Icarus’ Fall at College

 

Prologue

Dear reader, surely, you must think,
__“What could be taught to us
That we haven’t already learned
__Of mythic Icarus?

“His plunge is clearly a warning—
__Don’t be consumed with pride—
Which is the classical insight
__On how Icarus died.

“And we know the modern readings,
__Those that rewrite the script
From the tale of a careless boy
__To one heroic trip.”

So, of the Icarus legend,
__You’re sure all has been said,
Yet if you’ll patiently listen,
__I’ll weave another thread.

 

I.

Yes, it was the classical case
__Of teenage life, downbeat;
Young Icarus seemed doomed to die
__In his hometown of Crete.

He longed to reach a different shore,
__Where grew a fruitful knowledge,
And knew escape was his to win
__Through getting into college.

Plus, he had heard another myth
__Of how collegiate life
Would vivify the shriveled mind
__With salutary strife.

His father, Daedalus, agreed
__To send him on his way;
For Daedalus the architect,
__College seemed a wise foray.

Yet, he knew he must prepare him
__For dangers he would face;
While college could exalt his mind,
__It also might abase:

“My dear son, I must now warn you,
__Loose feelings clog the sight,
And there are those who melt the heart
__To commandeer your flight;

“On your journey, be collected—
__Don’t let passions get too high—
For when one has lost perspective,
__His steering goes awry.”

Icarus, in truth, was puzzled;
__This seemed a silly fear;
In a place of so much sunlight,
__Could sight just disappear?

 

II.

Oh, Icarus was euphoric
__On that first day of class—
His vista shined so luminous
__Swept by the airy mass!

Like a bird floats on the current,
__He sailed into the hall,
Where the hope of proffered wisdom
__Was like a siren’s call.

Young Icarus sat and waited
__For new life to begin;
As he scanned the other faces,
__He felt amongst his kin.

It was then the teacher entered,
__Trailed by a ponytail.
He sported a graying goatee
__Specked by a shard of kale.

The wise man began to lecture,
__His words a burning sun;
Icarus was drawn by its theme:
__Privilege and oppression.

Though the substance of the message
__Filled Icarus with shame,
This loathing for his Grecian skin
__Induced a righteous aim.

Emotion waxed inside his soul,
__Casting all thoughts aside.
It was as if his father’s words
__Were swept off by the tide.

 

III.

Each lecture the boy attended
__Was like a scroll unfurled,
On which oracles had written
__How hearts could save the world.

Soon, he joined a campus movement—
__“The Suns of Equity”—
Whereby he hoped to stand upon
__The crux of history.

They pondered righteous acts to do
__While eating Lotus plant,
And concluded nightly meetings
__With a two-minute chant.

Then, one night, they got specific—
__An enemy would soon arrive—
Who planned to air his hateful views,
__And threaten their museful hive.

“Listen to what this bigot wrote,”
__Their angry leader spat;
“He cannot be allowed to speak—
__Just listen to this rat!”

“‘The greatest of inequities?’”
__Their enraged leader read,
“‘Making unequal things equal!’”—
__They cried, “We’ll have his head!”

So, they painted some protest signs,
__Blazing with golden words,
And to symbolize true freedom,
__They dressed like Mockingbirds.

 

IV.

Like in a play by Sophocles,
__The fateful day had come,
When the crash of misplaced passion
__Begets a tragic sum.

They entered the bright lecture room,
__Icarus and his flock;
When the speaker reached his lectern,
__They each began to squawk,

And shook their signs and flapped their wings,
__As if tossed in a storm,
So earnest were they not to grant
__This speaker a platform.

The bearded speaker looked in shock
__At this flapping, birdbrained crew;
Though most there wanted him to speak,
__Those birds had staged a coup.

Security stood on the side,
__Not wanting to engage,
But some stood up to force them out,
__Which filled the birds with rage!

The protest leader grabbed his club,
__Swung at approaching heads,
And others nearby joined the fray,
__As a sudden ripple spreads.

For a moment, Icarus heard
His father’s farewell words,
Yet soon drowned in that angry sea,
Which pulled his heart onwards.

The bright room throbbed under the lights;
__They pressed against his back
Like sunshine on a noonday beach,
__Compelling his attack.

Icarus’ veins throbbed in his head
__As he blindly flailed his fists;
It was as if his sovereign soul
__Had now ceased to exist.

Suddenly, struck hard by something,
__The young protester fell;
And when, later, he awakened,
__He lay in a prison cell!

 

V.

No one had died, but Icarus
__Was charged with battery,
And then he was expelled from school,
__Despite his tearful plea.

So Icarus returned to Crete,
__Beggared, but unashamed;
For the tragic fall he’d suffered,
__The bourgeoisie he blamed.

Yet he couldn’t live with father,
__A rightist, he now knew;
He would crash with the Minotaur
__And ponder what to do.

He worked as a mere barista,
__But knew he was no slouch,
For Icarus would change the world
__From his friend’s sleeper couch.

 

Epilogue

Ah, there you are, gentle reader,
__A new spin on the tale,
Which shows that no hubris alone
__Caused Icarus to fail.

The truth is it was a symptom
__Born of a captured mind—
When one feels his cause is holy,
__He’s passionately blind.

The emotions must be balanced
__By factual content,
And grounded with humble reason—
__That’s what Daedalus had meant.

So, heed the words of Daedalus
__Lest the passions get too high,
For then you will lose your perspective,
__And tumble from the sky.

 

 

Ron L. Hodges is an English teacher and poet who lives in Orange County, California. His works have appeared in The Road Not Taken, Ancient Paths, Calvary Cross, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal 2015 and 2016. He won the Society’s prestigious Annual Poetry Competition in 2016.

 


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2 Responses

  1. David Paul Behrens

    You present an epic tale depicting the modern college experience through the lens of another epic tale of the ancient variety. A clever idea and well written as well. I wrote the following poem as a gift for my granddaughter Rachael, who graduated from high school last week and has been accepted to attend Cal Poly University at San Luis Obispo. (Sixty-seven thousand applicants and less than five thousand were accepted.)

    Graduation 2019

    So here you are and you are almost grown.
    The seeds of your youth are almost sewn.
    You have such a great life, yet to live.
    There is still so much you have to give.

    High school went by in the blink of an eye.
    Now you can accomplish whatever you try.
    The whole wide world is waiting for you.
    You will be successful, whatever you do.

    A mind and a heart full of music and art,
    You were wonderful, right from the start.
    Always full of love, thoughtful and kind,
    With the welfare of others on your mind.

    May we say this often and say it loud:
    Parents and grandparents are very proud!
    As we all love you, every single day,
    There will never be enough we can say.

    While you go off to college and beyond,
    You and your family have a special bond,
    That keeps you deep inside of our hearts,
    With a caring and love that never departs.

    So now that your graduation day is here,
    Next you will embark on a college career.
    Good luck and have fun, wherever you roam.
    Always remember your loved ones at home.

    Reply

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