Monday, November 07, 2005

10. TROUBLESOME FAME - Robert Graves

To be born famous, as your father’s son,
Is a fate troublesome enough unless,
Like Philip’s Alexander of Macedon,
You can outdo him by superb excess
Of greed and profligacy and wantonness.

To become famous, as a wonder child,
Brings no less trouble, with whatever art
You toyed precociously, for Fame had smiled
Malevolence at your birth.... Only Mozart
Played on, still smiling from his placid heart.

To become famous while a raw young man
And lead Fame by the nose to a bitter end,
As Caesar’s nephew did, Octavian,
Styling himself Augustus, is to pretend
Peace in the torments that such laurels lend.

To become famous in your middle years
For merit not unblessed by accident—
Encountering catcalls, missiles jeers and sneers
From half your uncontrollable parliament—
Is no bad fate, to a good sportsman sent.

But Fame attendant on extreme old age
Falls best. What envious youth cares to compete
With a lean sage hauled painfully upstage—
Bowing, gasping, shuffling his frozen feet—
A ribboned hearse parked plainly down the street?