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Death, I praise you

by simonSRW 

Posted: 20 September 2009
Word Count: 201
Summary: Hypocrisy - something death doesn't do.

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Death, I praise you as one I can respect.
Unlike the tawdry world we live in,
you are without the hypocrisy
that every living being, in humanity,
holds dear as a philosophy;
unknowing or otherwise.

You are the final step from this putrescent plane.
And will accept each and every one of us,
without judgement or disrespect;
knowing that without life we are all the same,
as we were when given our life in the beginning.

The hypocrites sell fear of your presence;
in fact, a cash cow for their sustenance.
The underlying lie strewn across the millennia,
made real by tools like the media, in this present age,
seek to crush our thoughtful minds;
to forestall and extinguish any questions like; “Why?”

We are the sheep, as mentioned in a book,
we are the flock that has forgotten to look,
at our surroundings, defined not by us,
but by the others we’ve given the crook.

Death – I respect you, for not changing your colours.
Death, I laud you for being different from the others.
Death, when my time comes I’ll be wholly accepting.
But until that moment, when my number’s up,
be merciful with others and please be abrupt.

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Comments by other Members

purpletandem at 09:46 on 22 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Simon,

I find this poem very thought provoking.

Death as the great leveller.
Death as the end to all injustice.
Death as something to be welcomed, not feared.

It is noticeable that the poem does not say anything particularly positive about anything other than death. There is no reason why it should, but some readers might find that a bit of a challenge. Of course there is nothing intrinsically wrong with a bit of challenge!

I would be interested to know if you are writing from a personal viewpoint or if the voice is meant to be that of another person? If another’s - whose?; real or imaginary? If your own, I wonder how completely the viewpoint of the poem reflects your own, for instance is it one angle among several angles on the world?

On the technical front, I had a few thoughts. I felt the fourth stanza flows less easily than the rest of the poem. I wonder if the word choice there is being driven unduly by the rhyme? Also, there are a couple of colloquial phrases, “cash cow” and “number’s up” that stand out. Unless there was a particular purpose in choosing those terms it might be worth thinking about rewording those. The end was good – “please be abrupt” creates a sudden stop to the poem, and death creates a sudden stop to life.

I hope these comments are of some use.

Kind regards,

Felicity F at 15:44 on 23 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Simon,

I agree with PT, and found this poem thought provoking. I don't think however that 'thoughtful minds' will ever be 'crushed' as long as there are writers and artists in the world. It is a valid comment though on a society that often refuses to go deeper into anything. But without poets like yourself,even less so.

I think in this group we have discussed the topic of death before in poetry. It seems to be a subject written a lot about in poetry form. Which is peculiar, because in life we would rather not think too much about it. So your poem finds a away to address this and give it the respect you mention at the same time.

It reminds me of a saying that goes along the lines of; 'We are all born into this world the same way, and we all go out the same way, the only difference is what we do inbetween'

Obviously circumstances vary, but we all end up either a heap of bones in a coffin or dust scatterred on the wind.

I like the closing of the poem too.


James Graham at 19:25 on 24 September 2009  Report this post
On first reading I found this poem very negative, very bleak. Negative not so much about death as about the world, especially the ‘hypocrisy that every living being...holds dear as a philosophy’. My reaction was to reject that assertion. Occasionally we read something in a poem and - subjectively more often than not perhaps - dismiss it as just not true. The most famous example for me is Keats’s more upbeat ‘Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty’ - no, sorry, I don’t think that’s true either.

But further on in the poem there are strong hints as to what your praise of death and rejection of the world could mean. The first is the ‘underlying lie’ which is ‘strewn across the millennia’ - a very telling line - and which in our time is perpetrated through the media. The other main clue is the idea, also very telling, that we have given the shepherd’s crook to others. For me this adds up to lords and masters of all kinds, and in all ages. Those who get hold of (or inherit) power and influence tell lies to justify themselves and to keep the majority subservient to them. These lies grow over the centuries into a changing narrative of deception. The means used to disseminate the lie also change, and in our time it is the media, perhaps the most effective means ever.

There are associations for me which are more subjective, and you may not have had them in mind when you wrote the poem. I think for example of those free-market capitalists (neoliberals) who are exposed by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine - those who make money out of disasters natural and man-made, tsunamis and wars. The politicians who serve their interests are the latest holders of the shepherd’s crook, the latest peddlers of lies and deception, using every means to persuade the sheep-like masses that what is being done is not evil but noble - or at least necessary.

