Still Rhyming at 75  — 31 May/1 June 2022

Unfinished.  Not to be completed.

Hoary hopes appear defeated,

myriad questions wait for answers.

Is it sensible to weigh the chances?

Pretend to cut more Gordian knots?

Should I recalibrate my thoughts?

A long apprenticeship to live

appears now over.  Here my narrative

of sailing out in search of port,

reaching out and falling short.

What lies beyond my Parthenon?

Must I still cross a Rubicon?

Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit[1]!

Planning for the future was a youthful habit,

asking questions, watching others: Now I reminisce.

Not everything succeeded, life is hit and miss.

With equanimity I ruminate on fateful

daybreaks, smiling seasons — reasons to be grateful.

Sure, when I was twenty-five —

and single — all was overdrive —

each sunrise was a given.

Then at fifty, still untamed and unforgiven,

battling jealousies and office strife,

I found my sustenance in married life.

I must confess that I still harbour appetite,

for charm and beauty can my spirit light.

Adventures lived — and some imagined — taught

me to distinguish fantasy from fact. As Argonaut

my early loves were lost, but not in vain. In bonhomie

they heralded my choice for sane monogamy.

Each sunrise jointly lived — a gift,

each sunset an inspiring lift.

Now, three times twenty-five seems late …

Perhaps an opportunity to abdicate.

No longer can I start anew…

Yet on the roses I see dew.

I teach beneath my virtual pergola

and learn from students as did Seneca:

Docendo discimus [2]– what blessing

Every day to keep on learning!

Students bring me fresh perspectives,

echoes of my youth in lively retrospectives.

Life is not a solitary tree, is continuity,

no solipsism but community.

We see the rabbits spring, hear sparrows sing,

and in the distance church bells ring.

We tend our garden as we gently breathe,

while weaving fragile flowers in a wreath.

Repeating rites of day and night,

four seasons that continuously unite.

Eternal tides in clockwork rise and fall,

enhance the rhythm of the ocean’s roll.

We hear the shells that crackle on the shore,

perceive recurring breezes, showers that restore.

When navigating to and well beyond my equinox,

I questioned orthodoxies, reasoned in and out the box,

resolved to challenge mainstream narratives,

proactively pursued alternatives.

I knew that progress came from rebels – Galileo,

Gandhi, Martin Luther King – volente Deo[3].

We homo sapiens are but nature’s representatives.

In awe we stand before the dignity of all that lives,

all creatures of this earth, above in air, beneath the sea,

each blossom, flower, wheatfield, chestnut tree.

We seniors recognize that nature holds eternal youth,

that every leaf and butterfly shows avenues to truth.

Although I’m not prepared to leave,

I sense that I approach the eve.

I know that leave I must,

as every shadow … human dust.

If pulvis umbra sumus[4], what remains?

Alone what love and memory sustains.

The kiss of life I take, accept my fate …

But am I losing faith?  Am I again too late?

The hearts of many friends and family

have ceased to beat.  How can that be?

They live in life-like memory,

they live in me as were they out to sea.

Life means creation: Procreation —

Giving life to a new generation.

Stefan saw the light but did not carry on.

We know not why we lost our son.

He would have written many pages

of our lives, expand us through the ages.

Lucky they who love and marry young

in mutual trust to grow together decades long,

renewing genesis. And I, how can I fill the void?

A niece or nephew, godchild rushes past – fast as an asteroid.

A friend can break the blues, bring fleeting joy

—  but some can turn into the Horse of Troy.

My many books are no Ersatz for children

— or grandchildren…

Books can never cry – or laugh,

belong inscribed on my lean epitaph.

But was the journey worth the trials,

the early pains and self-denials?

Yes, each moment had its worth,

each day a miracle on earth —

from mother’s soft caress

to that first love, first yes.

I cherished each infatuation,

joyful spiritual inebriation.

Early on I learned that pleasure is ephemeral,

unlike contentment, which is thermal.

Happiness is not just pleasure, but a state of zen:

communion with our fellow men

and women too!  Means being one

with nature, contemplating on a lake – a swan.

Every day has been a gift, each kiss

well worth the pain and artifice.

To love and to be loved is all that matters.

We rejoice as melancholy scatters.

Thus we learn to share and listen as a win-win recipe.

And when we err, forgiveness is the proven strategy.

At times I muse on going back to start anew,

pretending to pick up where I left off, renew

old friendships, hoping to undo things I did wrong,

apologize for hurtful words, attune my farewell song.

A second go at life, to reach what I once dreamed …

Bereft, regrets remain, my conscience unredeemed.

My metronome is slowing down: For me

less scherzos[5] – more adagios in a minor key!

Beethoven’s Ninth[6], the universal melody,

Urlicht[7], Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony[8],

Um Mitternacht[9] and Strauss’ string therapy:

his Metamorphosen[10] that buoys our reverie.

I’m ready to accept the end,

but first I shall attempt to mend

what can be fixed, my garden tend[11],

make peace with others, ditch the trend,

the Zeitgeist, groupthink, “flavour of the week”.

No panem et circensis[12]:  Just sincerity I seek.

I have no bucket list as yet,

try now to give more than I get,

pray consciously with gratitude

for all those years of plenitude

together — lived in our harmonious house.

I light a lively candle to my spouse.

As bottom line Ovidius advocates discretion:

Bene vixit qui bene latuit[13] –  a wise suggestion

to escape attention, envy, sterile competition.

Wonder why I heeded not this proposition,

but instead I let my vanity prevail,

for vanitas vanitatis[14] is also Alfred’s tale.

One day we’re here, next moment maybe not.

Should this be cause to be distraught?

We like to practice carpe diem[15] — each and every hour,

conscious of the words on our clock tower:

latet ultima hora[16].

Thus, let’s toast to life, to us, to our aurora. 


[1] “Perhaps someday I will remember this fondly”. Vergilius, Aeneid 1.203

[2] Seneca, Letters to Lucilius (Book 1, letter 7, section 8)

[3] God willing.

[4] “We are dust and shadow”. Horatius, Odes, book IV, ode vII, line 16.

[5] One of my favourite scherzos remains the second movement of Richard Strauss’ Synfonia Domestica, Opus 53

[6] Opus 125 in D-minor, third movement, adagio molto et cantabile

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR6_F6Fxf1k

[8] Symphony Nr. 2 in C minor, https://mahlerfoundation.org/mahler/compositions/symphony-no-2/symphony-no-2-manuscript/

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWyJdYTA36M

[10] Study for 23 solo strings, composed April 1945 as a kind of In Memoriam to culture, in the light of the destruction of Europe during World War II.  Metamorphosen draws inspiration from Ovid’s Transformations, Beethoven’s Eroica and Goethe’s Zahme Xenien.  https://www.myclassicalnotes.com/2021/09/metamorphosen-by-richard-strauss/

[11] Voltaire, Candide, Chapter XXX « il faut cultiver notre jardin »

[12] Iuvenalis, Satires, 10.77–81.

[13] Ovidius, Tristia. III, 4, 25.

[14] Eclesiastes, 1:2.

[15] “Pluck the day”, Horatius, Odes (I,11)

[16] “The final hour is hidden” slogan on many churches and sundials.

1 thought on “TE DEUM LAUDAMUS

  1. An philosophical poem about life containing history, challenges, experiences memories and relationships. Well done

    Did you get my good wishes for your birthday? If not I will repeat them here Dear Alfred, The special day of the year has arrived again, your birthday. We wish you all the best, many more healthy years ahead and God’s richest blessings and protection. Have a great day. Ruth and Ernst from Kanada


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