Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Fifth Karamazov - poem

Lawrence Hall

The Fifth Karamazov

When young we identify with Alyosha
His optimism and his innocence
His fragile, flowering Orthodox1 faith
A happy, almost-holy fool for Christ

When older, the sensual Dimitri,
With irresponsible lusts and desires
Grasping for the rewards of the moment
Now, ever now, wanting everything now

Then older still, as intellectual Ivan
Sneeringly aloft, above all faith and flesh
A constructor of systems and ideas
From the back pages of French magazines

Though never do we identify with
Nest-fouling, leering, lurking Smerdyakov
Our secret fear, unspoken fear, death-fear:
That he might be who we untruly are

But hear, O hear, the holy bells of Optina2
Those Russian messengers3 singing to us
Inviting us to meet Alyosha again
At Father Zosima’s poor4 hermitage

1Russian Orthodox
2The name of the real monastery upon which Dostoyevsky modeled his fictional one
3The Brothers Karamazov was first published as a serial in The Russian Messenger
4Poor only by earthly standards

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