“A sad and great evil is the expectation of death
And there are also the inane expenses of the funeral.
Let us therefore cease from pitying the dead
For after death there comes no other calamity”—(Palladas)
While reading the following poem, which is actually the first verse of a much larger work by John (at this writing only 16 years old) I had a revelation. We say today that “Fifty is the new forty and forty is the new thirty” etc., but perhaps this is more true than we know and in more than one way. Those generations weren’t coddled like we, they were expected to be older, more mature, and were held to a higher standard and expectations, often out of necessity , but more because those times demanded it for growth of mind and body, and at the extreme—survival. Read some letters that were sent home from American Civil War or Revolutionary War or writings of the past centuries by ordinary people and envy their style and vocabulary. Even those not literate had street smarts that would put most of our current snobs to shame. So, I contend that the reverse is true, and in a more complimentary way. A thirty year old of the past knew more about life than a forty year old today and the sixteen year old here, well…
What Agony of Beauty!---How the sad
Long book of moonlight troubles all this place!
A crazy sweetness fills my head, until
The mind is swamped with fullness of the soul…
How will this beauty, at the time of death
Come sweeping back, come flooding over me!
How will this quiet hour in after years
Engulf the mind that once beheld its form!
What more could man desire?
----Quiet and Peace,
You, I would have flow over me like water
As some cool wave upon a sun-dried sand---
Here is a soothing rest for the troubled mind
In evenings coolness, fingers of the wind…
For here, in this freshening hour of breeze and night-birds
Here is the source of our constant sanity
We who spend years in offices and cars
Who thought the slaves of Time can yet sustain
The balance of our twisted nerves and notions
As a heated lover---
Hearing the song of a bird
Is still,---hears too, perhaps, though undefined
The haunting drift of death in somber wind…
How many generations loved this place,
And, passing, left to us this privilege?
So we who have come, continuing in their stead
Inherit the spirit and phrase of ancient sagas
Hearing, perhaps, in the whisperings of the leaves
Tales that our fathers told when they were here
Feeling, perhaps, at evening in this place
Loves of the morning that our fathers knew Here where the valley is filled with voices and pine-winds…