Masks by Ezra Pound (1909)
These tales of old disguisings, are they not
Strange myths of souls that found themselves among
Unwonted folk that spake an hostile tongue,
Some soul from all the rest who’d not forgot
The star-span acres of a former lot
Where boundless mid the clouds his course he swung,
Or carnate with his elder brothers sung
Ere ballad-makers lisped of Camelot?
Old singers half-forgetful of their tunes,
Old painters color-blind come back once more,
Old poets skill-less in the wind-heart runes,
Old wizards lacking in their wonder-lore:
All they that with strange sadness in their eyes
Ponder in silence o’er earth’s queynt devyse?
I’m not sure what I love more about this poem: the archaic language meant to tease those who had change, the discussion of stories, or why we think story tellers are so strange. Pound’s rhythm is so steady and his rhyme scheme is soft enough that the reader has to really consider pronunciation to keep that rhythm and rhyme. As time passes we get lost in our memories, we rewrite our lives to make them fit our dreams better, and we lose something of ourselves in that process. Every poem is a code that can evoke fairy tales or romantic love or longing for the ideal. Not many people are familiar with this poem, but every time I read it I find myself thinking about it for the rest of the day.
I suppose this resonates with me right now, because spring represents so much change in my world. We are wrapping up the school year, trying to make sure kids have the skills they need, bemoan the skills we can’t teach them, and start thinking about what we can do better next year. Seniors are getting ready to launch and they usually aren’t ready. The last few years attendance has lost its importance in the whole scheme of education, so some students think that they don’t have to show up at work either. A culture of quitting before being proven incapable has grown up while we were boning up on NCLB, ESEA, CC, and whatever is now.
But I keep looking back. I’ve come so far. I’m getting older. I’ve forgotten important things and learned old lessons anew. I’ve looked inside and outside for inspiration, for how to do better, for how to be better and it all just makes me want to take a nap or lose myself in a novel which is not how a responsible adult behaves.