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Original Poem: “Hagiography of Old Men“ with Commentary

Updated on October 8, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Poem: Hagiography of Old Men

Requiēscite in Pace

From all and sundry portrayals,
You’d think they sprouted
Full blown from their own heads,
Convinced by their own bloviating.

No book, no prayer, no candle,
As they pack their prejudices
And provincialisms down
The lanes of eternal childhood,

Which so many worship
In a waste land where they
Amble about brooking no concern
About unveiling any of life’s mysteries.

They reckon it enough to eat,
Sleep, work, breed, and vote the rascals out.

The Temptation of Christ by the Devil



Some folks like to glorify the past and those who have occupied it. Sometimes it results in a shallowness that might be comical were it not so deadly serious. Not seeking answers to pressing questions can be considered nothing short of abysmally oblivious.

The soul is a great and glorious God-gift—to fail to know it is to fail to live. Yet so many remain in delusion that the world is their home: at most it is a temporary abode. The speaker of this poem is not content to languish in this temporary abode and thus observes that those who do always present a certain shallowness.

First Movement: "From all and sundry portrayals"

The epigraph, “Requiēscite in Pace,” is Latin; it means “rest in peace” in the plural. You have often seen R.I.P. appearing after the name of someone who has passed. That’s what it means.

This poem shatters the illusion that all the dead deserve to be placed on a pedestal and for a very good reason: they were just shallow individuals, who did not strive to answer the eternal questions: who am I? where did I come from? where am I going? what is life all about?

Second Movement: "No book, no prayer, no candle"

What makes them shallow is that they sought nothing more than the dull existence they had to perform just to live on this mud ball of a planet. They revered nothing, held nothing as sacred, aspired to no more than 10-commandment morality.

Ten-commandment morality is a wonderful thing, but only when followed by a profound search for the Divine that issued that edict; otherwise, one might as well follow politicians who spout the nonsense of statism just to get elected. Such individuals maintain a perpetual childhood which they attempt to live out to the end of their days.

Third Movement: "Which so many worship"

Such individuals—often they are “old men” and those who worship them, their sycophants— “Amble about brooking no concern / About unveiling any of life’s mysteries.” These two lines reveal the heart of the complaint of the speaker about these individuals—the old men who care not for solving life’s mysteries and those who “worship” them anyway.

Fourth Movement: "They reckon it enough to eat"

What do those shallow old men and their sycophants concern themselves with? Eating, sleeping, working, breeding, and taking a tangential interest in politics. You can count on the fact that they, in fact, stand for nothing and fall for anything.

Two Classes of Human Beings

In his Autobiography of a Yogi, the great spiritual leader, Paramahansa Yogananda, explains that there are only two classes of human beings: those who are seeking God and those who are not. And he is not shy about disciminating between the two.

The great guru explains: "Humanity—so variegated in its wone eyes!—is seen by a master to be divided into only two classes: ignorant men who are not seeking God, and wise men who are."

Hagiography, or biographical writings or speech that idealize and thus idolize the subject, is only necessary for the sycophantic followers who seek to elevate from the shallowness of that one class of humanity—the class that is not seeking God.

Two Classes of Humanity

"In measuring the worth of a man, a saint employs an invariable criterion, one far different from the shiting yardsticks of the world. Humanity—so variegated in its own eyes!—is seen by a master to be divided into only two classes: ignorant men who are not seeking God, and wise men who are." —Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


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