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September 18, 2017

(Theme of the “Ode”:
Civilizations of marble become decayed,
Haughty empires fall and fade;
Has the fire of freedom we remember
Thus become a dying ember?)

Meade always lays his cards on the table,
Yet is clearly a man you can’t tag or label;

Not a man to shrink or shirk
From whatever calls for good hard work,

He can fix a sewer or pave a street,
Dig a trench or lay concrete,

Yet he’s no slave to duty’s call,
He knows how to unwind and sprawl,

He’ll drink good whiskey, straight and strong,
And sing and dance the whole night long,

Or play tenacious tennis and fast hand-ball,
Defending his game ‘gainst one and all,

Yes, Meade’s no one you can classify,
His maverick style will mystify;

You’ll find him in the kitchen a lot,
Concocting a brew in an old crock pot,

Mixing mystery omelets or secret stew,
Foods unknown to me and you;

Swinging a spoon like a magic wand,
As if he’s lost in some great beyond,

Or he’ll oft escape to a cozy nook,
And lose himself in a history book,

Again, he’s not someone you can pin down,
– cool with hicks in the country, or slicks in town;

Is he with believers or heretics,
When he debates religion and politics?

For he never fails to take a stand,
Whether it’s Donald Trump or Ayn Rand;

But Meade is a traveler most of all,
He seems to hear far voices call;

Trudging on tundra, mukluks laced tight,
He’s chatted with Aleuts in the Arctic night,

Diving with Aussies or with Club Med’s crew,
He plays with the fishies, deep in the blue;

He’s hiked the savannah, o’er Africa’s plain,
Climbed high in the Andes in Inca domain;

He’ll laugh, bouncing on rapids in a leaky boat,
Or muse, gazing afar from a mountain shelf,
Seeking truth and beauty, like the poet’s quote,
Or, like Socrates, in search of himself;

This is a man of many places,
Whose song is a medley of many races;

He hurries ‘round the globe, ‘cross every clime,
In that fateful chase with Father Time,

Daring to try the untrod trail,
Perhaps looking for Eden in a hidden vale…
.

But why all the rhyme and chatter? What does the life of one man matter?

Our country has troubles, inside and out, Maybe some we can’t surmount;

We see crime and strife, impossible debt; Wars on end and nuclear threat,

A populace that’s confused and numb, While cynics predict a collapse will come;

In the light of all that’s going on, Isn’t one man just a pawn?

Are we a brotherhood whose day is done? Is America like a setting sun?

Professors say we’re doomed by Fate, That we’ve lost old values that made us great.

No rebels stirring that they can trace, Who drove the whirlwind of this land’s birth,

No one left from that storied race, That brought hope and freedom to the earth.

No man to say, “By damn, “My life belongs to me, not to the State or society!”

One who will shout till his last breath: “Give me liberty or give me death!”

With a voice unfettered we can believe, And a presence that proves what we’re made of,

And a certain face that cannot deceive, And actions that tell how deep we love;

If somewhere such a man be found, They’d know those values are still around;

But scholars scribble a hopeless screed,

Claiming they’ve searched high and low,

Yet what if these pundits met Bill Meade?

What would they say? I think I know:

“Men of America! We found him!” they’d have to say,

And watch gloomy theories blown away;

Then laugh and run where a spotlight calls,

Or return to the haven of their ivied walls.

So let fools and cowards weep and wait,

But for all of us, it is not too late;

Cast to the wind that lie from hell,

That claims we’re caught in some fatal spell;

Strike up the music, Give out a cheer!

We can be confident that all is yet well,

As long as men like Meade are here.

–for Bill Meade’s 80th birthday
22 Sept. 2017

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