The Seventh Seal (a poem)

The best thing about Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey – if you haven’t yet seen it - comes when our eponymous heroes encounter Death personified - white face, black robes: exactly what we’ve come to expect the Grim Reaper to look like.

Bill S. Preston Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan (I didn't even have to look their names up!) aren't entirely happy about this and convince Death to a game of chess. If Death wins, the pair will be whisked away on a train bound for the other side. If The Wild Stallions win, they get to keep their lives.

The pair goes on to lose their game, but announce that it should be best of three, and as such other games are played in deciding their fate. When they lose the majority of those games, they convince Death that it should be best of five, and so on and so forth.

Among other things, the Grim Reaper plays Battleships, Clue, Electric Football and Twister. I can’t remember the outcome, but the Bill and Ted survived, which either means they eventually won the majority of games or cheated through revealing some sort of loophole in their agreement with Death.

Bill and Ted’s Games with Death is a direct homage to The Seventh Seal, a Swedish film by Ingmar Bergman, in which a knight finds himself on a beach during the crusades. He encounters Death, who agrees to let a game of chess decide the knight’s fate.

The scene in Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was their homage to Bergman’s 1957 Magnum Opus, and the following is my own.

The Seventh Seal

You stroll from battle,

As if steel would split,

And shrivel on impact.

And though wind - like warmed hands,

Dipped in liquid sand,

And knowing not of conflict -

May calm short of a cure,

You still walk to where the tide,

Pauses, swells, retreats,

Like a regular plaster,

But as you beam a muddied smile,

To an outside sea edge,

A presence is felt,

And know before turning,

From each brittle hair on your neck,

That mere breeze cannot move him.

Him: Chalk-White, shape-bereft,

A crude blackboard fashion.

That hides a rough wooden rubber,

Intended for flight, to be thrown,

And caught with a dropping blow.

So with a soul-stiffening sound,

He picks away at a heart-strung melody,

And exposes it for the meat that it is.

You are right

Not to beg prostrate

To scrabble at his feet

To push pride out

on a floating grave

To knead ignoring sands.

You glimpse the boarded ivory,

And your proposal,

Is accepted.

Chess-playing knight and friend,

Know this: You will not win.

A gallant death is no posthumous sin.


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