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This poem is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

The Great Pessimists Alfred Corn
Vanity of vanities... There is no remembrance of former things; Nor remembrance of things that shall be with those that shall come after.
                                                                                                                           Ecclesiastes

And yet Diogenes still roams the world, lantern in hand,
An exodus in search of honesty, his greeting to Alexander:
'Stand aside, you're blocking my sunlight.'

And the prophet who lashed out, 'The heart is
Deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Who can know it?' Lear could, we hear it in his howls,
Or Gloucester's 'as flies to wanton boys are we
To th' gods, They kill us for their sport.' Or Macbeth,
His candle snuffed, a walking shadow, a ham actor
Full of sound and fury, significance's zero sum.

Apostle of mordancy, ironic La Rochefoucauld,
Who detected self-regard in every generous act,
Reasoning that reason always proved the dupe
Of emotion. And that we could no more control
...


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