Thursday, April 17th, 2014
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c. 305 BC / Athens

Dust to Dust

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When you’re moved to find out who you are,
study the graves you encounter as you pass by.
Inside rest the bones and weightless dust
of men once kings and tyrants, wise men, and those
who took pride in their noble birth or wealth,
their fame, or their beautiful bodies.
Yet what good was any of that against time?
All mortals come to know Hades in the end.
Look toward these to know who you are.

©2009 by Edmund Keeley. Used with permission of Georges Borchardt, Inc., on behalf of the author.

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Menander, from a fragment. Little is known of Menander’s life, although he is believed to have come from a wealthy Athenian family and studied under the philosopher Theophrastus, a pupil of Aristotle’s. His first of some one hundred plays, Anger, was produced in 321 bc; he won eight first-place prizes at the dramatic festivals beginning with The Dyscolus in 316 BC. Considered a leader of the New Comedy—the last wave in the history of the Greek stage—Menander influenced the Roman writers Plautus and Terence.

The day the world ends, no one will be there, just as no one was there when it began. This is a scandal. Such a scandal for the human race that it is indeed capable collectively, out of spite, of hastening the end of the world by all means just so it can enjoy the show.
Jean Baudrillard, 1987
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Lewis H. Lapham is Editor of Lapham's Quarterly. He also serves as editor emeritus and national correspondent for Harper's magazine.
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