Two Stoics


by Jeffrey Burghauser (November 2018)

Engraving from a 1704 edition of Meditations, published in Oxford.



[1] Marcus Aurelius


Is our dear Marcus Aurelius

A pessimist for maintaining that

(Life being a balls-exploding brat)

At the day’s demise, the only This

Upon which a man may hope to get

Some restraint is his own silly brain—

Or (indeed) an optimist for main-

Taining the very same postulate?


Philosophic epigrams may stamp

The air’s hide: impotent as flowers,

Desperate as a note of copyright.

There’s a grievance in the oil lamp.

My madness wakes me at all hours;

She’s my infant, and can’t sleep the night.




Artistic impression of Epictetus.


[2] Epictetus


The stoic Epictetus stated

In one of his philosophic drams

That “…the uneducated man blames

Others; the semi-educated


“Man blames himself; the educated

Man blames neither others nor himself.”

Him and Others fall into the gulf.

Only Blame remains un-negated.


What I’m left with disengages sea

From her shape, trans- & counter-swerving.

What I’m left with is close to Irving

Layton’s “…the cosmos enrages me.”


Which it does. Up ahead, make a right.

I need pot roast. And croissants. Goodnight.



Jeffrey Burghauser is an English teacher in Columbus, Ohio. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo, the University of Leeds, and 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 previously appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Lehrhaus, New English Review, and Iceview (Iceland).

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast



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