By Shane Devine
A cycle of sonnets dealing with the universe as understood by modern science and its implications on humanity’s understanding of itself.
I have long been seeking a way out of the nihilism of materialism, one that is final and complete, without cheap recourse back to the metaphysical. And rather than release my prose writing about my experiences in life and the evolution of my ideas regarding this topic of nihilism – my struggles against it, after having my Catholicism shattered at an extremely early age and being dissatisfied with the atheistic scientism that the New Atheists offered my young mind as an antidote; then tracking through Kafka, Camus, Dostoevsky, Joyce, and other false ends; to finally discover Nietzsche as the true medicine and balm for my abysmal thoughts as a young man deprived of God and sterilized by science, ’till succumbing again to the empty promises of reactionary politics and ending up still dissatisfied with the false con of a religion that is online reactionary Christianity or Paganism – rather than releasing to the world my writing about this and my life events that went along with it, producing an autobiography of a life not yet lived and only useful to me, I decided instead to write poetry, to beautify the universe in-of-itself in the same way past poets beautified God and the gods.
The title comes from a series of violin sonatas based off the Catholic Rosary prayers by baroque composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber. I must make it clear that it has everything to do with the music and almost nothing to do with the Catholic prayers, though the general plot they follow – the joys of youth, the sorrows of crucifixion, the glory of ascension – forms an analogy to my descent and ascent. I recommend listening to Alice Piérot’s performance of Biber’s Sonatas, for those interested.
In trying to create ennobling poetry about a mechanical, atheistic universe (which I did not quite believe to be the true picture of reality anymore anyway), I began to realize the innate impossibility of this task as my writing automatically drifted back towards the divine. The divine spark, however, was revealed to me – by letting my reading take me where it would, notably to Matthew Stewart, though there were many others –within the contours of the universe itself; not a Transcendent monotheism or polytheism, nor a chaotic pantheism, but a this-worldly divinity with a nonconscious, self-producing Order: the Natura Naturans in Spinoza’s Ethics and in Emerson’s essay “Nature” from his Second Series, or, an immanent deism, as I call it, arose in my poetry, summoned there as if by the muse and not by my willing or by a previously-held belief of mine, at least not one that I was aware consciously. I thus ensure the reader that these poems, despite being inundated by thoughts, nevertheless follow the proper process of “Negative capability” which Keats spoke of, where the poet allows himself to be led by Genius to mysterious truths rather than enslaving poetry to his own philosophy, they not being a vessel in which I shoehorned pre-established theories but the genuine living result of a long re-sculpturing of my faith.
Part I: Nihilisms
Part II: Overcoming
Part III: Ascension
“Poets say science takes away from the beauty of the stars – mere globs of gas atoms. I too can see the stars on a desert night, and feel them. But do I see less or more? The vastness of the heavens stretches my imagination – stuck on this carousel my little eye can catch one-million -year-old light. A vast pattern – of which I am a part… What is the pattern, or the meaning, or the why? It does not do harm to the mystery to know a little about it. For far more marvelous is the truth than any artists of the past imagined it. Why do the poets of the present not speak of it? What men are poets who can speak of Jupiter if he were a man, but if he is an immense spinning sphere of methane and ammonia must be silent?” – Richard Feynman, The Feynman Lectures on Physics
“It is not without deep pain that we acknowledge the fact that in their loftiest soarings, artists of all ages have exalted and divinely transfigured precisely those ideas which we now recognize as false; they are the glorifiers of humanity’s religious and philosophical errors, and they could not have been this without belief in the absolute truth of these errors. Now if the belief in such truth generally diminishes, if the rainbow colors at the farthest ends of human knowledge and imagination fade, then this kind of art can never re-flourish, for, like the Divina Commedia, Raphael’s paintings, Michelangelo’s frescoes, and Gothic cathedrals, they indicate not only a cosmic but also a metaphysical meaning in the work of art. Out of this will grow a touching legend that such an art and such an artistic faith once existed.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, aphorism 220.
The planets coldly rotate round their star,
All is black but speckled light from orbs afar;
A backwards step reveals these dots of gas
Rotating round a center-point of mass:
The galaxies revealed, their beauty shown,
We marvel at these largest items known,
Receding far from one another’s grace
Creating realms that we can scarcely trace;
Immense and terrifying leagues of death,
Contaminating us with freezing breath,
And e’en when men attempt to shrug the fear,
Our Nature finds a way for pain each year
With plague, and war, and debt, and fights of race,
Our shouts then dissipate in empty space
Reminding us our petty point in time
Which kills us – lest we save it with good Rhyme,
Adorn all highness with some laurels fine,
To carve a sculpture ‘gainst the tides of brine,
To hold a flame above the waves we wade
Illuming centuries with beauty laid.
A million creatures crawl around our hearts
And each comprised of many atoms more;
Our Bodies, led around by all such parts
So serve the Great Machine and fuel its core.
We are as dust, as Moses said: “A-dam;”
Our feelings mere transactions of a code
That wends its way to sing a heartfelt psalm
Into the nether, carving out a road.
We travel round and round this wide abyss
That trembles at the sight of Gamma Rays
Slow Bursting through the cosmos gone amiss
Of all the placid peace of yesterdays.
We, hurtling through intensely burning strife,
Have found a way to name our process: – “Life.”
The palace built, the kingdom grown, the towns,
The roads that clench their way across the globe,
Mean naught when oceans rise, and Mankind drowns,
And shows a highly king is but a Job.
If special stones could stand the waves of Time,
If hoist they might the crystal structures tall,
In which your “justice” reigns where all may chime,
Our star will still expand and swallow all.
Yet even if you fled from earth in ships
To spread your kind amongst the distant realms
The cosmic heat death sneaks ahead and drips
A blackened flowing void that overwhelms.
