It came betwixt the clock and day,
When time turned men’s designs away
And round about the ancient light
There gathered heroes to recite.
All the charm and zest we laud
Were found within these self-styled gods,
The ones we follow and adore,
The ones we love and yet abhor.
They took their seats and filled the sky
With cries of valor so sublime
That e’en the stars seemed moved to shine
Their glory on these gods of time.
They gathered there for one great quest,
One vaunted goal to crown the best,
To find the truest hero there
And ne’er again that glory share.
The first who spoke was garbed in white,
Reflecting back the vibrant light,
And giving voice his noble song,
He held at bay the jealous throng.
“I was he who shook the earth
With shouts for every human’s worth;
I purged the world of hate and fraud
And thus myself became a god.”
“A god indeed!” cried one beside,
“But not so godly as am I!
They followed you to justice, true,
But they loved me and did not you.”
All eyes turned to this young man,
Who smiled and then began to stand.
“Twas I who captured all their praise;
I was their god for countless days.”
“They looked on me and they were mine,
And shall be mine throughout all time,
For charms like mine will never fade,
Nor can they ever be re-made.”
“Your beauty pales against my own,”
Replied a woman to her foe.
“You they wished they could be like,
But I was their worship and delight.”
“A thousand men lust after me,
And mortals make eternity.
I am the goddess and the rain,
I am Venus, returned again.”
Now another stood to speak,
And smiled condescendingly
At the woman, and he sighed:
“Lust is not virtue, but a vice.”
“I, however, am virtuous;
The pinnacle of cleverness.
I mocked the masses and their dreams,
And set them bowing at my feet.”
“Mockery is no virtue, friend,”
And the final hero bowed his head.
“If you seek virtue, look at me,
I doubt a humbler man could be.”
“I am selfless, unlike you—
I’ve risked my life to save a few.
My sacrifice is boundless, friends,
As is my constant kindliness.”
He fell silent, but there was still
Another, who had yet to tell
His tale to the gathered band,
The greatest heroes of the land.
He was a boy in simple garb,
And round he looked with eyes afar,
The wonder of that timeless place
Shining joyous from his face.
“I am not wise,” he said, and grinned,
“But I love to hear your wisdom, friends.
You are beautiful and strong indeed,
And it is the hero’s life you lead.”
The heroes smiled scornfully,
And the boy beamed back in raptured glee,
Then stood and took his leave of them,
Into the night from which he came.
And as he walked that lonely way
The heroes shouted out in rage,
For the ancient fires had died down
And the bright young hero bore the crown.