Ode to Camille

You rebel! Revolutionary femme!
Brave knife which rends all cloth of artifice!
You giddy prophet, shaman, pagan gem;
Hot brand of steel that sets the waters to hiss!

Too many flee from truths they cannot bear,
Or like the fabled ostrich with its head
Full-buried in the sand, they do not dare
To look upon that face, the face they dread—

Their own, and that of all our savage past.
They seek in vain to keep their porcelain pride,
Their china-dreams which Fate and Death must blast;
And you say: you can run but you can't hide!

"The flesh is sinful," quoth the Puritan.
"The spirit is the way to paradise."
But what is spirit sans sinew and skin?
And why should Nature's pleasures be named Vice?

Sir Francis Bacon once said to posterity.
"Nature to be commanded, must be obeyed."
What better reason to honor honesty
Which does not waver in Life's furied fray?

Let's not forget the battles man has won,
Against the chaos of evolutionary strife,
But let us not be quick to damn or shun
The passions that give meaning to our life.

All this is not to say that I'm contented;
I too am shaken by much of that speech
Which in its violence never has relented
To smash complacent idylls and to breach

The stale, if reassuring, sweet phantasms
Which say, "Man is perfectibly serene."
Our planet breathes in death-throes and orgasms,
And man's mind is a thing of earth and spleen.

You're made of brass, Camille; for that be praised!
This Roman arch I dedicate to you.
Alas, it's not the finest man has raised,
But take this tribute that's long overdue.

George Chadderdon © 1995