Extensive striving’s but a hapless rave
That toils toward the site of humble grave.
Your justice fights to lend itself a voice
A mouthpiece for the righteous and the good
So at a victory you all rejoice
And build your principles a shrine from wood.
But winds of chaos bring a blaze from High
On mountain “Chance” to raze that frail attempt
Which lessens songs into a meekly sigh
And wrecks your birch remains in great contempt.
Around each bend that meets triumphant Right
Uncertainty awaits with gloomy eyes
Swift entropy saps strength from every fight
To make the kind men equal –– in their cries.
If God has died, and Virtue needs a home,
Where will you give him shelter from his roam?
Sonnet on the Big Bang
Opaque eruption breeding waves to rush
All future energy abruptly made
Celestial lava packed into a brush
That paints a world upon the empty glade.
It took three hundred thousand years for light
To shine upon the scene; and many more
For galaxies and stars to come in sight
And nebulae from every star’s hot core.
From dusty angel clouds came rocky globes
With billions of years to right the craft
And after wrenching of the spatial robes
Out came the earth to give life’s growth a raft.
How puny seems mankind’s antiquity
When placed beside this great immensity.
A cosmic meaning – where? We do not know;
An answer bleating from a horn that sings. –
If one existed, it would quickly show
And gather all together in its wings.
But fraught and all divided mankind stands
With myriad philosophies and words.
Conflicting theories form their warring bands
And gather round their feast the preying birds.
We’ve battled Thoughts the last one hundred years
A century of Doubt used as a gun
And with foundations gone, our horse now rears
Descending t’wards a pit without the sun.
So try to find the Truth – you never will
The pious age is past, we’ve crossed that hill.
There is, in buildings tall as mountain peaks,
A faceless class who rule from hidden niche;
On sidewalk down below the lurking freaks
Hold little boys, on hands and feet, by leash.
A siren blares in circles from the crowd
A rape occurs beneath some neon signs
– All sanity is shoved inside a shroud.
A helicopter flaps its blades and shines
A blinding light on riots down the block;
Their convolutions caused by brand new tech
Released by stores at midnight on the clock
So out of heinous greed their home they wreck.
Nearby a lonely girl turns off her light
She prays for brightness at the end of night.
The pretty Russian lady climbed aboard,
With graceful step and sin, the massive train
Which cloaked its metal corpse and voice that roared
With padded walls and precious rugs in lane.
But who provided her with such a treat?
Inventors need conductors for their works
And tired builders made each plushy seat
Yet none of that without the man who lurks,
Who lurks in tunnels mining all his days
Who cuts the coal that feeds him slop
At night, short breath, a shack is where he stays
A slave to Hades’ bowels and Vulcan’s crop;
The man whose name will not escape the shaft
Collapses with the cave, killed by his craft.
As children, thinking god is on a cloud,
We’re given pleasant minds from which we grow
And, striving up to sunrays in a crowd
Our flower-stems keep strong and lay not low.
But soon a thunder gathered loud and deep
So rough it cracked and boomed in summer heat
It shook us out of bliss like babes from sleep
And told us God is one we’ll never meet.
The pleasant meadow, shattered through with smoke,
Our flower buds are over-drenched with rain,
And in this darkened autumn we awoke
Without a tranquil plot, but rather pain.
On earth, in freezing forests, no one warms,
No God on high but countless coming storms.
One thousand castles made of shells and sand
On beaches bathed in daylit rays of rum
But by the night, if not from knocking hand,
They’ll crumble down and fall in waves to come.
The ocean’s surging foam beneath the moon
Are cusps on tides increased with gravity
The sands are smoothed to plains that waste the dune
They flood the ramparts, tug them to the sea.
The sand is mixed with bowels of the deep
But given time that sea will likewise die;
The sun, expanded, makes the vapors leap
Evaporated sea turns into sky.
The sun will swallow earth, the sky the sun,
The sky swallows sky though it try to run.
A black expanse that stretches cosmic leagues
With Quietude engulfing any sound
A blackness full except for light that bleeds
Upon the scene and curves to shapely round.
Around a maelstrom one mayn’t even see
Except for light a-whirling round its shape
An object which would not be thought to be
Except it gives all light unholy rape.
A black hole launches fierce, the reaper’s probe
Contorting space to churn its maw on stars
Itself the inverse of a stellar globe
Become a mobile void that conquers mars.
The vainly spoil entombed with ev’ry king
Destroyed at once without an aural ring.
The gods are terrifying, said the seer
Old Hölderlin, against the cheery bards
Who drowned the Grecian cries in foamy beer
And laughed their tempes into little shards
Well I will say the same of modern faiths:
The science born from out the great baroque
Has sang the logos better than those wraiths;
Of science men today have highly spoke.
But eager men did not foresee their fate;
To be conjoined with terrifying truths
About a world that’s cold, an empty slate
Whose pointlessness man repeatedly proves.
I’ll sing the song of space that Shakespeare found
That life means naught, and skulls roll on the ground.
Sonnet to St. Augustine
O You, Augustine, teacher of the Soul,
And enemy of bodies, vainly flesh:
How reading your confessions takes its toll
On backbones meek, deflating them to mesh.
With prose attuned to God, with tears not few,
You rail against the sinners from your cross;
Prometheus – but baptized with the dew,
Erecting churches on the gods you toss.
An anxious anger follows every thought
That enters your regretful mind of sin;
The world’s salvation can’t be simply bought,
But gained when thrown into a graveyard bin.
Ecclesiastes, James, and Psalms you sing,
To topple Rome and make your Christ the king.
Sonnet on the Wisdom of Silenus
Some king a thousand ladies called their pimp,
Who slurped his fill of different meats and beers
Decomposes side by side a homeless gimp;
But where are all the snows of bygone years?
