John Updike's publisher received his newest collection only a few weeks before he died this January. In it was a poem titled 'Requiem' and it seems to say so much about how he sees himself. I don't know his history or background but I sense some extreme melancholia.
I guess it takes one to know one because it struck a real chord with me too. It reminded me - as a contrast - of a wonderful monument in the shape of a Celtic cross that I saw at St. Conan's Kirk in Scotland. The inscription at the base of this huge monument indicated that it had been erected in memory of Caroline Agnes Campbell by 34 of her friends. At the time I was struck by the number. Thirty four friends! For me that is a titanic number and I was, I am, quite envious of Caroline Agnes and what must have been a wonderful personality to have had 34 people work together and build a lasting monument after her untimely demise.
Sadly I tend to identify more with Updike's vision of himself than with Caroline's legacy. Who knows, perhaps Caroline might have had a similar opinion of herself. We'll never know.
John Updike's 'Requiem' .....
It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
'Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise - depths unplumbable!
Instead a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
'I thought he died a while ago.'
For life's a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.