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  • Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

    New! – Your Long Overdue Haikupalooza

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st October 2017 (All posts by )

    Speaking Hebrew with
    Uber guy from Ramallah
    Interesting world

    —-

    Your fake service dog
    Goes with you to the Target
    We all know the truth

    —-

    Bicycling safety?
    Drivers crazy, distracted
    Watch out for yourself

    —-

    At condo meeting
    Board announces it’s quitting
    One dare not step in

    —-
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Poetry | 18 Comments »

    Our only enemy was gold

    Posted by Margaret on 21st September 2017 (All posts by )

    I’ve always thought Edwin Muir’s poem ‘The Castle,’ like Burns’ ‘Parcel of Rogues,’ referred to the Acts of Union of 1707. Many Scots considered the union of Scotland and England to be a corrupt bargain in which Scottish nobles and landowners who’d been ruined by the Darien scheme were bailed out with English money in return for signing over Scotland’s independence. (I don’t want to argue the merits of that theory; historians have been batting it around for four hundred years without reaching agreement. I just want to point out that the attitude exists.)

    It did just occur to me recently that there could be another, slightly anachronistic interpretation of the poem. If Edwin Muir had been given a glimpse of Scotland’s condition today and the destructive effects of welfare dependency, he might have written exactly the same poem. For generations Scotland was a poor country whose greatest natural resource was its people and their devotion to education. They educated their young people and sent them out all over the world, and as George MacDonald Fraser said, “A Scotsman on the make is a terrible thing.”

    The expansion of the welfare state has eroded that, perhaps fatally.

    All through that summer at ease we lay,
    And daily from the turret wall
    We watched the mowers in the hay
    And the enemy half a mile away
    They seemed no threat to us at all.

    For what, we thought, had we to fear
    With our arms and provender, load on load,
    Our towering battlements, tier on tier,
    And friendly allies drawing near
    On every leafy summer road.

    Our gates were strong, our walls were thick,
    So smooth and high, no man could win
    A foothold there, no clever trick
    Could take us, have us dead or quick.
    Only a bird could have got in.

    What could they offer us for bait?
    Our captain was brave and we were true….
    There was a little private gate,
    A little wicked wicket gate.
    The wizened warder let them through.

    Oh then our maze of tunneled stone
    Grew thin and treacherous as air.
    The cause was lost without a groan,
    The famous citadel overthrown,
    And all its secret galleries bare.

    How can this shameful tale be told?
    I will maintain until my death
    We could do nothing, being sold;
    Our only enemy was gold,
    And we had no arms to fight it with.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Culture, History, Poetry | 8 Comments »

    Poetry for the Eclipse

    Posted by David Foster on 21st August 2017 (All posts by )

    The impending eclipse reminded NeoNeocon of  a poem by Archibald Macleish:

    And here face down beneath the sun  
    And here upon earth’s noonward height  
    To feel the always coming on 
    The always rising of the night: 

     

    To feel creep up the curving east  
    The earthy chill of dusk and slow  
    Upon those under lands the vast  
    And ever climbing shadow grow 

     

    And strange at Ecbatan the trees  
    Take leaf by leaf the evening strange  
    The flooding dark about their knees  
    The mountains over Persia change 

     

    And now at Kermanshah the gate  
    Dark empty and the withered grass  
    And through the twilight now the late  
    Few travelers in the westward pass 

     

    And Baghdad darken and the bridge  
    Across the silent river gone 
    And through Arabia the edge 
    Of evening widen and steal on

     

    RTWT.  The poem reminded me of another poem, George Meredith’s Lucifer in Starlight:

     

    On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose.
    Tired of his dark dominion swung the fiend
    Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
    Where sinners hugged their spectre of repose.
    Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
    And now upon his western wing he leaned,
    Now his huge bulk o’er Afric’s sands careened,
    Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
    Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
    With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
    He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
    Which are the brain of heaven, he looked, and sank.
    Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
    The army of unalterable law. 

