The Four Ages of Man & Farewell to Atheism

by Jeffrey Burghauser (December 2022)

The Four Ages of Man, Valentin de Boulogne, 1626-28


The Four Ages of Man

Supply a boy inside a college dorm
With unexpected capital, and he
Will spend it with adroitness on some form
Of rash, adventurous debauchery.

When he enjoys an unexpected win,
The callow newlywed, however, is
Fine, even half-enthused, to spend it in
Establishing the home that shall be his.

In middle age, he’ll use it to replace
The sump pump or another of those shrewd
Things which, though costly, do maintain the grace
To be invisible—until they’re screwed.

The final stop on this appalling course:
Exhausting all his savings on divorce.



Farewell to Atheism

I’ve let Shakespeare figure out
How Untimely Virtue can,
Mixed with Frailty & Doubt,
Make a Unity of Man.

I’ve let Socrates decide
Which hydraulical volute
Best would regulate the tide
Human Love must constitute.

I’ve let Milton’s crowded brow,
Stiffened with a heavy THUS,
Heavily determine how
I’ll define the Serious.

But it seemed unblemished sense,
When I faced the most profound
Questions of Life’s battleground,
To repose my confidence …
In Christopher Hitchens.


Table of Contents


Jeffrey Burghauser is a teacher in Columbus, OH. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Leeds. He currently studies the five-string banjo with a focus on pre-WWII picking styles. A former artist-in-residence at the Arad Arts Project (Israel), his poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Fearsome Critters, Iceview, Lehrhaus, and New English Review. Jeffrey’s book-length collections are available on Amazon, and his website is

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast


2 Responses

  1. It did often seem that his atheism was rooted in the twin soils of the loss of his mother, as an unsolvable problem in theodicy, and in the desire for unbridled pleasure, as a rejection of restraint. Both are understandable and human, if not by themselves convincing.

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