you too?! Man alive!’
Two pretty ladies did invite:
‘Tomorrow tea at five!’

Amazing! Such attention rare
all did to me devote.
Kings, ministers, court ladies fair
fond letters to me wrote.

Behold me, rolling now in gold.
A man of place and pride!
A thief, a shameless rogue – I know –
but… honoured far and wide!

He paused, our glasses he refilled
and raised a toast with glee.
Then, blowing rings of smoke, he fixed
his bright green eyes on me.