Paltry Thing - Poem by gershon hepner
An aged man’s a paltry thing
(John Butler Yeats, of course) ,
his legacy divided, king
like Lear, bereft of force,
past master of what’s past and passing,
and of what’s to come
abusive, constantly badassing,
on time’s scales his thumb,
weighing down with Byzantine
analysis the world,
until death’s angel draws the line,
and from it he’s hurled.
From Byzantium we sail,
in a tale that’s told
by idiots, who mostly fail
to understand when old.
Inspired by John Butler Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium, ” below, a poem that not only made me think about the impermanence of my own life but enables me to see Klimt’s rationale in painting Adele Block-Bauer in a Byzantine manner. In “Sailing to Byzantium” he implies that that which is Byzantine is permanent, and by using this style he insinuates that she, too, will become as permanent as “sages standing in God's holy fire/ As in the gold mosaic of a wall”.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
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