    Posted in Current Events, Miscellaneous, Poetry, Science | Comments Off on Poetry for the Eclipse

    Summer Rerun: Sir Patrick Spence

    Posted by David Foster on 21st June 2017 (All posts by )

    Just because I like it…

    The king sits in Dunfermline toun,
    Drinkin’ the bluid red wine
    ‘0 whaur will I get a skeely skipper,
    To sail this ship o’ mine?’

    Then up and spak an eldern knicht,
    Sat at the king’s richt knee,
    ‘Sir Patrick Spence is the best sailor,
    That ever sail’d the sea.’

    Our king has written a braid letter,
    And seal’d it wi’ his han’,
    And sent it to Sir Patrick Spence,
    Was walkin’ on the stran’.

    ‘To Noroway, to Noroway,
    To Noroway owre the faim;
    The king’s dochter o’ Noroway,
    It’s thou maun bring her hame.’

    The first line that Sir Patrick read,
    Sae lond, loud laughed he;
    The neist line that Sir Patrick read,
    The tear blinded his e’e.

    ‘O wha is this has dune this deed,
    And tauld the king o’ me,
    To send us oot at this time o’ the year
    To sail upon the sea?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History, Poetry | 3 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Tillman’s Poetry Corner: Flanders Fields

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th January 2017 (All posts by )

    This is interesting:

    John McCrae’s Flanders Fields is iconic. No more need be said. Unfortunately, its meaning has been distorted by the most popular voice and instrumental accompaniment. This new reading of the poem has transformed Flanders Fields’ meaning. My guess is that this metamorphosis was unintentional, but one and all should work to recover the original public meaning.

    Read the rest.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Culture, History, Poetry, Rhetoric | 1 Comment »

    Christmas 2016

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Lappland in pictures…link came from the great and much-mourned Neptunus Lex

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    In the bleak midwinter, from King’s College Cambridge

    Rick Darby has some thoughts on the season. More here.

    A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)

    An air traffic control version of  The Night Before Christmas.

    Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Mona Charen, who is Jewish, wonders  what’s going on with the Christians?

    Posted in Christianity, Holidays, Poetry | 2 Comments »

    Nobels & Dylan

    Posted by Ginny on 15th October 2016 (All posts by )

    In the mid-sixties, Bob Dylan’s music was the soundtrack to our lives. Now, in 2016, he’ll receive a Nobel. In that half century he’s become central to later generations and in other ways. But between the years when “everyone” quoted Childs numbers and when the Beatles took America by storm, Dylan’s voice was important. The folk singer who lived upstairs in ’65 patterned his style – music, clothes, harmonicas – after Dylan, placing roses on the stage at Pershing when Dylan played Lincoln; another friend wrote poems filled with Dylan allusions, murmuring Mr. Tambourine Man. Dylan did Nashville Skyline; in Chicago, watching him on Johnny Cash, I began to love country: a less surreal, more seductive Dylan singing Lay Lady Lay. In 1975 Austin, newly married, we bought Blood on the Tracks, with “Shelter from the Storm”

    And in 2016, he will stand another stage. His website is workmanlike; in his mid seventies, his tours continue. The “News” section doesn’t (tonight) have the Nobel listed. It’s hard to put my memories of a man who seemed to speak for and to lost boys in the context of his (and our) maturity, of all those years and all his work between then and now. For me, he remains fixed in the past, mine is ambivalence and nostalgia, but that larger, longer public context: Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; New York Times.

    If Dylan didn’t touch your life, Sohrab Ahmari’s take on one who did might be worth comment. Seven years has produced a world a less smug and ahistorical vision would have foreseen.

    Discuss?

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Music, Personal Narrative, Poetry | 12 Comments »

    Faustian Ambition (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 21st August 2016 (All posts by )

    A post on ambition at another blog (in 2010) , which included a range of quotations on the subject, inspired me to think that I might be able to write an interesting essay on the topic of ambition in Goethe’s Faust. This post is a stab at such an essay.

