Whom the gods …

We envy the gods their longevity,
not recognizing that they envy us.
Envy the heightened drama of existence
that comes with knowledge of life’s brevity
– over before you know it,
– got to have something to show for it,
serious ambition, love, and dynasty,
creativity, can’t just sit around
like gods on Olympus clouds, dreaming
up low tricks to play on us below.

Those gods! Can’t keep their jealous eyes off us,
entertain themselves by fooling us,
mortals existing just for their sport.
Stuff of Greek tragedy, they have to fill
all those tomorrows and tomorrows
of eternity with something, theatre
of the absurd. Sometimes they even come down
to earth, like goddam randy Zeus, making
more mischief, more mayhem via god children,
like Herakles, son of Zeus, whom Hera makes mad
so that he kills his wife and children in
a frenzy. And then there’s Helen, daughter of Zeus.
Time to bring on the Trojan Wars.


Sophocles: Chorus from Antigone.

Wonders are many on earth, and the greatest of these
Is man, who rides the ocean and takes his way
Through the deeps, through wind-swept valleys of perilous seas
That surge and sway.

He is master of ageless Earth, to his own will bending
The immortal mother of gods by the sweat of his brow,
As year succeeds to year, with toil unending
Of mule and plough.

He is lord of all things living; birds of the air,
Beasts of the field, all creatures of sea and land
He taketh, cunning to capture and ensnare
With sleight of hand;

Hunting the savage beast from the upland rocks,
Taming the mountain monarch in his lair,
Teaching the wild horse and the roaming ox’
His yoke to bear.

The use of language, the wind-swift motion of brain
He learnt; found out the laws of living together
In cities, building him shelters against the rain
And wintry weather.

There is nothing beyond his power. His subtlety
Meeteth all chance, all danger conquereth.
For every ill he found a remedy,
Save only death.


William Butler Yeats: Long-Legged Fly.

That civilization may not sink,
Its great battle lost,
Quiet the dog, tether the pony
To a distant post;
Our master Caesar is in the tent
Where the maps are spread,
His eyes fixed upon nothing,
A hand under his head.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.

That the topless towers be burnt
And men recall that face,
Move most gently if you move you must
In this lonely place.
She thinks, part woman, three parts a child,
That nobody looks; her feet
Practice a tinker shuffle
Picked up on a street.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
Her mind moves upon silence.

That girls at puberty may find
The first Adam in their thought,
Shut the door of the pope’s chapel,
Keep those children out.
There on the scaffolding reclines
Michael Angelo.
With no more sound than the mice make,
His hand moves to and fro.
Like a long-legged fly upon the stream
His mind moves upon silence.


Archibald MacLeish: You Andrew Marvell.*

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth’s noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night.

To feel creep up the curving east
The earthly chill of dusk and slow
Upon those under lands the vast
And ever climbing shadow grow.

And strange at Echbatan the trees
Take leaf by leaf the evening strange
The flooding dark about their knees
The mountains over Persia change.

And now at Kermanshah the gate
Dark empty and the withered grass
And through the twilight now the late
Few travelers in the westward pass.

And Baghdad darken and the bridge
Across the silent river gone
And through Arabia the edge
Of evening widen and steal on.

And deep on Palmyra’s street
The wheel rut in the ruined stone
And Lebanon fade out and Crete
High through the clouds and overblown

And over Sicily the air
Still flashing with the landward gulls
And loom and slowly disappear
The sails above the shadowy hulls

And Spain go under and the shore
Of Africa the gilded sand
And evening vanish and no more
The low pale light across that land

Nor now the long light in the sea
And here face downward in the sun
To feel how swift how secretly
The shadow of the night comes on …

* Reference to Andrew Marvell’s Poem, ‘To His Coy Mistress.’


Oh Ozymandias!

Well that’s all, folks …


  1. Then there was Heine’s Achilles in Hades, who would rather be alive as the lowest living philistine in Stuttgart, than a shadow prince and dead hero in the Underworld.

  2. Ezra Pound, not envying the gods or their accommodation:

    WHAT hast thou, O my soul, with paradise?
    Will we not rather, when our freedom ‘s won,
    Get us to some clear place wherein the sun
    Lets drift in on us through the olive leaves
    A liquid glory? If at Sirmio
    My soul, I meet thee, when this life ‘s outrun,
    Will we not find some headland consecrated
    By aery apostles of terrene delight,
    Will not our cult be founded on the waves,
    Clear sapphire, cobalt, cyanine,
    On triune azures, the impalpable
    Mirrors unstill of the eternal change?

    Soul, if She meet us there, will any rumour
    Of havens more high and courts desirable
    Lure us beyond the cloudy peak of Riva?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s