To a friend whose work has come to nothing

To take a break from the uniformly bad news of politics and the world, I watched the Miss Universe pageant last night. Like all the rest of the news, it turned into painful viewing. It struck me that the event provided an almost unbelievable illustration of what Aristotle explicated in his Poetics as peripeteia (sudden reversal of circumstances) in Greek drama. Peripeteia is what excites terror and pity among the viewers of tragedy.

We don’t turn to beauty pageants for the illuminations of tragedy. Now what?

The Miss Universe fiasco put me in mind of William Butler Yeats’s poem “To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing.” It’s a poem of consolation and encouragement in two sentences. Here it is:

Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbours’ eyes?
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.

Miss Colombia deserves more than this, but it’s what comes to mind this morning.