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”
And Yeats’s – All Souls’ Night
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: