Monday, April 26, 2010

Existentialism, English-style

My dad had a framed copy of this poem for years, without the author. He's got dementia now and couldn't tell me the author if he tried, but it just now occurred to me -- the one who is supposedly in good mental health -- that I could probably google it.
The Laws of God, The Laws of Man

The laws of God, the laws of man,
He may keep that will and can;
Not I: Let God and man decree
Laws for themselves and not for me;

And if my ways are not as theirs
Let them mind their own affairs.
Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
Yet when did I make laws for them?

Please yourselves, say I, and they
Need only look the other way.
But no, they will not; they must still
Wrest their neighbor to their will,

And make me dance as they desire
With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
And how am I to face the odds
Of man's bedevilment and God's?

I, a stranger and afraid
In a world I never made.
They will be master, right or wrong;
Though both are foolish, both are strong

And since, my soul, we cannot flee
To Saturn or to Mercury
Keep we must, if keep we can
These foreign laws of God and man.

-- A.E. Housman

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