So it’s not as bleak as I thought at first, because those ideas you introduce in the third stanza point to an understanding of why the poem embraces death.

I too found this thought-provoking, and like pt and Felicity I like the way the poem ends.

There’s a real core to the poem, a kernel of meaning, something well worth saying. But I think it would be more effective if it were shorter. I tend to be very drastic in cutting; I don’t mind cutting one of my own poems from 60 lines to 20. You may not want to slash as much as that, but if it was my poem I’d cut:

1. The whole of the first stanza except the first line. The hypocrisy and lies you want to stress are conveyed much more strongly in the third stanza. The third stanza is enough to put this idea across.

2. The first line of the second stanza, then put ‘You will accept’ instead of ‘And will accept’.

3. The line beginning ‘To forestall...’ because if the hypocrites try to ‘crush our thoughtful minds’ (another telling line) any poetry reader can infer that this will stop us asking Why. This line is too obvious, maybe not for prose but for poetry.

4. Possibly the first two lines of the last stanza.

This is butchery! But often a poem can have much more impact if it’s made more concise - and I think this applies to this poem.

Let me know if you agree or disagree.


simonSRW at 22:56 on 24 September 2009  Report this post
Thanks for your comments James. At this moment in time I neither agree nor disagree with your post.

I do not know whether I’m “using” this forum correctly, but what I do is post my first drafts – listen to all the input, let it settle in overtime, and then go back to a re-write.

My first poem I post was “Killing Myself to Live” and I’ve read and taken onboard all the comments. And in this instance KML is going to remain as it was written – I think the audio version delivered a better understanding than my poor attempt to transcribe it.

“Death, I Praise you” came about because of the hypocrisy I see everywhere in daily life and I needed a counterpoint – some element of living that was without hypocrisy; the only thing coming to mind being death.

In the second and third paragraphs of your post you identify what I was trying to get at. However there is a reluctance to accept the lines; “hypocrisy that every living being...holds dear as a philosophy” which do, in themselves, basically tell everyone they are hypocrites and they know it – but the last line says; “unknowing or otherwise”

And for me this is the reality of now. Everyone’s taken exception to the UK’s MPs taking their expenses that were within the rules – though, morally, they should have known better. But I don’t doubt that those same people have parked on double yellow lines, using their hazard lights to make it okay, have dropped litter on the street, because it doesn’t matter, cycled through a red light when the road was clear or not given way to the right on a roundabout during rush hour.

It’s this nitty gritty, the ambivalence to rules when each of us makes that judgement to ignore the rules for wholly self-centred reasons, that I’m trying to get across in the lines; “hypocrisy that every living being...holds dear as a philosophy.”

We all do it, we all could do better and we all rail against those that don’t follow the rules when it causes us problems; the “do as I say, not as I do” syndrome.

It’s this type of thing I was highlighting in the poem, but also the fact, quite often, we defer responsibility and then have to follow what comes because of that, leading to hypocrisy on an entirely different level, affecting not just us but people in other countries.

Anyway, enough of that. Your point 2. I totally agree with and will change the line accordingly.

many thanks.

James Graham at 15:58 on 25 September 2009  Report this post
Hi Simon - I listened to your audio file of 'Killing Myself to Live' - something I'd meant to do sooner. It's very effective. Your voice has 'presence' and demands attention. I'm left in no doubt whatsoever that it's an excellent piece of oral poetry.

I still find the first stanza of 'Death...' a bit hard to take. Thos 'nitty-gritty' examples you give in your comment seem relatively minor. Dropping litter or cycling through a red light are reprehensible, but don't amount to so much compared with, say, George Bush telling the world the US is going to invade Iraq to liberate its people from an evil dictator, destroy (non-existent) WMDs and bestow the blessings of democracy, when he really means Saddam used to be our client, we sold him arms including chemical and biological weapons, we encouraged him to go to war with Iran, but now he's not playing our game and anyway our corporations see Iraq as ripe for exploitation. That's dishonesty and hypocrisy on a grand scale. I just feel your first stanza accuses everyone equally. I know it does say people have this hypocrisy 'unknowing or otherwise', but it might be better to say somehow that some are guilty in a petty way while others are dishonest big-time.