    The word “Faustian” is frequently used in books, articles, blog posts, etc on all sorts of topics. I think the image that most people have of Faust is of a man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for dangerous knowledge: sort of a mad-scientist type. This may be true of earlier versions of the Faust legend, but I think it’s a misreading (or more likely a non-reading) of Goethe’s definitive version.

    Faust, at the time when the devil first appears to him, has devoted his entire life to the pursuit of knowledge–in many different scholarly disciplines–and is totally frustrated and in despair about the whole thing. It is precisely the desire to do something other than to pursue abstract knowledge that leads him to engage in his fateful bargain with Mephistopheles.

    If it’s not the pursuit of abstract knowledge, then what ambition drives Faust to sell his soul? C S Lewis suggests that his motivations are entirely practical: he wants “gold and guns and girls.” This is partly true, but is by no means the whole story.

    Certainly, Faust does like girls. Very early in the play, he encounters a young woman who strikes his fancy:

    FAUST: My fair young lady, may I make free
    To offer you my arm and company?
    GRETCHEN: I’m neither fair nor lady, pray
    Can unescorted find my way
    FAUST: God, what a lovely child! I swear
    I’ve never seen the like of her
    She is so dutiful and pure
    Yet not without a pert allure
    Her rosy lip, her cheek aglow
    I never shall forget, I know
    Her glance’s timid downward dart
    Is graven deeply in my heart!
    But how she was so short with me–
    That was consummate ecstasy!


    Immediately following this meeting, Faust demands Mephisto’s magical assistance in the seduction of Gretchen. It’s noteworthy that he insists on this help despite the facts that (a)he brags to the devil that he is perfectly capable of seducing a girl like Gretchen on his own, without any diabolical assistance, and (b)a big part of Gretchen’s appeal is clearly that she seems so difficult to win–a difficulty that will be short-circuited by Mephisto’s help.

    Mephisto, of course, complies with Faust’s demand…this devil honors his contracts…and Faust’s seduction of Gretchen leads directly to the deaths of her mother, her child by Faust, her brother, and to Gretchen’s own execution.

    Diabolical magic also allows Faust to meet Helen of Troy (time and space are quite fluid in this play) whom he marries and impregnates, resulting in the birth of their child Euphorion.

    So, per Lewis, yes, Faust is definitely motivated by the pursuit of women. But this is only a small part of the complex structure of ambition that Goethe has given his protagonist.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Deep Thoughts, Germany, Philosophy, Poetry, Political Philosophy | 6 Comments »

    Dreams From My Taqueria

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th April 2016 (All posts by )

    Friday night bike ride.
    It appeared like a vision,
    Answering prayers.
     
    taqueria

    Posted in Photos, Poetry | 4 Comments »

    Storm

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th October 2015 (All posts by )

    Miami Storm

     
    Order Prints

    HAIKU UPDATE:

    Storm, sunset, sailboats
    Pink shadows, unsettled clouds
    Tranquil lagoon view

    Posted in Photos, Poetry | 5 Comments »

    Shakespeare in American Politics

    Posted by T. Greer on 1st October 2015 (All posts by )

    This post was originally published at The Scholar’s Stage on 30 September 2015. It has been reposted here without alteration.

    I was delighted to receive Marjorie Garber‘s Shakespeare After All in the mail this morning. Garber’s book is a thousand page review of everything Shakespeare ever wrote, with each play claiming its own chapter length analysis. The introduction of Shakespeare After All is a fascinating tour of Shakespeare’s reputation though the centuries, describing how Shakespeare’s poetry has been perceived in the days since his plays were originally performed, which of his works were most popular during various eras, and how their presentation on the page and performance on the stage has change with time. In Shakespeare’s lifetime Pericles was the most popular of his works; in the 19th century, lines from King John and Henry VIII, much neglected today, were the most likely to appear in the quote books and progymnasmata collections so popular then. Emerson bitterly lamented that Harvard, his alma mater, had no lecturer in Shakespearean rhetoric. His lament went unheeded; neither Harvard nor Yale included Shakespeare among their course readings until the 1870s. Yet for 19th century men like Emerson this really was no great loss. The American people of this era were so engrossed with Shakespeare that no one living in America could escape him: evidence of his place in America’s “pop culture in the nineteenth century [can be found in everything from] traveling troupes, Shakespeare speeches as part of vaudeville bills, huge crowds and riots at productions, [to accounts of] audiences shouting lines back at the actors. [1] I am reminded of Tocqueville‘s observation that every settler’s hut in America, no matter how squalid or remote, had a copy of a newspaper, a Bible, and some work of Shakespeare inside it. [2] Tocqueville used this as evidence to buttress his claim that the Americans were more educated and cultivated than any other people on the Earth. He may have been on to something. One cannot read the diaries, letters, and editorials of 19th century America without wondering at their eloquence and erudition. What caused this, if not the many hours they spent as children on their mother’s knee learning to read from the Jacobean English of the King James Bible and the plays of Shakespeare?   


