The Triumph of Time

TIME: I that please some, try all; both joy and terror
Of good and bad; that makes and unfolds error,
Now take upon me, in the name of Time,
To use my wings.

(William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale)

When Perdita, the shepherdess,
proves to be a fair princess,
we are not at all surprised:
she had such queenly qualities,
we all feel sure as we reflect
upon the past events and how
noble was her rustic life.
How apt! we say as we applaud.

And when Queen Hermione,
her mother who, we all were told,
had died upon her child’s exile,
emerges, risen from the dead,
it seems somehow to fit the tune,
a melody of passing time, with
all the hopeful harmonies
that we have slowly learnt to hear.

And yet Old Time, as he declares
the movement of the seasons and
the death of each and every age,
cannot with his hourglass
nor with his downy, aging wings,
pull together any strand
of fraying life and dying days;
he only can announce.

And so we watch, in captive awe,
to this fall, this other rise,
the hopeful eyes from theatre stalls
of groundlings who can but believe
and cheer with every heave, and swoon
with every faint, rejoice to hear
the news that she who once was dead
has been contrived alive again.

Take your bow, all players, and
join the moving throng as we
hope to heaven that this is
not all just a winter’s tale.
(While the old man in the wings
marks the hours with pensive hands,
the author, hidden as he is
backstage, prepares for encore.)

So winter’s tales turn to spring
and our hearts, alive again,
go with us into the street,
the heavy crowd all bustling,
brushing through the surging joy
which we felt on curtain fall;
and as the sun goes on its way
we flicker faintly like street flames.

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