Pieter de Grebber, 'David the Prophet,' c. 1600 (Wikimedia Commons)



The crowd loves
the defeated champion.
Before the champion
lost, he never
had their love.
It took defeat
to bring them
to their feet
and cheer for
the fallen champion.



Is there an old man out there who wonders
whether he has wasted his life? Oh, sure,
it’s easy enough to persuade him
he hasn’t lived in vain; he has dependents;
he has baggage; he has a legacy, whether fictive
or financial; he still believes the gods of chance
and the muse of poetry are the same Aphrodite
who tempted King David, lover of love and wine
and song, the shepherd boy who wrote the psalms.

David Lehman is the editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry, the general editor of the Best American Poetry anthology series, and the author of such recent books as The Mysterious Romance of Murder: Crime, Detection, and the Spirit of Noir and The Morning Line, a book of poems. He writes an occasional column on movies for the American Scholar.

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Published in the November 2023 issue: View Contents
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