Before they died, they lived.
They were born; each of them
brought through the narrow passage
at a price in blood and pain.
Is that not enough, already?
Yet there is more.
How long to raise a child?
Give him each day his daily bread,
drive away the bogeys under the bed,
keep him warm and dry and not too wild.
All the long years, freely given
that he may sail towards the sunrise
– it is our power and our pride –
and leave his bones among angry strangers.
Unexpendable, they were expended
golden bezants thrown in azure seas;
the children of the back streets
made the currency of diplomacy.
Do you feel the waste of it?
They can afford waste,
in the palaces, in the silken rooms;
they have children to spare.
We are not so wealthy,
in the back streets.
We waste nothing;
not even grief.
Not even anger.
There will come a day
– but why speak of it?
Even a mother cannot
think of it always.
Pack it away in salt,
all your work,
all your memories.
Save it against the day
when it is needed.
It is not waste
to store grief
against the future:
Before they died, they lived.
–From Songs of the Weaver Women, by Elisabetta Mare, “Il Povero Poeta”. Not written down in her own lifetime, her poems and songs lived mouth to mouth in the alleys of Venice for a generation before being collected and published in 1631. This blank-verse English translation loses the strong rhyme and meter that enabled them to survive as a purely oral tradition, but retains, unlike more formal versions, the elegiac bitterness of the original. There is a Venetian tradition that two sons of Elisabetta Mare died in the disastrous battle of the Straits of Hormuz; even if it is not true, she surely knew many women who did lose sons and brothers, since there was hardly a family in Venice untouched by the tragedy.
Last week I reported that we had fought the Egyptians to an attritional standstill, and were advancing inch by inch down the Nile Valley; that we had driven off the Japanese invasion, and sunk half its fleet in the Aegean. It was, I thought, only a question of time before we were in a position to dictate terms, and retake what was lost in the Nile Delta War and the Indian Ocean War. That was before the Indian powers, seeing a kidney conveniently exposed, decided to stick a knife in it. We ended up signing over a lot of Persian territory to opportunistic Peshawar, and accepting white peaces with the Egyptians and Japanese who had been fighting us for twenty years. I don’t think anyone except, presumably, Ragatokk (playing Peshawar) was pleased with this outcome; let that be a lesson for those who think of calling in additional allies in games that have warscore limitations on separate wars.
I had just about rebuilt my army when Peshawar came around for a second helping in the Oxus River War. This time I just gave Egypt the damn province when he threatened me, thus enabling us to concentrate on one front; it looked good, too, until Fandango joined their northern ally. It was then I learned that light ships do actually matter in EU4 naval combat, in that they absorb the damage your heavies deal out, and make it possible to win even when outnumbered in ships of the line. An expensive lesson, 2000 ducats’ worth of ships in the learning; next war I will be better prepared.
The addition of Fandango, however, gave Peshawar little comfort in the end, since it brought in England on our side. England apparently has an agreement with Peshawar, and would not fight their troops; but did agree to crush the Fandangese army and roll back their gains, thus restoring the status quo – basically a stalemate, in other words.
There’s a war in Europe too, Germany trying to take another bite out of the German-Uzbek Demilitarised Zone, and Uzbekistan and Byantium defending their client. I could not follow this in detail, being busy ordering my armies around; but no doubt many thousands of pixel mothers grieve for their pixel sons, and perhaps a province or two has changed masters. Meanwhile the Jackal waits patiently, defended by its deserts; maneuvering its enemies, who do not yet know they are at war with a foe worse than any merely human nation, against each other. Taking a city here, a strategic fortress there. Waiting for the day when its puppets are strong enough to rise against all the world, and proclaim again its rule of the Red Lands and the Black.
Although the Nile Valley Front was mainly an affair of siegework and trenches, there were occasional spectacular slaughters when the Egyptian army came out to fight. Five-to-one kill ratios with even odds are, indeed, an excellent reason for hiding behind your fortifications; let nobody say the Egyptians don’t know their capabilities and tailor their tactics accordingly.
Some similar results, if not quite so onesided, in the Oxus River War. Go on, push your invasion through that lot.
The epic battle of Basra, still ongoing when the session ended.