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Gedicht THE EMPTY GLASS van LOUISE GLÜCK dat Philip voorleest

The Empty Glass


I asked for much; I received much.

I asked for much; I received little, I received

next to nothing.

And between? A few umbrellas opened indoors.

A pair of shoes by mistake on the kitchen table.

O wrong, wrong—it was my nature. I was

hard-hearted, remote. I was

selfish, rigid to the point of tyranny.

But I was always that person, even in early childhood.

Small, dark-haired, dreaded by the other children.

I never changed. Inside the glass, the abstract

tide of fortune turned

from high to low overnight.

Was it the sea? Responding, maybe,

to celestial force? To be safe,

I prayed. I tried to be a better person.

Soon it seemed to me that what began as terror

and matured into moral narcissism

might have become in fact

actual human growth. Maybe

this is what my friends meant, taking my hand,

telling me they understood

the abuse, the incredible shit I accepted,

implying (so I once thought) I was a little sick

to give so much for so little.

Whereas they meant I was good (clasping my hand intensely)—

a good friend and person, not a creature of pathos.

I was not pathetic! I was writ large,

like a queen or a saint.

Well, it all makes for interesting conjecture.

And it occurs to me that what is crucial is to believe

in effort, to believe some good will come of simply trying,

a good completely untainted by the corrupt initiating impulse

to persuade or seduce—

What are we without this?

Whirling in the dark universe,

alone, afraid, unable to influence fate—

What do we have really?

Sad tricks with ladders and shoes,

tricks with salt, impurely motivated recurring

attempts to build character.

What do we have to appease the great forces?

And I think in the end this was the question

that destroyed Agamemnon, there on the beach,

the Greek ships at the ready, the sea

invisible beyond the serene harbor, the future

lethal, unstable: he was a fool, thinking

it could be controlled. He should have said

I have nothing, I am at your mercy.