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A Disciple of Pythagoras Wins a Chariot Race (poem)

A Disciple of Pythagoras Wins a Chariot Race

Some oil there in the dirt, some spices
gathered into the shape of a scented ox
and lit into a rising cloud for the gods:
this is better victory than flesh,
better glory for my name and my town
than the meat of someone I may have known,
the body of one I might become.
We all go from form to form, name to name,
a living harmony of ratios
surrounded by both instinct and numbers,
and none of them require sacrifice
beyond the offering of every effort.
There is killing enough in stupidity,
in war and its shredded piles of us and them;
this pile of spice and smoke saves a few.

496 BC

Originally published in the Basil O’Flaherty