    Garber also discusses the role Shakespearean rhetoric has played in American political culture since the founding. Quotes from Shakespeare have always been ubiquitous in American politics. They were used in the earliest days of the American republic. They are used with equal frequency today. However, the manner in which they are used has shifted  with time. This diversity may seem a small thing, but the different ways Shakespeare’s rhymes have been used through time reveal a great deal about broader and more important shifts in American political culture. This will become apparent as I describe these changes.

    A good place to start is with the Webster-Hayne debate of 1830. Of all American oratory, only the Lincoln-Douglass debates can claim greater fame than the debate Daniel Webster and Robert Hayne held on the antebellum Senate floor. At that time there was a resolution before the Senate calling for all new federal land surveys to be postponed until all of the existing land already surveyed had been sold. This struck the ire of the westerners, who pushed for federal land to be given to new settlers without charge or delay.

     In those days American politics was a sectional affair. Political outcomes often turned on forging an alliance between one region of the country and another to push through policies that might benefit both at the cost of the rest. Hayne, a South Carolina man, saw in this debate a chance to place a wedge between New England, whose delegates opposed free homesteading, and the frontier states of the West. A “coalition” (as he would call it) between Westerners and New Englanders had delivered the presidency to John Quincy Adams just a few years before. That coalition was formed in unusual circumstances, and thus was condemned in Southern circles as a “corrupt bargain” that threatened American liberties. Adam’s side denied these charges with greatest vigor, but all of the vigor in the world could not slow the democratic tide sweeping over American society. Andrew Jackson would ride this tide into the white house. Jackson, champion of mass democracy, reconfigured the landscape of American politics. His new coalition–which united men of the West, South, and the urban centers of the North–would dominate American politics for the next two decades. But Hayne and Webster had their debate only two years into this new era. It wasn’t clear that the revolution had been won; no one knew if Jackson’s coalition would prove transient or permanent. Any chance to drive New England further into the backwaters of national politics must be seized, and Hayne was eager to do the seizing.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Culture, Poetry | 9 Comments »

    New! – Your Friday End-of-Summer Social Justice Haikus

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th September 2015 (All posts by )

    Biking on a bridge
    Sudden drops, nowhere to hide
    Then the sky opens

    —-

    A line of stopped cars
    Because the driver in front
    Is checking his phone

    —-

    Science now gives us
    Fine antibiotic cheese
    It’s Penistilton!

    —-

    Weekend shopping trip
    Munching on Costco samples
    Low-rent living large

    —-

    Slight hesitation:
    Your cursor is telling you
    There’s a bad process

    Posted in Poetry | 5 Comments »

    New! – Your Overcaffeinated Reality-Based Haiku Extravaganza

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st May 2015 (All posts by )

    How to disconnect?
    “Windows can’t stop your volume”
    Just turn the thing off

    —-

    “TSA Pre-Check”
    It’s like receiving a gift
    That leaves your shoes on

    —-

    On TV shows now
    It’s easy to spot the tropes
    From Manosphere blogs

    —-

    Midget urinals,
    Terrible low-flow toilets –
    Can’t we do better?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Poetry | 3 Comments »

    New! – Your Unusually Banal Friday Haikus

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th March 2015 (All posts by )

    I had all these plans
    A brief nap and suddenly
    It’s three hours later

    —-

    Good flying advice:
    Break ground, take off into wind
    And not the converse

    —-

    At the gas station
    We cringe at the dreaded words:
    See clerk for receipt

    Fix-A-Flat didn’t
    Our Costco tire warranty
    Came to the rescue

    —-

    Feel free to add your contributions in the comments.

