Thursday, April 24, 2008

Or Not To Be

No, I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant
To be," says Eliot's J. Alfred Prufrock,
As if to say, "Oh let that poisoned cup
Pass from my lips," as if to justify
His simpleness before it can be challenged.
No one has poured the man a stoop of wine
Or held it to his lips, or cast a slur
Upon his character, yet there he stands,
Deflecting punches that have not been thrown,
Protesting shadows to protect the light,
And saying what he is by what he's not.
Such words are flowers from a seed of doubt
Or guilt -- they blossom in the turbulent
Rich soil where a soul's roots ripen and grow;
And like a man who, racing from his fears,
Runs all the quicker into what he dreads,
He has, by giving answer to a question
No one has asked, touched on a silent Truth
Within himself, and given it a tongue.

Why not Prince Hamlet? Why then are we here,
Scarred by the whips and scorns of Time, if not
To seek the hidden spring which coils around
The name of action, and reveal its heart?
And if we cannot say “Yes!” to that, then
What do we say "Yes!" to? How can we bear
To clean and dress the mortal wound of life
If we touch not the hand or ponder not
The arm that strikes the blow? It's not enough
For us to shine a light upon this life
And then ignore its shadow -- in that dark,
The truth lies hidden, and each time we try
Illuminating it, it darts away,
Hiding behind us like a frightened child
Whose eloquence cannot express his fear
Except with one unending wordless scream.
That is the No that echoes every Yes,
And if we mean to be more than we are,
Then we must hear them both, and in our hearts
Perceive how one is born out of the other,
As vengeance sometimes pecks out of the egg
Of duty, or as love hatched unawares
Becomes a cuckoo in the nest of hate.

We are the gloves of Life -- she puts us on
To wear at weddings, births and funerals,
And we, who feel Life's fingers stretch in us,
Must hope that she will not throw us aside
Until we are unstitched by wearing Time.
Until that day, we are compelled to reach
For majesty; and whether we fall short
And see our crown on an unworthy head
Or bear its shining weight upon our own,
This is our destiny -- to make an end;
To wonder what it is that ends, and why;
To have a care, to take care, and to give
Care back again unblemished. We were born
To say our peace before our piece is done.
What though we fail each time we use our lives
To find an answer? Our success is in
The questioning. The questioning is all.
For we are each Prince Hamlet, and were meant
To be.

(C) Matthew Wells 2008

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