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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