The Poet's Goodbyes

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Recently I've been impressed with a sense of my own mortality. This sounds a bit stupid; we all know that someday, one day, we will be no more and have to say goodbye to this world. We all know that. We're all mortal. It isn't such a bad thing as all that; we all have to move over and make room for the new people. Mortality is part of life, and even more unavoidable than taxes.

Death is the elephant in the room than no one mentions. It's too sad, or too morbid, or too gruesome to think about if one is in good health and reasonably happy. Everybody wants to live, and while we're all busy living, we don't want to think about dying. We'd all sort of like to hang on to our childhood belief in our own immortality. It's as if we unconsciously think we're exempt from "grave" matters!

There comes a time in everyone's life when all of the sudden we are impressed with the fact of our own inevitable demise. It might be a near miss of a plane crash while flying; it might be a car accident that either didn't happen, by a hair, or did happen and one miraculously survived! It could be a health issue; it could be a domestic accident; it could be the death of a close friend, sibling or near contemporary that wakes one up, open's one's eyes, to the now inescapable impression of one's own mortality. Death is real, and it's gonna happen to me.

How to handle this realization? People react in different ways. Most of us try to be better people, at least until the impression fades a bit. Here's how the poets handle it:

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From: "The Imitation of Horace", Book 3, ode 19 (1695) by John Dryden (1631-1700)


Happy the man, and happy he alone,

He who can call today his own;

He who, secure within, can say

Tomorrow do your worst, for I have lived today.

Not heaven itself upon the past has power;

But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.


From Plato's Apology (Plato, 428-348 BC):

The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways, you to live and I to die. Which is better, God only knows.


From Mother Goose (1903) by George Michael Cohan (1878-1942)

Always leave them laughing when you say goodbye.


From Poems (1847) by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Goodbye, proud world, I'm going home.


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From "Ae Fond Kiss" by Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever

Ae farewell, and then forever!


From "All Lovely Things Will Have an Ending" by Conrad Aiken (1889-1973)

All lovely things will have an ending

All lovely things will fade and die

And youth, that's now so bravely spending

Will beg a penny, by and by.


From "The Jew of Malta" by Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593)

Friar Barnadine: Thou hast committed--

Barabas: fornication-but that was in another country,

and besides, the wench is dead.


From "Summer Day" by Samuel Hoffensten (1890-1947)

The heart's dead

Are never buried.


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"The Emperor of Ice Cream" by Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)


Call the roller of big cigars

The muscular one, and bid him whip

In kitchen cups concupiscent curds,

Le the wenches dawdle in such dress

As they are used to wear, and let the boys

Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.

Let it be the finale of seem.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.


Take from the dresser of deal,

Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet

On which she embroidered three fantails once

And spread it so as to cover her face.

If her horny feet protrude, they come

To show how cold she is, and dumb.

Let the lamp affix its beam.

The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.

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Comments 16 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you again for the comment.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York Author

So profoundly true.'


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

I enjoyed reading, voted up!


Moesky profile image

Moesky 3 years ago from Amsterdam

Thankyou for this small anthology. Beautiful inspiring words from the masters.

I contemplate death regularly, to understand its hidden beauty... and in doing so "life" becomes immeasurably more valuable an experience. Embrace it I say, and celebrate life that is cradled in death's motherly arms.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 3 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

beautifully done, thank you!


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 3 years ago from Central United States of America

Thank you for the explanation...that does help. I was feeling really dumb about not understanding it. Yes, I want to go out with dignity...without fear for my family, and hopefully without death...that would be by the Rapture, but...I can hope...and live like I will anyway!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 3 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Frogy. Oddly enough, everyone I know has a different interpretation of the "emperor of ice cream", aside from the fact of it's death allegory. To me, "the only empereror is the empereror of ice cream" means that death is the end. A life is lived, then it's over...one only has the moments of one's life. I think what Wallace Stevens was saying was there is no King of Heaven; only the 'emperor of ice cream', that comes to us all, enfolds us in his arms, and carries us away, amongst the funeral baked meats.

I like the Emerson one, too. Succinct, to the point, and very well said.


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 3 years ago from Central United States of America

Interesting reading for the different ideas expressed about 'endings'. I think I'll take Emerson's for myself. I did have to read the last one twice to realize she was really dead, but am ignorant as to why she is the emperor of ice cream. Oh, well, they'lll have flowers and curds. Intriguing hub!


recappers delight profile image

recappers delight 4 years ago

Thank you for this intelligent, beautiful hub. Good health and happiness to you.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. We all drive our selves crazy about this topic. I suggest thinking about what we will do by ourselves when all our friends and family are gone. Draw a deep breath shine faith in our hearts and put our faith in the Lord.


scarytaff profile image

scarytaff 4 years ago from South Wales

Great hub, No. 7 Sensitively put. Voted up and awesome.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, eHealer.


eHealer profile image

eHealer 4 years ago from Las Vegas

Incredibly insightful and morbidly amusing. This is an excellent and well written hub. I love it. Voted up and you Rock!


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, Frank and the Mad Hatter....it was weirdly entertaining to write!

I'm so sorry, MH, for your end that is coming. I can only hope it is a peaceful one, and that you feel fulfilled by your life the way you've lived it, and that for all of us, there is a better world waiting in our spirit home.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

Paradise this was so weirdly entertaining I loved it .. me I would like to go out with a bang... no sorrow.. no tears.. just laughter rum and beer


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this. Believe me, I can relate. For me the end is coming. Can I still type in 2013?

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