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)



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.”

Go to Top


  Through Self’s Veneer


  About Robert J. Nolan



  © Robert J. Nolan, 2010