A Valediction Inviting Approbation

Robert Byrne

    In due respect to the profession of those assembled or, perhaps one might say, in a spirit of vindictiveness, it seemed proper, in emulation of the silver swan or else of the foplings in The Rape of the Lock, to depart in metaphor and verse. Ergo, this piece, which, like The White Knight’s Ballad, is called Valete, is entitled A Valediction Inviting Approbation.

    Nunc dimittis, Domine, servum tuum in pace.

“Nothing,” says Malcolm of Macdonwald, “so became his life as did his taking leave of it.”

There is a proper time to go,

As every fisherman worth the name

By instinct seems to know

The point at which to stop,

Haul in his line, and stow

His tackle, even though

His catch be few or none

And the mounting sun still low.

And if to some he seems to leave too soon,

To linger would debase a golden morning’s sport

With the tedious alloy of a leaden afternoon.

For Egypt, the mummy that twitched a thousand years,

The beldame who flirts, the grandsire at the burlesque show,

Each Ozymandias that human desperation rears

Can but affirm the truth that they refuse to know:

That dignity waltzes with time and ends

All energetic whirling in a graceful letting go.

Thus deep in their lush primeval swamp

The brontosauri raised their heads to hear

The dreadful voice of Darwin speak

Its mandate, firm and clear;

It let those obsolescent lizards know

That it was time to go.

For the sun had lost its Mesozoic heat,

The swamps no longer tasted as they should,

And noisy, furry little beasts by night

Consumed their eggs: no longer could

The voice of evolution be ignored, and so

The dinosaurs agreed

That it was time to go.

Into paleontology, then, ponderous and slow,

The eye of eons watched them stalk,

Leaving behind their bones, a coprolite or so,

A few infertile eggs, and vast amounts of chalk.

For even the saurian brain, however small and dim,

Could learn what all do well to know:

The dignity and rightness of an ending.

There is a proper time to go.