David and Pop-Pop's Europe Trip
The Philosopher and the Dragon
by David Van Slyke
In front of the dragon's cave, I wonder what dragons think,
Knowing naught but to kill and burn and sleep.
How deep is your cave, and why?
Before me stands the wooden pole with its cold, iron chains
That a maiden was bound to each past moon
For a cruel number of years.
They tried to please the monster's appetite, but only showed
That fear is stronger than love.
I came to the nearby town, a philosopher, a man
Who thinks much on dragons and knights and death.
Why do the dragons hate us?
Why burn our crops, homes, and souls? Far from the homes, the green hills
Are covered with sheep. The townsfolk begged me,
"Go reason with the dragon!
Convince him to eat our flocks, not our kin." Iím here. It seems
That hope is stronger than fear.
"Pleasant thoughts to be lost in?" the dragon behind me asks,
The first one I had seen. My well trained mind
Is having trouble with "big".
He does not breathe or bite or tear at me, but reaches down,
Into the tiny cave. Then he pulls out
A smaller dragon, more what
The townsfolk described to me. It vanishes and I know
That magic is stronger than hope.
"Who are you?" I ask, somehow. There is nothing else to do.
"I am the True Dragon. You called." He smiles.
"You asked for the truth. My truth.
All other dragons are dreams I dream so men make magic
Swords and spears and lances and shields with which
Knights can slay dragons. These all
Come my way eventually. Have this dragonís cave and gold,
Magic is better to hoard."
I can find nothing to say. Then the True Dragon flies off.
Later I realize just what I was told.
I tell all the landís wizards,
"Make no more magic weapons, the dragons will disappear."
But I refuse to tell the mages why,
So the True Dragon has peace.
He still is bigger than I: I owe him for teaching me
That truth is stronger than magic.
Now I wander the kingdom and tell stories that teach of
Love and fear and hope and magic and truth.
Truth is the strongest of all.
And I too collect magic, but not magic from wizards.
Magic is when the parts bow before the whole.
I memorize poetry
And watch children play thier games. For truth may be the strongest,
But magic is the best for collecting.