October 2007 -- (b. 1905, St. Petersburg, Russia) 

Philosophy saves us one mind at a time,
Or not at all, and only by our choice.
You knew that, witnessing the master crime
That spawned our century and set man’s voice
To amplifying assent. The very mind
Resounded like a sanctum overthrown
By mere bedazzled savages, purblind
To all that private man had made his own.
The altar of our age is politics:
For heaven, power; for sanctity, the plan
To end all plans; and prayerful edicts
To fashion forth the perfect good of man.
How could they bear to hear your lonely voice
Summoning us before that honest bar
Where each alone with reason makes his choice
And pays the price to things as they are?
In cities, jungles, mountains, and at sea:
For some, the fighting was their only school,
Their calling to kill for a century
Of brotherhood. To die was merciful:
Idealists spared the bumper crop of death
As socialism swept the world to cleave
Mankind’s collective neck, and those still left
Uncertain who the master, who the slave.
A price in blood unknown in history
Had made us doubt the very human clay,
Abjure ideals, and make philosophy
Of going back. But you arose to say
Two thousand years of tribute to the creed
Of sacrifice, with almsman for our priest— 
No hostage held too dear for haughty need— 
Had ushered in this hour of the beast.
“The world’s salvation lies in beauty,”
Said one dark seer, who knew that art compels
Assent beyond mere argument, that we
May know of worlds where catastrophe dwells. 
With you we walked through cities once higher
Than sunrise, seeing all we thought our birthright
Brought down because that brash hero with his fire
But earned his awful ledge and endless night.
On the skyline of man’s incandescent day
An infinity of brave lights died.
Alone you knew that all was swept away
By festering envy of human pride.
And by what grace, we wondered, could you see
Those cities fade, forsaken by an age,
That famished souls might sate their envy—
Could see, and speak, and yet not die of rage?
The shifting signs of stars could not explain
His birth. The holy men did not declare
His soul redeemed from the immortal stain 
(Or come to marvel at his golden hair).
He told us that he lived for joy alone,
His warrant reason’s right. And suddenly,
Because a guiltless gaze returned our own,
We knew that he had banished God, and was free.
Behold the man whose soul is no god’s grant,
Is not a sojourner on Earth, nor guest
Escorted by the body, nor supplicant.
The Earth is his by right of his conquest.
For nature’s stubborn virtue will succumb
To none but men of reason, who can take her
Even within her high, sequestered sanctum.
And of his soul this man alone is maker.
Notations never are ideas, which live
In minds when minds are thinking. That day
When you had given all you had to give,
And we became your ideas, none could say
If man would ever elevate the light
Of reason, long tormented and estranged,
Because a score of grateful mortals might
Have comprehended you and been changed.
Yet to remit one tithe of man’s distress,
Redeem an age long leached of pity,
Somehow rescind that perplexed emptiness
Engraved upon the sky of freedom’s city, 
But pay with life and joy, would be a crime.
Does death absolve the prophet for his voice?
Philosophy saves us one mind at a time,
Or not at all, and only by our choice.


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