On All Souls Day, a remembrance of those we love and live among us in memory, two poems by John Updike and W.B. Yeats.
I can’t get this little Updike poem – one of his last – out of my head and, on this crisp fall day of remembrance, it once again seems particularly appropriate.
It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
“Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise – depths unplumable!”
Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
“I thought he died a while ago.”
For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge,
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.
– John Updike
from “Endpoint and Other Poems”
Epilogue to “A Vision’
Midnight has come, and the great Christ Church Bell
And may a lesser bell sound through the room;
And it is All Souls’ Night,
And two long glasses brimmed with muscatel
Bubble upon the table. A ghost may come;
For it is a ghost’s right,
His element is so fine
Being sharpened by his death,
To drink from the wine-breath
While our gross palates drink from the whole wine.
The rest of the All Souls’ Night is here: