Sorrow of the Seven Samurai

We were seven samurai!
At least when school let them leave.
We met by the riverbank
for battle, bonding & make believe.
With wooden wakizashi
& jump rope nunchucks we faced the enemy.
Fiendish foes in their hundreds,
thousands, maybe more & all imaginary.

Kieryn became Kambei,
he was the oldest by a month or two.
So by default our noble leader
& he enjoyed telling us what to do.

Mat became Matajuro,
maybe he’d joined the samurai too soon.
Instead of bringing swords
he’d brought along some sad balloon.

Luke became Lone Wolf,
a name he wore most ironically.
For out of all the samurai,
of the most he craved company.

Zack became Zatoichi,
& as blind as he was wise,
he would wield his wakizashi
with a blindfold over his eyes.

Harry became Hagakure,
he’d been busy writing a samurai rule.
It was much more fun to do so
than to study when in class at school.

Tod became Tahei,
within this clan he was caught.
He hoped to find a princess
holed up inside some hidden fort.

Battle began in earnest,
I leaped into the fray by their side.
The enemy had found us
& samurai seldom run & hide.

Kambei commanded us all “Attack!”,
an order we embraced with glee.
Matajuro bashed balloon through the air,
bringing death down on enemies three.

Zatoichi waved wakizashi wildly,
some of his enemies hit the deck.
Eager to help him I came close
only to be struck hard on my neck.

He really didn’t mean to do it,
I bear no ill will to Zatoichi Zack.
He tore off his blindfold in horror
having heard my neck bones crack.

I dropped down to the floor fallen,
an innocent victim of friendly fire.
The samurai discarded their weapons
whilst their screams grew even higher.

Kambei tried to calm them then,
although truly he was terrified too.
He didn’t want to get in trouble
& had a plan to see them through.

He had them carry me to the river,
for it was his job just to think.
They threw my body in the water
& thought that I would soon sink.

Sad, scared & no longer samurai,
this their first taste of blood.
Battle no longer seemed exciting,
fighting fiends felt far from good.

They abandoned all their aliases,
as rōnin they’d no longer roam.
Mat sobbed some more then
& wailed “Want to go home”.

They left me alone in the river
& my wet body began to float.
My corpse found by a fisherman
who dragged it into his boat.

The fisherman checked my collar,
none the wiser to samurai’s shame.
I was their loyal canine comrade
& Ghost Dog was my name.

Copyright © 2015 Philip Craddock. All rights reserved.


One thought on “Sorrow of the Seven Samurai

    Please read the poem above before reading this comment. Hoping that this poem will still appeal to those of you unfamiliar with samurai lore and samurai movies. To those of you unfamiliar with them who wondered where the names and the descriptions of each samurai alias for the children came from, here’s their origins:

    Kambei – Taken from the samurai’s leader in the movie “Seven Samurai”, which also inspired the title for this poem. The plot for the poem and the film differ significantly though, so it hasn’t been spoiled for you if you read this first.

    Matajuro – Taken from a samurai from the film “Humanity and Paper Balloons”. In the movie the ronin Matajuro spends his days looking for work whilst his wife makes cheap paper balloons. Sad, pessimistic movie featuring suicides and poverty, which insists that life was hellish for those at the bottom of the social ladder in feudal Japan. Hence why the balloon in the poem is a sad one.

    Lone Wolf – Taken from the title of a samurai movie “Lone Wolf and Cub”. The craving company wasn’t taken directly from the movie – that’s more me twisting the meaning of “Lone Wolf” to make it more like the “Little John” name was for the big guy.

    Tahei – Taken from the main peasant hero in the movie “The Hidden Fortress”, which inspired George Lucas to write Star Wars. In it they meet a princess in a hidden fortress and offer to take her to safety in exchange for gold.

    Hagakure – Hagakure is the book of the Samurai, a practical and spiritual guide for the warrior which was the collected commentaries of a samurai named Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Although it doesn’t say so in the poem currently (may tweak it again later to add the description – we’ll see. Already tweaked it about 20 times since I first wrote this one), I imagine Harry as looking similar to how Harry Potter did at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Glasses, fringe, etc. Out of the children he’s also probably the one I associate the most with myself, as that’s also how I looked when I was his age (although back then I got called the Milky Bar Kid because Harry Potter hadn’t been written yet). Plus I’d be daydreaming and writing stories in class when I should be studying.

    Zatoichi – Taken from the protagonist in Zatoichi. There’s two movies featuring Zatoichi (released as The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi in the US). I’ve currently only seen the 2003 version, which I recommend.

    Ghost Dog – Taken from the samurai name for the main character in the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, starring Forest Whitaker as modern day samurai.

    If there’s anything else you’d like to know about this or any other of my poems, just ask. 🙂


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