The Smile on the Face of a Kouros by William Bronk
This boy, of course, was dead, whatever that might mean. And nobly dead. I think we should feel he was nobly dead. He fell in battle, perhaps, and this carved stone remembers him not as he may have looked, but as if to define the naked virtue the stone describes as his. One foot is forward, the eyes look out, the arms drop downward past the narrow waist to hands hanging in burdenless fullness by the heavy flanks. The boy was dead, and the stone smiles in his death lightening the lips with the pleasure of something achieved: an end. To come to an end. To come to death as an end. And coming, bring there intact, the full weight of his strength and virtue, the prize with which his empty hands are full. None of it lost, safe home, and smile at the end achieved. Now death, of which nothing as yet - or ever - is known, leaves us alone to think as we want of it, and accepts our choice, shaping the life to the death. Do we want an end? It gives us; and takes what we give and keeps it; and has, this way, in life itself, a kind of treasure house of comely form achieved and left with death to stay and be forever beautiful and whole, as if to want too much the perfect, unbroken form were the same as wanting death, as choosing death for an end. There are other ways; we know the way to make the other choice for death: unformed or broken, less than whole, puzzled, we live in a formless world. Endless, we hope for no end. I tell you death, expect no smile of pride from me. I bring you nothing in my empty hands.