On the Value of Struggle

The laws of men are given by the wise,
Or sometimes by magicians steeped in lies;
The former found just states, where good and truth
Abound, and raise in health and strength their youth:
The latter make of all a marketplace,
Devoid of charm, of beauty, wit, or grace;
Unchecked, desires, are suffered to expand
Until they glut the city, state, and land;
Then weakness grows, until, like fatted sows,
Ten sit and eat for every one that plows.
But nature, when the laws of men have failed,
When beauty, truth, and good like shades have paled,
This nature has its own laws it upholds;
The strong it raises, but the weak it scolds:
But these, unheeding, it will later crush;
The former, though, is verdant, full and lush:
So, those who check themselves before the law,
A better lot from nature do they draw;
When crushed beneath blind Fortune’s heavy trials,
They grow in strength, in health, in wit and wiles.
In this did Hera, on Heracles impose
So many troubles, many frightful blows;
She sent the serpents, soon as he was born:
But he strangled them, in his infant scorn;
She sent him Madness, so he did destroy
His wife and children, all his mortal joy;
She caused him, then, to serve the coward king
(a coward lord is such a bitter thing).
Twelve labours gave Eurystheus to kill:
But all of them did Heracles fulfill.
Then, when he died, he went to heaven where
He wedded Hebe, youthful goddess, fair,
Who was the daughter of Hera and Zeus:
Perfected, had he then, with Hera a truce;
Though all his life, his troubles vexed him sore,
Yet each one raised and strengthened him the more.
In his name we see this very mystery,
That Hera found in him felicity:
His name meant pride of Hera, for he rose
Above all troubles, trials, and all blows
Until he was the greatest man alive:
For this his name on earth does still survive.
So, they that struggle against all the odds,
They too find favour from the good, the gods;
Though Fate should hammer them with fearsome blows,
Against the tides of troubles and of woes
They beat their oars or swim until the waves,
Submerge them, sending them unto their graves.
But every height they scale, every battle won,
Every undertaken expedition,
Brings them closer to Olympus’ storied height,
Home of all the gods of beauty, truth, and light.

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