David William Paley
In that other country
Where they trod upon the stage
Until the play was ended,
The curtain fell amid the cheers
Resounding to the huge applause
And fond remembrance through the years.
That production closed
And others tread the boards
To portray more modern roles
As all the actors go their ways
To face the last revue, elsewhere,
And nought but memory stays.
Where are those we held in awe
Who stamped their mark with grace
Upon the roll of honour?
Have they gone beyond recall
Blown away by changing times
As if they were to wind in thrall?
The past consigned to waste,
The future not revealed!
Can we not reach back
To those who strode the earth
And learn their practised arts
To be, at least, of equal worth?
Those souls are lost to present eyes
That lack the former knowledge
And regret the passing of the wise
Who could have taught in wisdom's college
But pass no more through life's long days
That all the skills should have imparted;
For, when conducted through the maze,
We were as babes when they departed.
Can we step inside their shoes
And be the equal of their prowess;
Or master all that now accrues
When overawed by greatness;
Or command the world in speech
In which they had been feted;
Or wear the robes of their authority
When rags make our nobility?
Despite how great they were,
The old retire; the young inherit.
Brash new youth succeeds them
Regardless of their merit.
But we, poor shipwrecked souls, rejoice,
Adrift upon the flooding seas,
That we escape the siren voice
And turn to tasks that we must seize.
The land where we are cast ashore
May not be one where no one sings
Or be too rugged to explore
If, to our aid, the sunshine springs;
But, severed by the great divide,
We tread a lonely path to fame
Seeking fortunes far and wide
Beyond the craft that we can claim;
We proudly strut the barest patch
With which to be enchanted
Aware that that must be our feast
If that is all that we are granted.
We shall explore its pristine state
That drives us on to great extremes
Though we, perhaps, have left too late
The transformation of our dreams.
So, let the future fly in our direction
If, with the break of dawn, it brings
The long expected invitation
To ride upon its outspread wings.
We shall clamber on its back
To seize the reins of swiftest steed
And stay the course until the end
Regardless of its breakneck speed.
That race who had their devotees,
But now reside upon a star,
Have passed their art to legatees
Who learn, at last, to make or mar.
Alone and naked in our aspiration,
To them, alas, we are not equal
Compelled to search for inspiration
When summoned late to act the sequel.
We set aside our masquerades
And race upon the gallops
Until our scrap of time then fades
As darkness us envelops.
No longer fleet of foot,
We gaze at an abyss, instead,
To peer through dark as black as soot
As all contenders fly ahead.
We lie beneath the turf in peace
No more from there again to rise
Accepting that our lives must cease
And moulder on through long demise
To join the ranks of those retired
From dark theatres of the past
For our allotment has expired
Worn out by clocks that strike their last.
Those twinkling stars delight
To hear from us the news
From days now lost to sight
That saw their last reviews.
They wish to hear the change
That we have wrought below
Before we yielded up our lease
When tide and seasons ceased to flow.
We have learnt that our existence
Is not to whirl above the crowd
Nor to keep them at a distance
And speak no gentle hint aloud.
They hope to fill our sudden silence
And strive to build upon our gain,
Neither gracious in acceptance
Nor dismissive in disdain.
But have we carved our names with pride
Or written them in water?
Will our achievements serve as guide
Or find no hold in any quarter?
We leave the judgement to our heirs
Who take the legacy bequeathed
To scorn our view of world affairs
Or seek for light in words we breathed.
© David William Paley