Escape from poverty is all I ask
A wealthy route to garner peace and cheers;
Yet what’s it worth once placed into a cask;
And where are all the snows of bygone years?
I walked in woods; a goat I came upon,
Who spoke profoundly, dredging up my fears:
“It’s best to not exist – or die anon.”
But where are all the snows of bygone years?
So joyful I would be, to reappear
And play again in snows of bygone year.
Deserted of opinions, anxious loss,
The sparks of vicious mental frictions sweep
Unhinging any stable thought I’ve come across –
Upon a frozen star in space I weep.
My tongue from so much chatter-talk is parched;
My lips are dried from furnace-cores of suns
Which offered flames to drink from as I marched
To satisfy the thirst accrued on runs;
But as it burned me, so I’m left in tears,
Departing all the safety gained by heat;
Slow backstrokes through futility of years,
Unsure, a stranded being in retreat.
My critics, vultures, fly above, obsessed:
For any thought they see will be redressed.
Are we accompanied by life with minds?
When darkness covers day, and moonlight gains
With all the stars with worlds of different kinds,
We ask if creatures live on distant planes.
The greats before us had the ocean’s beasts
To speak of deeps, and fearful things;
And we, with goals above their wests and easts,
Tell tales which wonder what the future brings.
The films mistake the terror for a race
Of aliens who seek the death of men:
Far more frightening would it be if in our chase
We found ourselves to be the peak again.
An empty world for us and us alone –
Paralysis would come from such a throne!
A nervous wave is washing through my thought,
A stressing menace greets me when I pause;
I dearly wish that decades could be bought
Or that my will could break temporal laws.
You might submit I’m histrionic here
A youth who feels his time is draining fast,
But at my early age, with trials near –
A ship in whirlpool, strapped onto its mast.
Two junctures soon approach; for each a gift,
My love, and time at stable jobs to pay,
And yet I’m stuck here at a desk; I sift,
Assistant labor, toiling away!
I want to marry, find my way as well,
And yet my tortured worried nerves just swell.
Interlude, In the Form of a Crown of Sonnets
I saw Eternity the other night
It was a ring repeating Life’s degrees
The many scenes were blinding pure with light
But with a steady gaze the eyeball sees:
The grand destabilizing burst of World
Ejecting through itself old Space and Time,
Who made the stage, on which the parts were hurled
And slowly morphed to form a pleasant chime.
Beginning with a clash, it keeps its pace
Creating clouds of stars from out its ash
The stellar clouds then drift away through space
And gravity’s force spreads the worldly gash.
The fading lyre plays for all the cursed
And all is crunched again to cause that burst.
And all is crunched again to cause that burst
Recurring through the stages of the ages
With pulsing waves that blindly chase their thirst
Are all the works of Nature and her pages
We speed through primal sources of the play
And slow down time when clouds of stars are seen:
Those discs and globes of suns which shine one ray,
Those powers holding all in place with sheen.
We peer in closer to this rich and varied deep,
Selecting out a lonesome spiral in the field;
A loud and boisterous starry urban heap
In utter muteness pursed and sealed.
The chance it’s ours is faint from such a lurch
And we may spend our years in fruitless search.
And we may spend our years in fruitless search
Unless among the rubbled sky we find
A vantage point upon some asteroid perch
Which shows that group of galaxies in mind.
Within that dot our Milky Way is wound
Unwound in jest with partners in a dance
And in his rhythmic body earth is found
A green and blue oasis blessed by chance;
Emerging from a star’s exploded side
It lived through ages of magma fountains,
But mustered courage grew its ocean wide
Grew its forests, creatures, and its mountains.
Evolving from the line of acting roles
A clever thing called man arose, with “souls.”
A clever thing called man arose, with “souls;”
This conscious beast then claimed in arrogance
He had a thing called “knowledge,” and its goals;
That holy nimbi fills his ligaments.
He builds his laws, his gods, his systems tall
He crafts a science out of savage rites
With great intent to civilize the All
And make his species last a thousand fights;
But these were just a painter’s artful lies:
A biochemic structure laced with nerves
Produced these pompous thoughts of mere surmise
Electric body singing of its curves
The knowing ape is but a fragile flame
To be snuffed out with no remaining fame
To be snuffed out with no remaining fame –
Ah, fie! Who cares if we will one day die!
Let’s put the melancholy fools to shame
Let’s sing, and spread our day across the sky!
Out here some rattles shake, they beat the drums,
Critters are startled and scatter the land
For something loud and wicked this way comes,
The wicked Dionysus and his band!
Come dance with them, come live with them! Embrace!
Embrace the surf: the cresting and the crash.
Your strides reverberate through all of space
You’ll leap right over nihilism’s trash!
How foolish seems the winter’s scowling mien
When springtime trees are lush with healthy green!
When springtime trees are lush with healthy green
You have no time for thinking gloomy things;
When weary speech came from the Nazarene
Pilatus laughed – “who cares?” he asked, “Not kings.”
Put jokes aside – we need to solve these qualms.
His actual reply was “What is truth?”
Such open question-marks explode like bombs
But only injure those who are uncouth.
We have no access to the eyes of God
We won’t discover any final plan
But we fret not – we’re strong enough to nod,
For the measurer of all things is man.
The task of seeing worth in things is ours,
And we thus rank ourselves above the stars.
And we thus rank ourselves above the stars;
As Goethe said: if at the end of strife
And cosmic dark, what use are all its scars
If there is not a man affirming life?
And Leibniz too, though bantered by Voltaire,
Was right to end in hearty cosmic bliss
His Monadologie reveals an endless care
Devoted to “Gay Science,” – optimist.
Perspectives gave him life, while Newton dulls:
He sulks the graveyard of objective truths.
His lambs say brains are merely chemicals
But think this with their brains – this nothing proves!
Thus truth’s a woman; thus our Will alone,
Seducing her, can learn what’s now Unknown.
Prologue, written on the first day of spring.
The paleness of science is tanned by the sunlight,
The gloom of the thinker is blown by the breeze:
We gather in parks with a friend or a lover
And sigh in relief that there’s days such as these.
Who cares for the theories when Life is now calling?
Who thinks of the winter when spring has returned?
The length of our Lifetime, which limits our pleasures,
Demands that we act and apply what we’ve learned!
Objecting young men, who cast doubt on desire,
Dismissing great Love as a chemical fluke, –
You need to get naked and lay with a lady
The dust in your soul will be given rebuke!
The cosmos is love, it survives on seduction,
On pollen, ‘pregnation, temptation’s delight:
So lose all the dryness and learn reproduction –
You’ll lighten your load and grow wings to take flight!
The common crowds, afraid to face the void
They turn to God, returning to their faith,
While underneath their masks they’re paranoid
And tyrannized by superstition’s wraith;
That specter from religions dead remains
Whenever men think Life needs afterlife –
It fools them, binds their minds with fearful chains,
And blinds their eyes to worldly treasures rife.
When one so rends the drapery of lies
The only sacred thing that’s left is Art;
Like men of Florence, thus we turn to skies
And make sublime creations for the heart.
So, freed from terrors of the ghostly grave,
We’re blessed with Art as prize for staying brave.
Sonnet on Yeats’ “The Song of the Happy Shepherd”
Your poem underpins those sonnets gone,
The Nihilisms – those I’ve overcome;
Perhaps you too in later life moved on –
Regardless, see where I’m now coming from:
That words are certain good I hold as well,
Yet words can work with matters rid of dreams:
To hear that lovely song inside a shell
Along with chimes of misty solar beams.
Gray truth is painted green; we mend the hearts
Of starry men; those kings of Arcady
Who long ago played out their acting parts
Lived not in vain if kept in poetry.
If words alone are certain good – alas,
We can bless with life the optic glass!
A wooden box is knocked with hammer ring –
A thunderbolt so smites the earthly ball,
We fragile men observe the clamoring
The world a cubby, and its contents small.
How nature’s rage sublime imputes this fact
Confronts our metaphysics with attack
Our puffed-up pride rebuffed by cataract
The seeds of human arrogance thus crack.
With mental-slaying fire we must contend
If we are to desire faint relief
Or more, of elements the pow’r to bend;
Become, to furies of the world, their chief.
Sublime explosions humble on the main,
But we set sails and give that ocean rein.
The gods of old, are old, and gone, like birds
Departing from the cold for southern airs,
But never to return; and God, in thirds,
Has been unveiled as one of folly’s snares.
The pantheists may paint a pretty scene,
They do away with problems of the One;
But they reduce the world, and make it lean,
Deny that part of day without the sun.
If Nature is so placid as they say
How can there be volcanoes, snakes, and wars?
All Nature is an ever-lasting fray,
Of Good, plus Evil, waves of strife, and Force.
And yet an item, Will, directs and steers,
And Logos, speech, relates it to our ears.
My hands are throbbing fast in scarlet heat
Dissecting freezing beams that course within
With indoor warmth, returning life to numbing meat;
The thawing wake of spring is much akin.
Our planet, shifting weight, thus tilts itself
And now our hemisphere is baked in sun
The weather changes slow, and warmth is found
While earth continues on its warbling run
Imagine all the people who have grabbed the knife
Depressed by heavy clouds and winter cold
Who falsely thought themselves upset with life
When it was only dearth of summer gold.
Cheer up, you fools! Your thoughts are seasons too:
Just wait for days so bright you’ll take their hue.
Last night was cold enough for snow to fall
And drape Manhattan with a film of white:
Today the sun arose, and had the gall
To turn the flakes to hail and let them smite.
The bicyclists take flight to subway tracks.
By afternoon the moistened sky is blurred;
A bus departs for Jersey and its shacks –
Those outskirts too are sparse: nothing is heard.
Through scaling winding hilly streets one sees
The waterfalls of thawing slush and ice:
A town in flow, transformed, alive, it seethes;
And things too weak to stand are given splice.
A pearl in action, swirling tide of foam,
Pristine arena for a daring roam.
All flows delightful outward from a fount:
It’s not a single breath, or warming spell,
But goodness wide, encircling on a mount,
Ennobling all with gracious fragrant smell.
A babbling waterfall that taps a pond
Is heard from balcony with puddles wet;
It overlooks the city skyline blonde,
Where, coasting, fly a seagull and a jet.
The sun in February brightly shines,
All clear and brisk the scene thus shimmers pure;
Combine the sweetness and the dregs of wines
For in such timeless moments life will lure.
The fountain waters flow to who is right,
Who strays from darkness, longing for more light.
Sonnet to T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound
April 26th 2018
You furrowed moral toads with sneers that drool,
For what do you condemn the modern man?
We know he is a stupid girly fool,
Just look away and make a greater plan!
Some violence, anger, hatred, burning flames
Are needed for a springtime fresh and warm:
It heals, empowers, flutters full of games
A playful sinner in a greenly form.
Our winter toils will bring us festive spoils,
Our glumly work converts to lively fun;
So grab a lover, come to healthy soils:
Eternal dance between the Sea and Sun!
So sings every bird in kindest April
Off chirping in the sunlit trees of maple!
Sonnet to Lucretius, I
We thank you, great Lucretius, for your book,
Not only as our cure, which set us free
From mystic virus hatched in cloister’s nook,
But, too, your fight with Pre-Socratic spree.
You rightly dug beneath their arkhḗ claimed
In elements – instead you atoms use;
Their ‘Water,’ ‘Fire,’ ‘Air’ and ‘Earth’ were maimed,
You slayed thereon philosophy abstruse.
