At Century’s End
An ancient, Ovid, tells a story
How Narcissus, wandering by a pool,
Beheld his Self in all its glory,
And leaning over, fool met fool.
A foolish youth, but after all,
The smiling vision that he saw
No like on earth could he recall,
And so he studied it in awe,
And lingered by that shady bank;
That smile, the image of his soul,
Was so sublime that when he sank
He knew he’d found his life’s true goal.
A wanderer through the world today,
A little more astute than he,
Knows it’s romantic naiveté
To gambol through some pleasant lea,
Then lie beside a rippling brook,
Exulting in the noonday lull,
To read one’s image as a book,
Because that stream could bare a skull.
To find Death’s smile reflected there
A century’s slaughter leaves no doubts:
Innocent dead are everywhere,
Murdered by mad, Self-glorying louts.
And what of Inner Beauty’s face?
That core, say some, none can defile,
Since it reflects our Self’s true grace,
And in spite of all retains its smile?
Tell that to such as Plath or Crane,
Who saw the image of their era,
As horror struck, they reeled in pain,
When they beheld an empty mirror.
They and others like them saw,
Much to modern history’s shame,
That mankind, holding Self in awe,
Made Nothingness and Self the same.
Their vision of the century’s plight
Updates the myth of Ovid’s elf;
Those reflecting this age indict:
“To love one’s Self’s to lose oneself.”
But to presume, like Crane and Plath,
To go the way of despair’s decrial,
Impugns reflection’s saner path
To find oneself through Self-denial.
The way to such self-knowledge, though,
Can only start when mankind sees
It hasn’t anything to show
Itself, but years of Self dis-ease.
We need the vision of a Lear,
Whose path to sanity began
When he beheld, through Self’s veneer,
“A very foolish fond old man.”