There’s been too much gloom about grand public affairs in my comments. Confucius never heard of the mote and the beam, but he knew that we should start on things by turning ourselves around. Besides, we’re told that God is present if we pray, so not everything is bad.
With that in mind, but in a different direction, here’s a poem I’ve always loved, the epilogue to The Tempest, spoken by Prospero:
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
It’s a wonderful combination of things:
- Prospero returning to human society and Milan, and appealing for the charity and mutual indulgence without which hell is other people even if you’re the Duke.
- The fantasy-world of the play resolving into common everyday life, where the truths of the play are somehow present but we must rely on wonders other than magic.
- The author at the end of his writing career, and reflecting on his career and life, and on human life in general.
- The actor speaking on behalf of the company and asking for the favor and applause of the audience.
I find it comical, profound, and very touching.