The Wise are Filled with Doubt

by | Jan 17, 2020

I sat with my professors

philosophise as they teach

“be careful,” they said “clanging bells may drown out,

the conclusions that you reach.”

“There are reporters who stretch conspiracies,

to their fingers and their toes,

be careful what you say to them

and the idiot wind that blows.”

“Be mindful of the profiteers,” they said

“and the things they’re trying to tout,

there are fools who know everything

while the wise are filled with doubt.”


I listened to an old man in the street,

with his ancient polished prose

sing songs from his years of loneliness

where all things gold arose

“The rules have changed,” he whispered,

“there’s no revolution left to fight.”

“There is nothing left to say or do

except to walk quietly through the night.

You must question as your wise Uncle might

the truth and all about,

when fools know almost everything

while the wise are filled with doubt.”


Sophocles waits on the corner

talking to the King of Thebes,

he rummages through his pockets

to find them empty, the work of thieves.

“Perhaps we should ask Plato,

for he will have his purse.

He’s observing the masters of television

create their universe.”

The King reclines and mumbles

“Just let them twist and shout,

it’s the fool who knows most everything

while the wise are filled with doubt.”


To The Moor of Venice, Iago proclaims

“I wear my heart upon my sleeve.”

Othello cries, responding

“I cannot grant your leave.”

Desdemona sits by patiently

her reputation by her side

while the men accuse each other

as if they both have things to hide.

Desdemona then, appealing,

“Dear gentlemen, please sort this out.

Need I remind you, fools know everything,

it’s the wise who are filled with doubt.”


The Bell Ringer rings his Justice bells

while the Unicorn makes some notes

as money-men and tram conductors

count the takings, hand out quotes.

The Unicorn steps up to the podium

as the Colonel strikes up the band

to introduce his words of war and peace

just to be sure we understand.

“It helps me get elected,” said the Unicorn

“and when you carry this much clout,

you can fool the fools, they know everything

while the wise are filled with doubt.”


The Nazarene walks into town

to be confronted by the Mob

who try and trick him with their cleverness

and to remove him from his job.

“Your enquiry is a good one,” he said

“it’s important that we know”

he scratched the dirt, picked up a stone

and said “take good aim with your throw.”

They dragged him away from trouble,

they proved him quite the lout.

He cries out, as he’s crucified, “it’s the fool who knows everything,

it’s the wise who are filled with doubt.”


Dostoevsky closes the pages

on his darkly Russian books

searches his darkly Russian solitude

from behind his curtain looks,

for a righteous man or woman,

with a conscience to explain

how everything has come to this

and have it not explode inside his brain.

“I’d trudge through snow to find them,” he said

“if it wasn’t for this gout,

it’s the fool who knows everything,

it’s the wise who are filled with doubt.”


Orwell sits, in his prescience

mind bent over to our times

he warns the unsuspecting

in his mystic dystopian rhymes.

“Please don’t let it happen,” he cries,

as his pen falls to the floor.

“It depends on you, to redeem us,

from this writing on the wall.”

His eyes went dim, his words flung down

to the language that they flout

to the fools who know everything,

and to the wise who are filled with doubt.


And then the artists and the painters

publish musings from their labs

while the authorities quell division

knowing courage is up for grabs.

The little man who doth protest too much

arrested and dragged away

screams lungs dry in reflection

“We will soon get to have our say.”

“It’s alright to ask the question,” he howls,

“you don’t have to preen or pout,

why do fools know almost everything,

while the wise are filled with doubt?”

© copyright – Stephen Newman 2020