POEMS: Eros MutatusTo the Red Cross WorkersReflectionsA Prayer at PentecostTo My GrandchildrenA Modern OdysseyEphemeridsBernini’s DavidSocrates’ ExhortationTed Kaczynski: UnabomberTo DanteA Faustian BargainAt the CrossroadA Modern Eden Is the Bible BeltThe Third TemptationPrometheos Revisited


Through Self's Veneer: Poetry by Robert J. Nolan (drawing of two heads in profile facing each other)


A Modern Odyssey

When I was young, so very young,
I sang the “Ave” with trembling tongue.
Mother Church’s adjuration
Formed the base for one’s salvation:
“Learn my rituals by rote,
Wear your faith like a coat,
And you’ll never have to dwell
In the fires of Hell.”
I clung to her appeal
With at times a feverish zeal;
Then Humanistic Education
Told me “Dogma stifles ideation.”
“Ask questions,” she said,
“Or your spirit is dead.”
On that challenging note
I threw off the coat
And leaped from that base
Into agnostic space,
Ecstatic to be rid
Of the life of “Forbid.”
I read every iconoclast
Who urged, “Abjure the past;”
But after passing through a maze
Of self-negating soubriquets,
Found that being a skeptic
Left one sorely dyspeptic:
Bacon’s “scientific man”
And Voltaire’s “esprit humaine,”
Locke’s “tabula rasa”
And Hobbes’s “bellum omnia,”
Rousseau’s “homme naturel”
And Schopenhauer’s “Will,”
Hegel’s “List der Vernunft”
And “l’homme positive” of Comte,
Bentham’s “utilitarian”
And Marx’s “proletarian,”
Nietsche’s “Superman”
And Freud’s neo-Oedipan,
And most vexatious of the lot,
Heidegger and Sartre,
Who worshipped “Angst” and “le Neant”
As this era’s Agathons—
Each one as prelatic
As a Lenten dogmatic—
Together drew a vision
Of Egos in collision.
So the posture of a modern
Made existence no less sodden,
And while hardly craving certainty,
I ached for a touch of clarity.
Such tonics as Kierkegaard
Punctured the moderns’ canard;
Jaspers and Cassirer
Outlined the chaos in the era;
Gasset and Unamuno
Showed one how to see below
The surface of an age
Of vitiated verbiage;
And such bicarbonates
As Eliot, Mann, and Yeats,
Whose works were depositions
On the salience of tradition,
Had some salutary effect
On one’s desire to connect
To a life more consequential
Than a sullen existential.
But it took the sober medicine
Of Noetic Eric Voegelin,
Through his philosophic talents,
To help educe a sense of balance
In a spirit near defeat
By the age’s Self-conceit.
And while it’s hard to claim a cure,
He reduced my temperature
By tempering my attitude—
So to him, my deepest gratitude.

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  Through Self’s Veneer


  About Robert J. Nolan



  © Robert J. Nolan, 2010