The poem in question: Power
My Paul Simon influence can once again be spotted here, as the verse style was patterned after the song "Save the Life of My Child," though the meter and rhyming points ended up being somewhat different. The surface-level subject matter–suicide–is even the same, though I suspect the motivations behind each are also somewhat different.
This poem is about a man who has gone mad with power. (Oops, I guess I gave away the ending.) However, it is not the all-to-familiar scenario of someone trying to amass all the power he can to be some supreme ruler or some such; rather it is someone who, little by little, bites off more than he can chew, time and again. He eventually discovers that he is seemingly incapable of handling all that is now in his life, and something has to give. Rather than continue to maintain his illusory façade (yes, I know that’s redundant, but darn if it doesn’t sound cool), he finds no alternative but to end it all. Interestingly, a part of him also believes that greater part of fault lies elsewhere than with himself and his foolhardy choices:
The sadness in his heart was but a tiny part
And much more than he felt that he had earned.
Even more interesting, to me at least, is the original version of those lines, which is:
The pressure building up was beginning to tip the cups
And fill up the urns.
The metaphor I was trying for was something about a cup of life being emptied, with death slowly taking over. I decided the metaphor was too oblique even for me, and ultimately changed it. I do think that it fits the contents of the second stanza better, and that the finished lines provide better accompaniment for the first stanza.
As I have re-read this poem over the years, I have never really liked the "mighty lake" of the third stanza. It just doesn’t seem to fit, though it does go well with the line
To wash away his bleak mortality.
I never could come up with a suitable change for the line, so I just left it. As I have been studying this poem while writing this commentary, though, I noted something that I don’t think occurred to me before: it was after he saw the "mighty lake" that
He decided then to leap from the barren, wasted peak
I think a part of him thought there was a possibility of surviving his fall if he fell into water, and so that gave him the "courage" to actually go through with his suicide. That is how I will now justify the line to myself.
The interspersing into the poem of the line
Ignorance can be damning but power can be maddening
is obviously modeled after the similarly used style in Ignorance. The two poems are not really related except through this line, and I suppose that without having read the first, the reference in the second makes little sense. However, out of the 0.26 people reading these commentaries, the odds are that at least 0.18 of them will read both poems–possibly in order–and those are numbers I can live with.
The use of the word but in the line does beg the question whether madness is worse than damnation. I won’t comment one way or the other here, but will attempt to talk about it a little bit more when I get to the commentary for Abdication. That’s called a cliffhanger, and will bring my 0.049 readers back for more.
Overall, I like this poem, though it is a little rough around the edges. It will probably be subject to an entry in my Redux series whenever I get around to it, but I am not embarrassed by it, and I suppose that is saying something, alien in tongue though the saying may be.