And yet these atoms aren’t points, my friend:
Electrons guard them – they are charged-up clouds;
Inside, the pieces soaked in Forces’ blend:
Descending lower, smaller still the crowds.
So while you justly claimed Ephesus’1 seat,
His truth remains: the world is not so neat!
Sonnet to Lucretius, II
Oh how you love to boast about your task,
Abolishing religion, to a groove,
The way things work explained in detailed song
Of Reason and the way that atoms move.
I share this joy, which is why I love you
And share affinities with your great work
But piety to gods you still hold to –
At this part of your path I give my shirk.
I know mankind made up the gods; you hint
At this: you said they came to us in dreams.
But still you say the gods give off a glint,
Divinity exists in cosmic seams.
For me, the world itself is what’s divine;
My god, like yours, is “thin” – but thinner mine.
I leave Lucretius far below my gaze
Yet still upon his shoulders do I build
No atoms do I see but force and wave
Thus pain is needed, pleasure is not willed.
So all phenomena is intertwined
So every piece of life is bound in fate;
That hardship is a fact is not denied
But rather seen as cause to celebrate!
Enlightened minds are not enough: be strong
In body and in bracing what’s to come;
A strength of will and passion is our song
And these combined do make a mighty sum:
A joyous wisdom, reason mixed with strife
Object to none but those who slander life!
The Iliad was rougher than the men
Who read it in the Age of Reason’s glow
But we, who know that Age came from a pen,
Can more appreciate its ancient show.
In haste arrived the Myrmidon with wrath
Against the king whose power filled his pride
Whose greed colossal stood to block his path
T’wards fruit of conquest: gaining wartime bride.
Delightful Homer forged poetic lies
To glorify the nightmares from that war
He conjured meaning, spread its cloth ‘neath skies
Of starry night, the void around his shore,
Derived it from the senseless strife of all
Gave honor beauty on this rocky ball.
Sonnet to Virgil
If Rome subdued the nations of the world
They hap’ly welcomed Virgil, Latin’s jewel.
The Greek’s old lines about the Trojan war he twirled
To fit his people and their will to rule.
This bard of power, peace through empire,
Composing too about the countryside,
And every piece so glorifies his sire,
While disobedience to gods they chide.
Great Maro, you are always in my mind
I read your verses printed on our bills
Or at ground zero beautifully enshrined,
The place where Towers fell – it gives one chills.
This architect of ever-lasting fame –
I humbly pray that I could do the same.
Sonnet to Nietzsche
O Nietzsche, grand, imposing, noble man,
Cut right from the cloth of antiquity,
I thank you from the greatest depths I can:
You banned depression’s sick iniquity;
You helped me dust my youthful spirit’s nooks,
My mind with nectar and ambrosia fed;
You blew a gust of life in ancient books
And sent me down a path not often tread.
I only wish that you could be revived
So I could give you gifts: a house, a wife,
And all the things from which you were deprived
By illness, though you were so filled with life.
So I will spend my days in gratitude
To you, who graced me with beatitude.
Seven Interludes for My Woman
You vacate north, you flutter with your flock
Depriving me of tender-hearted rhyme,
To find Nantucket Island’s comely dock;
You’ll watch the sea, American Sublime.
If halcyon birds could sing in my mind
I wouldn’t desire your cheering lays;
But I am incomplete, so please be kind
I need your happy song without delays!
You’ll whistle back to me, I’ll hear your words
And partly heal my grief with splendid glow.
As men need women, poets need their birds,
Your music makes my hopeful lyrics go.
I send this note along to cause some smiles
And see them travel back across the miles.
Departing Jersey shore, off to the woods,
To summer smells of sweetened trees and dew
Whose humid walls entrench me with their goods
Besides the birds, in Heat I find you too.
Oppressive steam, I loosen up my shirt
I sweat while driving through the winding brush
That’s hiding life, the womb beneath your skirt
Bedecked with flowers, giving me a rush.
Your serpentine breath in crushing trills
So pierces through my lungs with jungle claws
Your breath, opaque and mystic presence fills:
A reeling shadow from some blue macaws.
A Newer Life I gain, freed from a ward,
Yet you, as Love, proclaim, “I am your Lord.”
I see two cardinals here in Kinnelon
The air is moist but crisp and smoky white;
The sauna from your brutal heat is gone
The come-down cold is calm and light.
I think of Nature’s, Time’s, and God’s great fun
Of bringing souls together strapped with love
That trinity of powers join in One,
Into a thing called Fate, with Life its glove.
I speculate about our life to come,
And all the memories we shall unfold,
We’ll sculpt our lives with grace in Washington,
And keep our future after still untold.
The poise this weather gives me I will keep
In times of freezing cold or stressful heat.
Today I cast a line in hopes to get a bite
I need to feed us with some honest work
To score a catch so we won’t have to fight
So here on laptop keys my fingers lurk.
To take a break, I cross the street to see
Your granny and your poppop having break;
And after sharing news and drinking tea,
I go outside and water plants that bake,
That bake beneath the swelling sun of spring,
Which dries their soils to a crusty brown
I drench their tops and make their spirits ring
Thus blessing them before the sun goes down.
Tomorrow you’ll return; I’ll tend to you
With this same loving care and kisses too.
We made it out alive without a scratch
You came back home, we packed out things, and left
Two eagles trav’ling south to hatch
Our newborn selves and plan our skillful theft;
The object of our heist is sacred wealth,
The waters of life which bolster our veins,
A nobler life to cultivate our hearts,
Secure our liquid gold, stop up the drains:
Deceitful losers looking to deflate
To drag us down to muck and sewage drip;
So striving, talons flaring, t’wards the plate
Olympian gods feast upon: we grip!
We cannot rest, we’ll push until
We’re in the clear, and safe upon the hill.
I sit here, calm in joy, with ease of mind;
I’m rescued from the plight of poverty.
