Victor Hugo tells this story, too.
In his account, the man may have his years,
But grandeur is a man’s attractive strength.
For women gaze at beautiful young boys,
Yet with him they lose themselves in thought.
It is because the stately, older man
Is grandly closer to the primal force.
A young man’s eyes may sparkle charmingly,
But in the elder’s look there is enlight-
enment. The Moabite feels something true
And normal, then—even if, as she
Lies crouching at his feet, she cannot know
Exactly what has led her to her strange
And unpredicted destiny with him,
so wise and just and rich and generous,
the sexy man! You laugh. You think that here
Is Victor, preening once again, his beard
A thing of manly glory in his eyes.
Yet somehow in his poem a golden light
Illuminates the nighttime firmament
With more than macho vanity—a truth,
His reverie of ancient nights and Ruth.
To read Erika Dreifus’s ‘The Story of Ruth, in Three Poems,’ click here.
Paul Berman is Tablet’s critic-at-large. He is the author of A Tale of Two Utopias, Terror and Liberalism, Power and the Idealists, and The Flight of the Intellectuals.