Sun in the heaven,
Thou art the cause of my mirth,
Star in the evening
Thine is my province since birth;
Depths of the sky
Yours are the depths of my worth.
An American poet who concentrated
repeatedly on reference points to
mark, or verify a "normal life" -
despite external conditions - wrote
this short poem in comparative youth
and called it, Self-Respect. That in-
teresting value, seeming these days
to have precipitated the least res-
pectful moral framework for knowing
normal life, ever to descend upon
America, comes back to mind as so
many grope for reference points now,
to endure it, and of course, not
merely to transcend it but to erase
it. Voltaire's Écrasez l'infâme isn't
the phrase we need, but it's apt.
What one wants, are reference points
for pursuing humane life.
Resistance is not an interval,
but absorption necessarily is.
The extraordinary debasement
of our culture, to be exalted
early in the coming year, can-
not be repulsed without some
period of digesting its ignom-
iny, humiliation, and ravaging
malice. Simply the reflections
the facts summon to qualify it,
excite its Bacchic vengeance.
We take time, not to ignore,
not to delay, not to console,
but to refine that resolve
which is the vessel of hope.
We don't presume, our proven-
ance does more than anticipate
us. No. But it is galactically
competent, and does not melt
before some snarling meteor.
Build up the walls about me; close each door;
And fasten all the windows with your bars;
Still shall I walk abroad on Heaven's floor
And be companion to the singing stars.
Whether your prison be of greatest height
Or gloomier depth, it matters not. Though blind
I still shall look upon the burning light,
And see the flowers dancing in the wind.
Your walls will disappear; your doors will swing
Even as I command them. I shall fare
Either up hill or down, and I shall be
Beside the happy lark when he takes wing,
Striking sweet music from the empty air,
And pass immortal mornings by the sea.
and Joan Richardson
The Library of America, 1997©
ca 411 BC
Harper Collins, 2014©