And to my savior – our hearts are in a bind –
I sing in thanks for all your charity.
Ungrateful would I be if I ignored
The glorious ensoulment you bestow,
And how you help direct me in accord
With where good Nature wishes I would flow.
My Spirit’s richer with the light you shine,
A radiating beauty piercing air,
Out from your body, hair, your face and mind,
Commanding me to focus on what’s fair.
What’s fair – not in moral sense, nay, you’d ne’er,
But fair as in what’s noble and what’s clear.
For Valentine’s one year I brought my girl
To New York City’s lights to see a show,
We had Italian, made spaghetti twirl,
With glee we traipsed our footprints on the snow.
To Lincoln Center went our drunken hearts
The opera house Da Ponte had built himself,
Librettist of great Mozart’s drama arts;
We watched the beauty of that sinful elf.
But we lived on, while Giovanni died,
So dragged by Commondatore’s decree
Succumbing to the hell of license, pride,
Enslaved to Passion’s rod, no longer free.
But we are free from hedonistic haze,
For we, between ourselves, set Love ablaze.
About the purpose of the earth you fret:
E’en neutron stars are larger than our pier
Who surge and pulse, a pearl-like Baphomet,
But why should size determine meaning here?
A city too contains a core of heat
The people gravitate around its pole
Its powers can be felt, they course the street
And helicopters flap i’the air above the prole.
The District of Columbia, abodes
Suspended in a band of flame divorced
From peace, its air waves choked with data codes
A humid swamp of Fate-inventing Force.
This polis is a star with sense and mind –
More int’resting than space is Humankind.
On Seeing Tannahill’s “Botticelli in the Fire”
Exploring all this city has in store
By hitting “enter,” scrolling through some links;
I pick a show that doesn’t seem would bore
It promised decent seats, good cast, and drinks.
A young man’s play about the Renaissance:
Flamboyant Botticelli’s life and times,
Old Savonarola whose presence daunts
Medici’s mind, the arts, and Sandro’s crimes,
The flows of lust, of sodomy and greed,
Great vanities which stir the Christian scourge;
Resentful masses following Sav’s lead,
While Sandro paints his Venus o’er the dirge.
I watch, and see our age is much the same –
I must leave Hate before it makes me lame!
Philosophy’s a student under Verse
And Myth the mistress to that singing one.
Resentful Satan? t’wards Thought Religion’s worse
And Thought rules Politics by point of gun.
But merely contemplating health is dry –
Why don’t we sing our culture into life?!
So Verse displays his will across the sky:
His student learns, his girl becomes his wife!
Old Poetry returns to this decaying West
Now shining bright from his adventures south –
Traversed thro’ hell to learn from Nature’s best –
We crowd to hear the music from his mouth.
The king reenters to the triumph-bands,
A grand reclaiming of his rightful lands.
A painting by the hand of Claude Lorraine
A serenade composed with Mozart’s love;
The picture, a green and bountiful terrain
The music, cooing like a golden dove.
These beauties cleanse my senses, wash my sight,
Attune my ears to regulating tones,
Deliver to my spirit great respite
And let blood flow in veins between my bones.
A pleasant walk with statues by its sides
And marble fountains kissing perfect air;
The way to stately villa marked in strides
With happy families; glad tidings share.2
I cannot stress enough this final part:
The great physician of our lives is art.
2 The painting in mind is Johann Wilhelm Baur’s “Gesellschaft in den Gärten der Villa d’Este”
In Andrew Marvell’s “On a Drop of Dew,”
We hear Platonic doctrines on the soul:
‘As many dew drops fall from morn clouds few
So human spirits spill from heaven’s bowl.’
Oh how I wish to find a healthy bard
Who thrashes all such ghostly fancies false,
Who’s honest, beautiful, whose heart is hard,
Who knows the sword, the scythe, the pen, the waltz!
A Whitman with more form, but less remorse;
A Milton sans the cross, with Shakespeare’s sex;
A sinful Dryden on a wicked horse;
A classic Byron, strict, with Roman Lex!
Exhausted from my search, I leave the shelf –
I’ll have to find this poet in Myself.
A grand triumphal sound rings through our halls
I hear Americans yell for something bold and new:
So let us furnish greatness, answer all the calls
Of Euro past – what we’re supposed to do.
As Emerson3 believed, the primal song
Diffused throughout the air we try to hear
But what we write is pale, a copy wrong,
Yet for what he foretold, he was a seer:
American poetry, wrath of rogues,
Itself a poem in its ample land
Is what he saw; Thoreau, that man of pogues,
Saw too the heavens bigger, ours more grand.4
And Whitman, man of earth, declared the same
When he inscribed upon our heart Love’s name.5
3 In his essay The Poet, from Essays: Second Series.
4 In Thoreau’s essay Walking, he wrote: ‘If the moon looks larger here than in Europe, probably the sun looks larger also. If the heavens of America appear infinitely higher, and the stars brighter, I trust that these facts are symbolical of the height to which the philosophy and poetry and religion of her inhabitants may one day soar. At length, perchance, the immaterial heaven will appear as much higher to the American mind, and the intimations that star it as much brighter. For I believe that climate does thus react on man—as there is something in the mountain air that feeds the spirit and inspires. Will not man grow to greater perfection intellectually as well as physically under these influences? Or is it unimportant how many foggy days there are in his life? I trust that we shall be more imaginative, that our thoughts will be clearer, fresher, and more ethereal, as our sky—our understanding more comprehensive and broader, like our plains—our intellect generally on a grander scale, like our thunder and lightning, our rivers and mountains and forests,—and our hearts shall even correspond in breadth and depth and grandeur to our inland seas. Perchance there will appear to the traveler something, he knows not what, of læta and glabra, of joyous and serene, in our very faces. Else to what end does the world go on, and why was America discovered? To Americans I hardly need to say—“Westward the star of empire takes its way.””
5 “America” by Walt Whitman.
As Turnus and Aeneas warred for Rome
So Washington and Hanover debate
With fields of men, and plead the starry dome,
And gamble future graves for bounty great.
The prize, a frontier perfect, hills and crops
To fuel a race of men into the stars:
And once the moon is reached, and God’s heart stops,
The earth they’ll take with blessings straight from Mars.
But first comes gory reign of Storm and Blood
Who blot the sky with cannon smoke and frost;
The lowlands green – with opened veins they flood,
The sons of many mothers will it cost.
The cynic wants the worth of war reduced;
Instead, to Life its charm makes one seduced.
Adapted from “The Song of the Vermonteers, 1779” by John Greenleaf Whittier
To all borders must Vermonters come:
The sheep in the field, the land which we till,
The fish in streamlets, rivers which run
Needs boys to guard ‘em in valley or hill;
Does Wall Street threaten? Congress complains?
Bark British war dogs loud across the lake?
Swarms Hessians in arms at borders and lanes?
Ah, come; what you can you’re welcome to take!
Our leaders themselves – our own fellow men:
Our ruler’s Law and the Law is our own;
Our cracking muskets, our foes they bend;
We care for no clergy and bow to no throne.
Our vow is made, our flag unfurled,
In the name of Vermont we defy all the world!
O Thomas Young, forgotten in the rush;
How much, because you lived, the world was swayed –
Instead of yelling, I’ll retain the hush:
Your humble self would hate a loud parade.
Forthright you were in stating Deist ways;
You bore the branding “infidel,” proclaimed
By men ungrateful for your great displays
Of Britain’s tea to Boston harbor aimed.
Unbending yet, you joined with Paine in haste:
Revolt in Philadelphia for fame,
Which spurred the congress from the fate of waste
And launched our land to join the world’s great game.
Your healthy shrine to Nature’s God has freed
The world, and made of Man a better breed.
The God of True Religion needn’t hide:
The false parade their ghostly angel lies;
His revelation is the world of Nature wide
We track his mighty genius with our eyes:
Wide Nature is so full, so gracious with her gifts,
Through physics’ laws she plays the goddess role;
So steadfast is her Fate, permits no rifts,
No faults of chance, no evil in the whole!
Our sorrows – caused by knowledge being blind
For Providence assists the ones with drive;
No revelation, save your thinking mind,
Ambition’s well, so take a headstrong dive.
To better understand the world’s our creed
Employing noble thoughts our highest deed.
A lyric celebration is at hand
Before the great totality of All
A prayer is heard intoned across the land
To thank our god with siren’s liquid call
How blessed are the solar system’s wheels
Revolving all the worlds like feathered wings
The bounty of the earth, the ocean teals
Is far beyond what our gratitude sings.
Let us change ungrateful ways
And with a great resounding tone
Sing songs of thankful, endless praise
For Nature and our earth, this lively zone.
A music that delights in things o’erlooked,
That honors life and to its beat is hooked!
A summer drive out to the mountain range
A hike to some remote forgotten height
Where solitude can greet you; very strange,
To meet yourself with crystal azure light.
A wreath of acorns round your tired boots,
A piney curtain round your aching back;
You kick a stone upon the dust and roots
Which ripples memories – your mind they wrack.
This valley view serene is but a smidge
Compared to chasms in a waking soul;
Set out to know what’s hidden o’er that ridge,
A fearful confrontation is the toll.
So Nature brings the Self to mirrored door,
But honesty alone sees what’s in store.
A seat upon a deck amongst the mountains green
The magmic sunrays blazing all the pine trees spread
Those silver star-marked skies now can’t be seen,
An azure bell emerges in their stead.
When blue leviathans rule the shining sea
And bison run across the endless plains
When stars are bigger here, all burning free
The people, drunk with anima, dance for rains;
And when rain comes, on rocky mountain high
Or Appalachian cliffs wrapped in bark
They see emerging from the wicked sky
A primal symbol dimly known and dark.
A vagueness: felt, not seen, outside of time
The great, unfiltered, ineffable Sublime.
Imbue the mundane world with sacred God,
Obliterate the boundaries of “You,”
Immerse the Will in Fate, and He will nod
The undertakings of the noble few.
Embrace the drapery of Being’s fold,
Become a single entity with Nature’s breast,
And likewise jump into the rush, be bold,
Adopt to endless change and never rest.
A mountain valley freshened with a rill –
Declare a scene like this your holy site.
The low, the high, the swirling and the still,
Preferring peace but knowing how to fight.
The love of Nature is a healthy thing,
A joyous, deep salvation shall it bring.
From mountain range forbidding men, to plain,
Untrodden by the clumsy foot, to seas
Unknown, the eternal maker of the reign
Of Man, the God of nature, thus does seize!
How often have I felt the need to fly
Just like an eagle over all earth’s hills
And drink the surging joy of life’s supply
Of feeling limitless, and all its chills.
To do as much would be to feel the sip
From Time’s tremendous glass of foaming beer
And taste the bliss, as Franklin said, the tip
That pinetree’d God desires our good cheer.
A surging joy is given when the whole
Is transferred to the coming Force of goal.
6 Heavily inspired by a passage from Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Goethe
So now, upon this height of health, this peak,
Is justice fragile, as I said before?
What are these things called “thoughts,” are they so weak
As nihilists proclaim them – air, no more?
The mind of man empowered by the brain
Connected to the spine and all its nerves
So animated by the fire in the ether’s main
Which rules the cosmos by its pulsing curves;
Thus feeling pain means signals shook the mind,
And pleasures likewise end their search on nodes;
This doesn’t scare me, rather alights my bind
To God-or-Nature: men are just his modes!
A thought is Nature sending fiery spear,
A shock, t’wards our minds to sear.
