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The Poets

June 15, 2010

Contemplate the Sages- A Virelai Nouveau

Remember God. Invoke him for your aid and protector, as sailors do Castor and Pollux, in a storm. For what storm is greater than that which arises from these perilous semblances, contending to overset our reason? Indeed what is the storm itself, but a semblance? For do but take away the fear of death, and let there be as many thunders and lightnings as you please, you will find that to reason all is serenity and calm

-
Epictetus



Contemplate the Sages


We wouldn’t live in such dismay
If fleeing death were not our way
For oft our wisest sages taught
That we the fear of death obey
That if we overcame this thought
And fought against its cruel display
.... well, we’d be freed of its dismay

Tranquility would calm the fray
If we this fear would wisely weigh
And hardly would we here distraught
Be grieved by semblances of gray
Nor cruelest fate eclipse our lot
Beneath the beauty of this day
Provided fear were not our way

envoi

So contemplate what sages say
And understand what wise ones thought
If fleeing death were not our way
We wouldn’t live in such dismay

-jwm

3 comments:

John W. May said...

Some other qoutes:


Who knows but life be that which men call death,
And death what men call life?

-Euripides


A free man thinks of death least of all things; and his wisdom is a meditation not of death but of life.

-Baruch Spinoza


And now I will make answer to you, O my judges, and show that he who has lived as a true philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to receive the greatest good in the other world. And how this may be, Simmias and Cebes, I will endeavor to explain. For I deem that the true disciple of philosophy is likely to be misunderstood by other men; they do not perceive that he is ever pursuing death and dying; and if this is true, why, having had the desire of death all his life long, should he repine at the arrival of that which he has been always pursuing and desiring?

-Socrates


Unlike man, animals, so to speak, live without knowing death. The individual animal enjoys fully the immutability of its gender, being conscious of itself only as an immortal being.

-Arthur Schopenhauer


The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

-Mark Twain


I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

-Frank Herbert


Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark.

-Francis Bacon


Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.

-German Proverb


I die daily ...

-The Apostle Paul

Obiterspeak said...

Intricate consideration of the extent to which the fear of death, consequential/inevitable dismay and the possibility of freedom are bound up and constitute "our way". I sense a judgment or conclusion wanting to emerge but the envoi serves to discipline since the force of the poem is to call forth vital awareness of this complex matter. Metaphysical poetry at its best, John.

I particularly liked the line ".... well, we’d be freed of its dismay" (where and how it occurs) because it comes across matter-of-fact (something like a chuckle), making light of a such sober consideration.

Katarina Silva said...

What unnecessary addictions humankind has to their own myopic perspectives! Your poem encourages the reader to remove lenses of dismay and reach deeper into broader vistas of death, of life, of the wisdom of shedding fears that serve no purpose but to cripple us. I am quite a fan of the way you bring timeless matters of such obscure depth to light with your beautiful poems! Bravo! I will make this a favorite one, as views of death have always held me in rapt fascination.

As of April 9th, 2010