Monday 20 June 2022

Modesty (a Poem)

by Carl-Theodor Olivet *

Henri Matisse, Branch of Flowers, 1906.

I love you and give myself to you,
Yet you must promise me one thing;
Do not betray too much of you to me,
It could break our happiness in pieces …

The way that you consider and joke and risk it,
All have their origins, I know,
Your clear look, the vague fear,
The cheeky mockermouth.

Your magic, which tenderly plays about you,
Just as it is, is entirely preserved for me,
The days, the nights, year after year,
Shall design me delightfully.

Do not forewarn me, that I’ve gone too far
With my sweet daydreams,
I’m treating myself to a piece of eternity
And would not want to squander any part of you.

Do not betray yourself, lest you manoeuvre
into place to thwart me in some way, wickedly,
I do not analyse either
Whether you will always remain so unique.

Don’t speak in reply; that would be a mistake,
Permit me to paint the greatest bliss,
It will yet be, as mother says:
There comes a day to pay one’s wages.

If it’s over, then say it coldly, boldly.
That has broken many hearts, indeed …
And would tear me likewise from my dream.
Surely, I will get over it. 


* Theo Olivet is an author, artist, and retired judge in Schleswig-Holstein.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

I found this a poem which does not let you go. You put it down, and it haunts you—particularly the twist in the last line. That’s not how life’s supposed to be! But that’s how it is! It’ll be interesting to see what other readers think.

Martin Cohen said...

Can you EXPLAIN the last line, please?

Thomas O. Scarborough said...

It seems to be the outsider looking in. The end of innocence, as it were. The end of absolutism. To quote a now famous passage by philosopher Thomas Nagel:

"Even if life as a whole is meaningless, perhaps that’s nothing to worry about. Perhaps we can recognize it and just go on as before. The trick is to keep your eyes on what’s in front of you, and allow justifications to come to an end inside your life, and inside the lives of others to whom you are connected. If you ever ask yourself the question, 'But what’s the point of being alive at all?'—leading the particular life of a student or bartender or whatever you happen to be—you’ll answer, 'There’s no point. It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t exist at all, or if I didn’t care about anything. But I do. That’s all there is to it.'"

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