Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arthur Guiterman: a poem

While browsing through a collection of poetry, I came across this old familiar favorite by Arthur Guiterman. I think I first read it when it was used as an epigraph many moons ago for a short story. As it happens, I no longer remember either the author or the title of the story, but this has remained with me, probably because I was so amused by it that I memorized it.

The title gives the theme, and while it's a familiar theme that has been expressed in many stories and poems and religious works (Vanity of vanities, all is vanity . . ) much more seriously and artistically, there have been times when this version perfectly fit the mood I was in, especially the last couplet, which I have quoted quietly to myself on numerous occasions.

On the Vanity of Earthly Greatness

The tusks that clashed in mighty brawls
Of mastodons, are billiard balls.

The sword of Charlemagne the Just
Is ferric oxide, known as rust.

The grizzly bear whose potent hug
Was feared by all, is now a rug.

Great Caesar's bust is on the shelf,
And I don't feel so well myself.

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