    Posted in Poetry | 21 Comments »

    A Christmas-appropriate Poem from Rudyard Kipling

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd December 2014 (All posts by )

    (may not seem like a Christmas-appropriate post based on the first 2 stanzas, but read on…)

    “Gold is for the mistress — silver for the maid —
    Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade.”

    “Good!” said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
    “But Iron — Cold Iron — is master of them all.”

    So he made rebellion ‘gainst the King his liege,
    Camped before his citadel and summoned it to siege.
    “Nay!” said the cannoneer on the castle wall,
    “But Iron — Cold Iron — shall be master of you all!”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Christianity, Holidays, Poetry | 12 Comments »

    New! – Your Chicagoboyz Annual Labor Day Haiku Sale

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st September 2014 (All posts by )

    Time to say the words
    That all women yearn to hear:
    Make me a sandwich

    —-

    Wasted three-fifty
    On crummy Chinese loofa
    Caveat emptor

    —-

    New taste sensation!
    Herring poached in Mountain Dew
    Hey, where you going?

    —-

    Learned something today
    Schools don’t teach cursive writing
    Man do I feel old

    —-

    My dog has no nose
    Where have we heard this before?
    Conspiracy talk

    —-

    Waiting-room TV
    Like Harrison Bergeron
    Can’t think for the noise

    —-

    The dreaded message:
    “Windows can’t stop your device”
    Time to pull the plug

    —-

    (Feel free to add your contributions in the comments.)

    Posted in Poetry | 4 Comments »

    New! – Your Bi-Monthly Haiku of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th August 2014 (All posts by )

     
    Cramer’s hot stock pick
    Getting blasted this morning
    Fools and their money

    —-

    The Prius driver
    Accelerating slowly
    Watching mileage gauge

    —-

    Amazon Prime trial
    Expires in a couple days
    Must buy lots of stuff

    —-

    Internet hygiene:
    Pruning the Israel haters
    From your Twitter feed
     
     
     
     
     
     
    (Feel free to make your own contribution in the comments.)

    Posted in Poetry | 7 Comments »

    “How a Hamas Anthem Became a Hit in Israel”

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th August 2014 (All posts by )

    Yoram Hazony:

    A few days ago, I called a young relative who is serving in the Israeli air force and asked him: “Do you know that song—“Kum, Aseh Piguim”?
     
    Without missing a beat, he said: “You mean that song that’s a hit all over Israel? The song that all my friends are singing all the time?”
     
    “Yeah,” I said. “That song. I wanted to know if you can explain to me why they are singing it?”
     
    What I actually meant to ask was: Can you please explain to me why all the young people in Israel are singing a song entitled “Up, Do Terror Attacks”—a song recorded and released by Hamas in Gaza, which repeatedly calls for killing or expelling all the Jews from of Israel? But I didn’t have to say all that. He knew why I was asking.
     
    “It’s because it makes us feel good,” he replied.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Current Events, Israel, Middle East, Poetry, Rhetoric, Terrorism, Video, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th July 2014 (All posts by )

    For this Fourth of July,  Cassandra has an excellent post: Independence in an Age of Cynicism.  I recommend the entire post and all the links; read especially the third linked essay, which Cass wrote in 2008:  Why I Am Patriotic: a Love Letter to America.

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Holidays, Poetry, Political Philosophy, USA | 3 Comments »

    New! – Your Brave New World Haikus

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd May 2014 (All posts by )

    Local elections
    Lots of bad referenda
    Of course they all pass

    —-

    Ammo at Walmart
    Queueing up, three box limit
    Things were better once

    —-

    NSA listens
    Who the hell knows what they’ve got
    We’re all wondering

    —-

    Your student loan debt
    Makes you unmarriageable
    Might as well be gay

    Posted in Poetry, That's NOT Funny | 6 Comments »

    How Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama & Crew Want You to Live Your Life…

    Posted by David Foster on 21st February 2014 (All posts by )

    …as prefigured in a poem by W H Auden:

    He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
    One against whom there was no official complaint,
    And all the reports of his conduct agree
    That, in the modern sense of the old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
    For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
    Except for the war till the day he retired
    He worked in a factory and never got fired,
    But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
    Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
    For his union reports that he paid his dues,
    (Our report of his union shows it was sound)
    And our Social Psychology workers found
    That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
    The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day,
    And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
    Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
    And his Health-card shows that he was once in hospital but left it cured.
    Both Producers Research and High–Grade Living declare
    He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
    And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
    A gramophone, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
    Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
    That he held the proper opinions for the time of the year;
    When there was peace he was for peace; when there was war he went.
    He was married and added five children to the population,
    which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation,
    And our teachers report he never interfered with their education.
    Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
    Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard. 

     The Unknown Citizen, W H Auden, 1940

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 2 Comments »

    A Truly Diabolical Monetary Policy (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 16th December 2013 (All posts by )

    (The leadership transition at the Fed inspires me to rerun this post, which initially appeared in December 2008)

    In Goethe’s Faust, Mephistopheles desires the introduction of paper money. At his instigation, courtiers approach the emperor at a masked ball and get him to sign the following document:

    To all it may Concern upon Our Earth
    This paper is a thousand guilders worth
    There lies, sure warrant of it and full measure
    Beneath Our earth a wealth of buried treasure
    As for this wealth, the means are now in train
    To raise it and redeem the scrip again

    In the bright sunlight of morning, the now-sober emperor observes hundreds of pieces of paper, each bearing his signature and claiming to be equivalent in value to gold, and demands to know what is being done to apprehend the counterfeiters.

    Treasurer: Recall–Your own self signed it at the time,
    Only last night. You stood in Great Pan’s mask
    And with the Chancellor we approach to ask:
    “Allow yourself high festive joy and nourish
    The common weal with but a pen’s brief flourish.”
    You signed: that night by men of a thousand arts
    The thing was multiplied a thousand parts
    So that like blessing should all accrue
    We stamped up all the lower series too
    Tens, Thirties, Fifties, Hundreds did we edit
    The good it did folk, you would hardly credit.
    Your city, else half molded in stagnation
    Now teems revived in prosperous elation!
    Although your name has long been widely blessed
    It’s not been spelt with such fond interest
    The alphabet has now been proved redundanct
    In this sign everyone finds grace abundant

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Poetry | 2 Comments »

    New! – Your Midweek Apropos of Nothing Haikus

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th August 2013 (All posts by )

    Stupid green features
    Mindlessly pause computer
    Just when you need it

    —-

    Had a profound thought
    But forgot to write it down
    Now it’s gone, dammit

    —-

    They’re modern women
    And yet they still expect you
    To pick up the check

    —-

    Feeling like a cork
    Cast adrift on life’s ocean
    Age does that to you

    —-

    It’s an absurd world
    Your hovercraft full of eels
    My dog with no nose

    Posted in Humor, Poetry | 8 Comments »

    New! – Your Ironic Middle-Aged Haikus of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st July 2013 (All posts by )

    Returned rental car
    They tried to charge extra hours
    Not what they quoted

    —-

    Your doctor’s office
    Miscoded the procedure
    Insurance won’t pay

    —-

    Modern vampire tales
    Even square beta guys know
    It’s porn for teen girls

    —-

    Once upon a time
    We laughed at denture glue ads
    Sadly, no longer

    Posted in Humor, Poetry | 12 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th July 2013 (All posts by )

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People. On July 7, 1941–five months before Pearl Harbor–this poem was read over nationwide radio. The title I’ve previously used for these posts is It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Holidays, Poetry, Political Philosophy, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »