BENEATH THE MASK

 

 

 

…..Behind the myth and image of each person who ascends to the status of transcultural acclaim or recognition there lies a human with strengths and frailties.   The first section of the following poem explores the nature of charisma and its tendency to propel those who possess that quality to positions of prominence and often to vulnerability.  It begins with a transpositional view of Pericles and JFK.  Pericles was a valiant Athenian general, a galvanizing political force and a great patron of the arts during the explosion of Greek culture known at the Golden Age.  He guided the political and military destiny of his people for decades.  Sadly,  Athens became mired in a tragic war against its rival city state of Sparta and her allies.  Athens was able to resist their land assault by giving shelter to the local population behind powerful walls.  She continued to thrive by keeping her port open and commanding the sea lanes.   But this situation resulted in overcrowding and inadequate sanitary conditions.  A terrible plague racked the city and many thousands died including Pericles, who perished in 429 BC.   His grievous loss was greeted with shock and lamentation.  Most modern readers will need no reminder of the events of John F Kennedy’s assassination, his funeral and the feelings of grief, disbelief and disorientation that followed in the hearts of so many of his countrymen. 

     The last stanza alludes to the death of Lady Diana with her lover in Paris.  The reference to Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, draws an ironic comparison between the modern tragic unfolding of events in Paris and Britain and the heroic fidelity described in Homer’s THE ODYSSEY.  Penelope, the Queen of Ithaca, had the determination and faith to wait 10 years for the return of her husband, King Odysseus, from his battles against Troy.  Though no word of him came, she resisted the advances of many suitors for her hand in marriage.  After 10 years of perilous sailing he did return home and reclaim his wife.

   Onto each character in this interplay of events, millions of people have projected their feelings; some with admiration, some with a sense of loss and many with  confused emotions.  Yet they all serve as examples of the kind of human that transcends their mere existence as individuals to become an historical figure.

 

 

 

It was Pericles who died in Dallas

In a dream exploded by the plague

Struck down within the high walled city

So fearless and exposed when slain

Now see how he lies deaf to the wailing in the palace

Felled by forces both cruel and vague

Such a grievous loss in the shattered morning

A chasm gapes where the green earth had lain

 

 

Two brothers of the charismatic

One lived long with laurels strewn

The brilliant promise of the other

Ripped from deeds by early doom

Such souls awake an ancient memory

Whose recognition lights their way

As dreams and hopes like rising stallions

Bear the weight of dangerous days

 

 

Was it Penelope who died in Paris

With a senseless suitor by her side

Could it be a faithless bent Odysseus

Who drifted feebly with the tide

Drifted to Balmoral

Where now the storm has swept

But judgement turned to sorrow 

As the grieving millions wept

 

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