Internal Eclogue at 60

‘The wind in the oaks is a creature of springtime,
a shaper of clouds as they fly.
The last of the frosts has kept clear of the blossom
and primroses pattern the wall.
Soon the corn will change colour, the summer will open,
and swifts will scream at the sky:
“The living know that they have to die
and the dead know nothing at all.”

The wind in the oaks is a creature of autumn.
The firewood is stacked in the dry.
The weight of my apples has broken some branches —
the excess can rot where they fall.
A child who is 60, who questions the Preacher,
is armoured against the reply:
“The living know that they have to die
and the dead know nothing at all.”’

********

‘Excuse me if I interrupt this melancholy strain;
I feel an urge to bluntly re-acquaint you with the truth.
(You’ve had this weakness for Ecclesiastes since your youth.)
You’ve lived among the lucky. You’ve no business to complain.

Welfare state boy: who can tell? You could have 30 years to run.
You’re healthy, handsome, solvent. Greatest gift of all: you’re loved.
Had pagan gods existed, they’d have seen you and approved.
“Quos dei amant iuvenes moriuntur” — not in your case, son.

So take my tip: shake off those Bible blues — “All flesh is grass” —
and go and mow the lawn — Voltaire’s correct philosophy.
Despite — or should I say because of — our mortality,
I see it didn’t take you long to get your Freedom Pass!’