A Response to “Cleon” by Robert Browning
(which has stuck with me for years)
Yon swimmer is an ode
Cleon says so
To Proteus or something in authority
A tyrant in the Classical sense
A tyrant who knows virtue
They had those back then
And a patron
To the speaker of the poem
The writer of a letter
That does not hesitate to compliment
But also makes the case
For what is true
In your tyranny, perhaps
You might be missing something
When you elevate my art
Not that I don’t mind the support
Artists need that
But in understanding why the art is there
To tell you in itself
That life is better
Our art records and re-expresses
Interprets who we are and what we do
But the actions so much better
All the attributes that make us
They are real
Poets know this
Beyond an abstract exercise
So we will write
Sculpt words on paper
Into pieces that might find you
Whole, more whole for this
While replacing nothing
Enhancement, we hope
A lesson, if we must
Learning in other ways
I recall because it comes to me,
Now and then
Having looked up nothing for a while
(the swimmer is a rower,
and Proteus is Protus
while English majors smoosh words to pass
But the epistle goes on meaning much
I try to keep it real
As Cleon’s maker trusts
The last apostle who wrote letters
To the faithful
C L Couch
(from) “Cleon,” Robert Browning
. . .
The many years of pain that taught me art!
Indeed, to know is something, and to prove
How all this beauty might be enjoyed, is more:
But, knowing nought, to enjoy is something too.
Yon rower, with the moulded muscles there,
Lowering the sail, is nearer it than I.
I can write love-odes: thy fair slave’s an ode.
I get to sing of love, when grown too grey
For being beloved: she turns to that young man,
The muscles all a-ripple on his back.
I know the joy of kingship: well, thou art king!
. . .
I cannot tell thy messenger aright
Where to deliver what he bears of thine
To one called Paulus; we have heard his fame
. . .
(two places easily to find the poem)
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash
Puerto Marina, Benalmádena, Spain
Momentos antes del inicio del Triatlón de Benalmádena.