Sonnet on Matthew Stewart’s “Nature’s God”
You showed the hidden meaning of our state
The ancient fam’ly tree of nature’s god,
And how this pure idea has cured Disease irate
Began an age of peace thro’ power’s rod.
This country rules the world through influence
Yet never such a role did it demand;
Its capitol, the church of immanence,
Delivered oracles of Light to man.
This liberal order is the bread of life;
Let tyrannical screamers have their say,
They too will fade; Lucretius, armed with fife,
Emerged once more to have his charming way.
Divinely world that you have shown to me,
To think I too can live in it so free!
How pleasant that our world has reaped the crop
Of freedom-fighting men from days gone by;
That I may think the things I do, and drop
These leaves upon your desk for you to try.
How grand it is: this Earth which holds our Homes
Has birthed not only thinking creatures we
But that our thought defeated tyrant tomes,
Unchained our minds, and gave us liberty.
We’ve made the garden of an Epicure
Become a country, and the order of an age.
Our maladies with medicine we cure;
To joy we cleave, thus following that sage.
For we profess belief in the faith of freedom
Us men and women of the Empire of Reason.
A Federalist Paper
A federal hand designs the mind of pow’r
Directs the whole, elects men to state
Deploys our warriors’ might in crisis hour
In times of peace keeps watch at gate.
It’s stronger than a band of jealous clans;
More prudent than regimes of hothead knaves.
A muscled sage of rule, his justice spans;
He’s tall but calm, while short Bonaparte raves.
It took the smartest from the age of lights
To gather books and arguments so bold
Constructing wisdom taught by Nature’s heights,
Destroying kingdoms built on Christian mold.
A star is likewise such a well-tuned gift,
With form, with poise, with fury does it drift.
Awash with troubles is my mental den
To mend the liberal Founding Fathers bold
With Nietzsche’s order, rank, empowered pen,
So I’ll attempt a mixture here, truth be told.
As much as Friedrich praised the old-world caste
He loved the Romans, Greeks, and Florentines
And these heroic men were not the last
To make republics ring with tambourines.
They weren’t pagans, no, but better yet
Were deist men, and knew the Church was dead;
Tyrannic Plato stabbed with bayonet
They actually did what Nietzsche merely said.
The candle of enlightenment shall burn
And all with love eternally return.
Eternal laws of virtue bound by God,
Synonymous with proper flow of things;
The laws of physics, the Hippocratic nod,
We follow course –– the flourishing it brings!
We know what’s right for us, we know the road,
So follow instincts green and concepts gold!
Ignore the charlatans with signs of code.
Pour melted metal soul in hero’s mold!
When you’re submerged and swimming virtue’s fjord
To twink’ling nebulae you are attune
And He will strike His fingers on a chord
And you a note in symphony of noon.
Immortality is not a lie
If every thought ’s directed toward the High.
The regions void of matter’s lengthy spread,
The spots of space deemed blank of concrete things,
Contain a shimmer-glow of reason bred
Within the beams of cosmic mattress springs
For order permeates in every inch:
If something were to wander to a spot
Of empty space, it would, without a flinch,
Obey the cosmic laws His genius taught:
For all that is intelligent is friends
With Nature’s rule, which sculpted everything
With marble, square and compass, and which mends
Disparate fraying ends into a string.
All space is drenched with Life, a living mass,
The cosmos as a Body pure as glass.
Adapted from “Philosophic Solitude” By William Livingston
In splendid admiration I’d be lost:
The sumptuous canopy of heaven’s stars
Appeared to me through leveled tube embossed
With concave scope, which spied the whirling Mars.
Vain nihilists – denying structure vast,
Who don’t admit the world is the divine –
Go drink the bottle, to the swine you’re cast,
Plunge into vice, from life you should resign.
Immeasurable vault! where thunder rives
None but a Power omnipotent and wise
Who made the whole in which, omnific, thrives,
Could frame this earth, or spread the boundless skies:
From formless chaos rose this spacious ball,
An immanent Deity seen in all.
In Eire, on the cliffs of Kerry’s Ring,
Where there are misty rockward-spraying tides,
Where birds are tilting, cabins snugly cling
Along the cliffs, and sheep on grassy sides.
For all their lives, they know not what they do;
The praying men are hidden by their cheers
Take comfort, hope, and think with knee on pew.
Above, however, horns resist their shears:
Some wild goats have crowned the ragged cliff.
Above mankind, in solemn strength they breathe,
Their nest is boulders, fear of crowds they whiff:
The life in them does gush, their instincts heave;
They call to us: “The ocean’s endless wail:
Return, you Knights; the Serpent bites its tail.”
“So ruined are the chances to be free;
The path of gods Olympic? sealed for good,”
Sighed Rimbaud7 – but, postmodern majesty
Allows us entry where those gods once stood:
With tech we rend the ancients’ fame, and though
Respect is shown to pagan graves, specters
In Magi dungeons are sent bulldoze show,
We payback pain to our vivisectors.
Unfathomed Power we overtly crave
To finish Grecian projects incomplete:
The noblemen have searched for perfect slave;
Tomorrow, Eden: loyal synth-drone fleet.
All clean, with golden fruit for all who’s left,
Wrapped in poetry vibrant, clear, and deft.
7 In his poem “Sun and Flesh.”
I herewith throw “what was” to vicious dogs:
The histories of man now seem so small,
Mere miseries of gloom and cracking flogs
Which drain my strength of hearing for that call,
A piercing whisper wracking curtains there;
Approach the windows just before the dawn
When bluish promise shines on fields so bare
And birds begin to sing above the lawn.
My sense is crisp, the breezes smell like mint,
The sun then rises over mountain peaks
And bathes the scene in rosy-golden tint:
The noontime sun is what my spirit seeks.
Unparalleled in worth to any past,
A future life for Man divine and vast.