Eos pursuing Tithonus: Louvre
SESTINA ON SENESCENCE
It comes to all of us- old age-
with aches and pains and memory loss,
which intimate mortality,
reminding us of matters grave:
the inevitable changes;
the unavoidable decline.
Some invitations we now decline.
(Youth does not mix too well with age.)
Our crow’s feet presage further changes.
Perhaps our non-attendance is no loss
to those who do not wish to face their grave,
nor trace the lines of their mortality.
‘Nothing serious in mortality?’
And yet Macbeth resisted his decline,
declaiming while one boot was in the grave.
(At least he did not have to reach old age.)
He knew a crown was not worth all the loss.
Sic transit gloria mundi: nothing changes.
Icons who have trounced Life’s changes
may rub our noses in mortality,
though they themselves experienced loss
of face, of friends and suffered love’s decline,
they died unwithered by the blasts of age
and somehow made a portal of their grave.
So, do our footsteps all point to the grave?
Does Death’s knell merely ring the changes?
Our brain cells burn out from an early age.
Is this how we define mortality:
an inbuilt diminution, a decline?
Or, do we think there’s much to gain from loss?
Life’s penalty may seem to us a Pyrrhic loss;
we can’t resist the pull towards our grave
and feel like Struldbrugs in our steep decline.
Is entropy to blame for all these changes?
If future medics cure mortality
will we, like Tithonus, just age and age?
Why shun mortality when the changes
need not be loss of anything but age-
the grave not something that we should decline.