To Ithaca and beyond

To Ithaca and beyond

Beware of metaphor
              beware of symbol
beware of slack simile
              that will fill your pages
to no good purpose

No one thing is like another
              and the truth is irreducible
to fragments
              just as love and beauty
are whole
              in and of themselves

Clarity is not a virtue
              it is the cornerstone
a sine qua non :
              the lark that soars
in the summer air
              the nightingale
the thrush that drinks
              from the garden pool—
these are not ciphers
              and they stand for nothing
but themselves
              their lives are their
intrinsic celebration

The beauty of truth
              and the truth of beauty
were what drove Keats
              and Shelley to poetry
the musical phrase
              that sustains the fancy
as they called it

Beware of death
              and those who espouse
death and those who
              condone death and those
who promote death

Pound’s late lament
              that he betrayed Dante
that he tried to make
              a paradiso terrestre
from the very muck
              of civilization
and that he failed
              to disown death

Admission at last
              that the cycle must be reset
that the ship must again
              be hauled down to the shore
to set forth once more
              upon the ungodly sea
so that Helen may be returned
              to her rightful home
and the golden fleece
              to its rightful place

John Lyons


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