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Narcissus, fresco from the House of M. Lucretius Fronto, Pompeii

You think this cruel? Take it for a rule,

No creature smarts so little as a fool.

—Alexander Pope, Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot (1735), 83-84


Each of us should devise a last resort,

Which in its essence may well be the same,

For reconciliation, once having fought

The final contest of the two-backed game,

Conceding with soliptical delight

There's in the end no more any need to fight,

The one you love, to whom you would submit

Determinedly in lovely fainting flight,

Is right at hand—and not some distant goal;

It’s you, dear heart, your own sweet, darling soul.

Once having sought, and bought, this pis-aller,

Conserved in honey, save it for the day,

When you are old and impotent in turn,

And dying for some salve to soothe love’s burn.

Note: The French expression pis-aller means "last resort," or what to do if worst comes to worst.

June 20, 2024


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