Free Range Poetry

Nihilism Comes to the Bard:
A Sestina, by William Shakespeare

Now will I charge you in the band of truth, 1
as doubtful thoughts and rash-embraced despair 2
can bide the beating of so strong a passion 3
that wear this world out to the ending doom. 4
To death, or to a vow of single life - 5
Hark, villains! I will grind your bones to dust. 6

Destroy our friends and, after, weep their dust - 7
but for the certain knowledge of that truth, 8
to grunt and sweat under a weary life, 9
surfeits, imposthumes, grief and damned despair, 10
but bear it out, even to the edge of doom, 11
allaying both their fury and my passion. 12

And those that mingle reason with their passion, 13
begrimed with sweat and smeared all with dust; 14
What, will the line stretch out to the crack of doom? 15
That is no slander, sir, which is a truth: 16
Hope gives not such warrant as despair… 17
We pay sour earnest for a sweeter life. 18

So then thou hast but lost the dregs of life, 19
and with such sober and unnoted passion 20
here overcome, as one full of despair - 21
all follow this, and come to dust. 22
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth, 23
as we draw the lottery of our doom. 24

From the creation to the general doom 25
that makes calamity of so long a life, 26
this is the show and seal of nature's truth: 27
inconstant, full of tears, full of smiles; for every passion 28
no worthier than the dust! 29
Our hap is loss, our hope but sad despair. 30

Two loves I have, of comfort and despair, 31
firm and irrevocable is my doom, 32
as when a whirlwind takes the summer dust. 33
O, that I could but call these dead to life! 34
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, 35
dare no man answer in a case of truth? 36

And my ending is despair! 37 This hateful life! 38
It may stand till the perpetual doom, 39 into a towering passion, 40
until this day, to scour it in the dust. 41 I speak no more than truth. 42

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Nihilism Comes to Keats

When I have fears that I shall cease to be,
I know the ugly beauty of that truth.
And all our works, so mean and mighty, we
see crumble into dust and shit and toothless
desperation. Useless passions from
our high romance are rendered dull and senseless.
Our imprisoned lives! We do not come
to hell, nor heaven go, too high the fence
that guards the veil of hope. We witness lives
account for naught, a crumpled dollar bill
against the wind, and all those ones and fives
are toilet paper. Money? Work, until
to stardust you return, sans teeth, sans hair,
and then alone, reflect on all you've done: Despair.

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