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Meditation on the Myth of Sisyphus

Like Sisyphus, whose fate it is to bear
A boulder on his back, and up the mound,
Only to watch it roll towards the ground,
As if it mocks his strain to climb the stair;
So I, long burdened by the weight of care,
Ascend those heights where toil with rest is crowned,
But all in vain: on each attempt I’m downed,
Descending all the while towards despair;
And as my strength and spirit start to wane,
Unable quite to face the task ahead,
I cannot bring myself, whose hope has fled,
To climb the upward path of life again;
Yet as I lay me down to my demise,
Uplifting thoughts of you then make me rise.

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Daniel Joseph Howard studied law in his native Ireland before taking his MA in philosophy at King’s College London. After working in the European Commission, he is now pursuing a PhD in Philosophy at Boston College.


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14 Responses

  1. Roy Eugene Peterson

    I have aways worried about Sisyphus, since I first read the myth! Now a poem to uplift my spirits and the reason is love! Thank you, Daniel. Now I am relieved.

    Reply
    • Daniel Howard

      Thanks Roy. I’ve always found that the myth of Sisyphus challenges us in an important way: how to interpret in a positive light a world which continues to knock us down after climbing the uphill path of life.

      Reply
  2. Benjamin L. Perez

    Camus’s essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” is always worth rereading (even if one disagrees with the existentialist interpretation). This poem, too, is worth rereading. Thank you for writing it, for sharing it.

    Reply
    • Daniel Howard

      Indeed, a rereading of Camus led me to reflect on Sisyphus, and what one might do in his position. Thanks Benjamin

      Reply
  3. David Hollywood

    I have often despaired with frustration when reflecting upon Sisyphus, and how representative the myth can be of the outcomes that result from some of our worthy and well intentioned efforts made in support of a chosen cause, so I am indebted for your ending which reminds us to always be resolved and resilient, and prepared to be inspired regardless of the odds, and thereby demonstrating even when experiencing such purgatory, how much character there is in the human spirit. Many thanks Daniel.

    Reply
    • Daniel Howard

      Indeed, the frustrating thing about the myth is that it is true to life but does not tell us how to cope with its challenges. Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  4. Joseph S. Salemi

    I think we should keep in mind that Sisyphus was not a very respectable character. He committed a great many crimes, and his punishment was well deserved. I suppose it’s OK to take him as a model of dogged determination and exertion, but let’s not forget that he did unspeakable things.

    Reply
    • Daniel Howard

      I understand your point, Joseph. At the same time, if one had to keep in mind the whole character of a man (mythological or historical) when wishing merely to examine a part of his life in isolation (his art, his music, his innovations in mathematics, etc.), then there would be very few people indeed on whom one could draw for the purpose of illustrating a point, so few are the examples of spotless men, and so vast is the moral No-Man’s land between pure good and pure evil in which almost all real and imagined men, past and present, find themselves. But I am happy to see that we are in agreement on this point, since you suggest that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with invoking Sisyphus as a model of dogged determination. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

      Reply
  5. Robert Milovic

    It is dainty to see the preservation and rise of the lofty classical way to write poetry, despite the flooding character and mentality of mediocre, superficial and inferior tendencies in today’s poetry worth! It was really delightful! Thanks

    Reply
    • Daniel Howard

      If that’s the kind of poetry you’re looking for, you’ve certainly come to the right place, Robert!

      Reply

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