Original Poem: "Hagiography of Old Men" with Commentary - LetterPile - Writing and Literature
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Original Poem: "Hagiography of Old Men" with Commentary

Writing poetry became my major composing activity circa 1962, & Mr. Malcolm Sedam's creative writing class in 1963-64 deepened my interest.

The Temptation of Christ by the Devil

Introduction and Text of “Hagiography of Old Men”

Some folks like to glorify the past, including their own childhood. Sometimes this glorification 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 and a waste of a human incarnation.

Each human soul is a great and glorious God-gift—to fail to realize one’s own soul is to fail to live up to one’s life purpose. Yet so many individuals remain in delusion that this 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.

Hagiography of Old Men

Requiēscite in Pace

From all and sundry portrayals,
You’d think they sprouted
Full blown from their own head,
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.

Commentary

This American sonnet resembles the Elizabethan version but lacks the tight rime and rhythm schemes. This poem appears in my collection, Turtle Woman & Other Poems.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

First Stanza: Shattering an Illusion

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

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. “Requiēscite” is the plural; the singular is “requiescat.

This poem shatters the illusion that all the dead deserve to be placed on a pedestal and for a very good reason: some 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 Stanza: Seeking Little

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

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 it needs to be 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, as they go about bashing those who are striving for spiritual enlightenment. Many of these shallow thinking individuals are simply atheists who do not even possess the courage to declare themselves as such.

Third Stanza: Sycophantitis

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

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.

The Couplet: The Shallow Men

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

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 are likely to fall for anything, as they engage in superficial, stereotypical thinking. Life becomes a chore but for these shallow thinkers the ego has grow so inflated that they have become blinded to the possibility that they may be missing something. They will continue, “measur[ing] out [their] lives with coffee spoons,” asking, “Do I dare to eat a peach?,” while waiting, “Till human voices wake [them], and [they] drown.”

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 discriminating between the two. The great guru explains: “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.”

Hagiography, or biographical writings or speech that idealizes and thus idolizes the subject, is only necessary for the sycophantic followers who seek to elevate themselves from the shallowness of that one class of humanity—the class that is not seeking God. Such is not true elevation but rank hypocrisy and fabrication.

© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes