Wednesday, February 11, 2009

dead philosophers


“In my life death has no place,”
said Sartre. Bentham, being stuffed,
rests in a glass box where, paleface,
he can’t respond when he’s rebuffed.

Boswell once asked David Hume,
when on his deathbed he was lying:
“Does an atheist find room
for God before he’s finished dying?”

Famously once, Freddie Ayer
died almost, choking on a salmon.
How very strange of God to spare
the man, who might have died of famine.

Descartes, who of pneumonia died
in winter, after a tutorial
with Queen Christina, open-eyed
observed her being cross-sartorial.

Spinoza died in rooms he rented
while his friends were all in church;
God, he said, has been invented,
not found, however hard you search.

By angry Christians once Hypatia
was killed, and then her skin was peeled
with oyster shells: such dysthanasia
is painful, and has been repealed.

Avicenna overdosed
from opium, after heavy sex,
at least that’s what his fans would boast
when paying him their last respects.

Philosophers all die like those
of us who do not think about
such questions, and will decompose,
undisconcerted by great doubt.

Inspired by information about the deaths of great philosophers that I read in Simon Critchley’s book, “The Book of Dead Philosophers,” which also inspired my poem “No Happy Returns”. For those who are unfamiliar with Hypatia, there is a wonderful treatment of her life and death by Maria Dzielska (Author), F. Lyra (Translator), “Hypatia of Alexandria” (Harvard University Press, 1996).

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 2/11/09

1 comment:

  1. Philosophy will clip an angel's wings,
    Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
    Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine -
    Unweave a rainbow.
    ~John Keats, "Lamia," 1819

    Love your poem, especially the part about
    "Bentham, being stuffed,
    rests in a glass box where, paleface,
    he can’t respond when he’s rebuffed."
    Simply hilarious!