Responses Past and Present

Jonathan Chaves

Où est la vaillance d'antan?

Où sont les neiges d'antan?

—Villon

How have we lost our courage, O my Muse!

The daily headlines surely must confuse

The reader who’s aware of how men acted

In history when not by fear distracted.

Recall how Noah, led by God, set sail,

The last man standing, who knew if he’d fail

The human race would perish, and all creatures,

Unless God re-created their dear features.

Two words he banished from vocabulary:

What if. . .? As Noah undertook his very

Dangerous mission, ‘til olive branch and dove

Showed him and his the power of Faith and Love.

Or watch Odysseus departing Troy,

As hostile gods upon his route deploy

Skylla, Charybdis, Polyphemus, and

Circe, who would touch men with her hand

And turn them into beasts, fate worse than death!

The Sirens too, whose songs might cut the breath

Of men intoxicated by their beauty,

Or brought to Lotus Land, stripped of their duty.

Columbus, Muse, bring back, with his ships three

Across the vast Atlantic sailing free

Unfrightened by what on the other shore

He might encounter—full of hope in store.

Again, O Clio! conjure pioneers

Venturing on the plains through months and years

With wives and children, seeking a new world

While savage tribes their war-flags there unfurled.

Shall we go on? Today these men are spurned

By our “historians” who have not learned

The lessons thou dost teach, instead revise

Your annals to denounce all enterprise.

Could we be their mere students? Could we be

Participants in decadence, as we

Confront a new disease in panicked terror?

Are we prudent? Or in tragic error?

Is man a striving Angel, or machine?

An aspirant to Holiness, or mean

In aspiration? From what we have seen

Today he only yearns for quarantine.

Face to Face

I miss my students! Keeping up the pace

By teaching them on-line now faute de mieux;

But still I miss them, since there is—parbleu!

No substitute for teaching face to face.

I try to show them passion, also grace,

But on a screen—although that be my goal—

There’s nothing but an image, there’s no soul:

No substitute for teaching face to face.

Technology has put us in a race

To do things faster, easier, but, no,

It’s really not a better way to go,

No substitute for teaching face to face.

My love for Shakespeare I can surely trace

To Midwood High School, where a man named Joe

Grebanier simply read him, strong and slow!

Electrifying me, just face to face.

Oh Lord, this virus is a real disgrace,

Infecting, killing, striking people who

Are on their knees and praying that, soon, You

Will let us meet each other face to face.

A Ballade of theCoronavirus

Coronavirus blares from the TV,

In memos from authorities as well:

You’d think the illness was of that degree

Endured with gnashing teeth by fiends in Hell.

But as the atmosphere with fear doth swell

A different attitude I find I feel:

Instead of this hysteria, ‘tis well

To banish terror and true Faith reveal.

We all shall die, as men do all agree;

That being so, the words that we should spell

Are: “Illness even to fatality

Hath been our lot e’er since the Twain once fell

From Paradise. The tolling of the bell

Is not controlled by us, its awesome peal

Is rung in time by One who doth compel

To banish terror and true Faith reveal.

We’re urged to wash our hands quite frequently,

And thus to sinks the people rush pell-mell!

Due prudence this? Or is it OCD?1

Perhaps we should stay in a prison cell

Guaranteed germ-free, a snail-shell

Which from the world our fragile bods shall seal!

But, no, like heroes of whom bards do tell

Let’s banish terror and true Faith reveal.

L’envoi

Doctor, please prescribe great Fauré’s Nell2

Or “man who slips on a banana peel”. . . .

Anything except hysterical!

Let’s banish terror and true faith reveal.

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