Australian Clive James, born in 1939, is a living poet. Here is his take on the regrets that advancing age brings us all.
The title can be translated as lessons from darkness or from shadows and refers to heavy, slow-moving baroque classical music written to go with tenebrae religious services.
“… seeing how the years have brought
a fitting end, if not the one I sought.”
Lecons de Tenebres
By Clive James
But are they lessons, all these things I learn
Through being so far gone in my decline?
The wages of experience I earn
Would service better a younger life than mine.
I should have been more kind. It is my fate
To find this out, but find it out too late.
The mirror holds the ruins of my face
Roughly together, thus reminding me
I should have played straight in every case
Not just when forced to. Far too casually
I broke faith when it suited me, and here
I am alone, and now the end is near.
All my life I’ve put my labour first.
I made my mark, but left no time between
The things achieved, so, at my heedless worst,
With no life, there was nothing I could mean.
But now I have slowed down, I breathe the air
As if there were not more of it there.
And write these poems, which are funeral songs
That have been taught to me by vanished time.
Not only to enumerate my wrongs
But to pay homage to the late sublime
That comes with seeing how the years have brought
A fitting end, if not the one I sought