Getting sober is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. To look the world straight in the eye, without self-medicating first, requires this alcoholic to dig deep for the courage that many people seem to come by naturally. And she has to keep digging too, to keep up with the adventures of being human.
The artwork I’m using today is an illustration by Gustave Doré in the 1866 version of John Milton's Paradise Lost. “Satan rises from the burning lake” illustrates what Milton calls Lucifer’s “courage never to submit or yield.” The piece also has been used in reference to one of my all-time favorite poems, “Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which ends with these wonderful lines:
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’I memorized “Ulysses” for a college speech class, drawn to its celebration of the enduring adventuresome spirit. I never have read Paradise Lost, and I find the Satan connection a little icky. But the prompt for this week’s Poetry Jam asked poets to write something inspired by Paradise Lost, John Milton, or Gustave Doré, and my research led me to my beloved “Ulysses” via the aforementioned Lucifer link.
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Courage is the thing that gets me excited. I’ve had to find some. I’ve had to learn how to endure when life goes sideways. I’ve had to learn self-discipline, the courageous act of refusing to yield to my own wild impulses, which would have me flee from uncomfortable circumstances. I’ve had to plumb my inner resources when shit hit the fan, and when I came up empty, I’ve had to discover that God’s grace is sufficient on any given day.
All of which is a boatload of verbiage to introduce a very short poem ~ 160 characters, to be exact, counting the spaces. Visit other poets monkeying around with ultra-shorts at Monkey Man’s place here, or jamming with Milton here.
Here is my extremely short epic poem:
Without a shield, I face my fearsWeak, unarmed, I will not yieldAs the smoke of battle clearsI’m still standing on the fieldBy your cheers my wounds are healed!