I still feel the poem could stand shortening somewhat - but maybe like 'KML' it would be ok read aloud.


simonSRW at 18:13 on 25 September 2009  Report this post
James - thanks for your compliment about KML. It’s truly appreciated.

Regarding “Death, I Praise You” I don’t feel it’s one for any audio treatment and I really want to nail the written poetry. And I agree it needs to be shorter.

Slowly but surely the comments already posted are gradually coalescing into an idea to address everything that has been said.

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments you made about the staggering levels of hypocrisy in the wider world, but as I see it, from small acorns do mighty oaks grow.

Anyway, hoping to have some time this weekend to re-work the poem, and hopefully, I’ll capture what is required.

all the best

purpletandem at 22:15 on 29 September 2009  Report this post
Simon, I understand now that the poem is about the hypocrisy, etc. of the world more than it is about death, and from that point of view it feels less dark. I will be interested to see the rework, when it comes along.


freynolds at 10:36 on 13 October 2009  Report this post
Hi Simon,

A very interesting take on the old 'equalizer'. Yes death spares no one, it is a certainty for all living creatures, yet your poem, in a way, almost calls for a debate. Yes, you have highlighted all hypocrisies and contrasted them with the fact that death does not apply judgement or disrespect. Yet, I can't help wondering if there is such a thing as 'an equal death'. Some deaths are painful, some are slow and some come at the very beginning of life. Is this fair? What about the death of the unborn baby?

I think I understand where you are coming from and when death comes knocking on the door, it takes no excuses and the disparities and hypocrisies of life are irrelevant. But are they, though?

Whether I agree or disagree is irrelevant, as these are your thoughts and this is your poem and in a way, I always like a poem that provokes thoughts, controversy and a healthy debate.

Thanks for sharing!


Joella at 20:19 on 25 October 2009  Report this post
Hi Simon, I don't want to comment so much on how this is written, more what you have written. I've always thought that poetry is very much an emotive art form. It evokes a whole spectrum of emotions, from humorous to morbid. I'm no expert, write only simple children's rhyme, but, curiously, this poem and 'Killing Myself to Live', reflect much that I have experienced in my own life, over the past few years. Hypocrisy - I know all about this. From my perspective, your words are more powerful because there is a genuine rawness about them. I think this is the sort of poetry that shouldn't be polished, for fear it may become contrived and I don't feel this is what you are about here. I understand the dark sentiment in both poems and empathize with what you portray. I hope, however, that you're not reflecting on personal experience, more a view of the world / others around you. Sorry I've been no help technically, but word wise, I was hooked. Regards, Joella.

simonSRW at 00:28 on 27 October 2009  Report this post
Thanks for your comments Joella. Probably you can see from my posts that “Killing Myself To Live” will not change. It is as it is and works very well as an oral piece – probably would work well as a written piece if I could just capture the right structure to present it as so. This is something I’m striving to glean from the good people who post views about anything I submit.

The structure of “Death, I Praise you” I know requires some work. But I also understand what you mean when you say “I think this is the sort of poetry that shouldn't be polished, for fear it may become contrived”. I prefer to avoid “sanitisation” of any work and there is a balance to be struck between accepted norms and the rawness of any piece. And, in my opinion, it is all too easy to render a piece contrived if every suggestion is addressed without any thought applied.

I do feel that most writers create pieces that are drawn from elements of their life experiences to one degree or another, whether embellished or factual.

“Death, I praise you.” is in fact something that has come from my experience of the world and its hypocrisy. And to be quite honest, that type of thing really bugs me.

However, “Killing Myself To Live” is a representation of me and how I deal with a history that shouldn’t have been. Hindsight is a fine thing as long as it can be understood, acted upon in the future, and nothing that threatens ones newly acquired wisdom. But sometimes, for one reason or another, wisdom fails to overcome history.

Joella at 22:43 on 27 October 2009  Report this post
Hi Simon, I completely understand what you mean by dealing with 'a history that shouldn't have been.' Seems we share a certain regrettable aspect of our lives. Wish I could express it like you. I like descriptive poetry and that which reflects upon a writers observations etc, but I like more that which comes from the heart - captures who we truly are! All the best with everything, Joella.

simonSRW at 00:47 on 28 October 2009  Report this post
Thanks Joella. I think a lot of my work tends to mark me out as someone who is completely dissatisfied with their life - I'm not. Just to show the other side I've posted a piece called "One of Seven". This view is mainly where I live.

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