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April 04, 2005


I like the poem, but somehow the title took me back to those long-ago analogies on some standardized test (LSAT?).

Poetry: Justice

(a) Shepherd: Slaughterhouse
(b) Beauty: Truth
(c) War and Peace: Congressional Record
(d) Robert Frost: William Rehnquist

I like this poem very much. Thanks for posting it.

so -cial -ism - is - best
Zim - bab -we - starves - the - peo -ple
soa - cial - just - ice - rules

Anacharsis Cloots

Citizens of the jury, enter!
Sit down. Take off your boots.
I think you have known me better
As Anacharsis Cloots.
You pale… No, you don't pale.
What, no one? Ah, Posterity,
What crimes I've committed in your name!
What crimes! And you've forgiven me?
Ah so! Not even some anecdotes?
But out there, the Republic's flag still floats,
Well floated, floater! next world, I raise goats…
To have bawled through life's long witenagemots,
To have ground the axes for a hundred throats,
To have traded friends for jobs, and trust for votes-
This is to die in life, and live in footnotes.

Randall Jarrell

I'm extraordinarily fond of the line 'next world, I raise goats...'

Thanks for these threads, Hilzoy.

"Cleared" by Rudyard Kipling

(In Memory of a Commission)

Help for a patriot distressed, a spotless spirit hurt,
Help for an honourable clan sore trampled in the dirt!
From Queenstown Bay to Donegal, O listen to my song,
The honourable gentlemen have suffered grievous wrong.

Their noble names were mentioned -- O the burning black disgrace! --
By a brutal Saxon paper in an Irish shooting-case;
They sat upon it for a year, then steeled their heart to brave it,
And "coruscating innocence" the learned Judges gave it.

Bear witness, Heaven, of that grim crime beneath the surgeon's knife,
The honourable gentlemen deplored the loss of life!
Bear witness of those chanting choirs that burk and shirk and snigger,
No man laid hand upon the knife or finger to the trigger!

Cleared in the face of all mankind beneath the winking skies,
Like phoenixes from Phoenix Park (and what lay there) they rise!
Go shout it to the emerald seas -- give word to Erin now,
Her honourable gentlemen are cleared -- and this is how: --

They only paid the Moonlighter his cattle-hocking price,
They only helped the murderer with counsel's best advice,
But -- sure it keeps their honour white -- the learned Court believes
They never gave a piece of plate to murderers and thieves.

They never told the ramping crowd to card a woman's hide,
They never marked a man for death -- what fault of theirs he died? --
They only said "intimidate", and talked and went away --
By God, the boys that did the work were braver men than they!

Their sin it was that fed the fire -- small blame to them that heard --
The "bhoys" get drunk on rhetoric, and madden at a word --
They knew whom they were talking at, if they were Irish too,
The gentlemen that lied in Court, they knew, and well they knew.

They only took the Judas-gold from Fenians out of jail,
They only fawned for dollars on the blood-dyed Clanna-Gael.
If black is black or white is white, in black and white it's down,
They're only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown.

"Cleared", honourable gentlemen! Be thankful it's no more: --
The widow's curse is on your house, the dead are at your door.
On you the shame of open shame, on you from North to South
The hand of every honest man flat-heeled across your mouth.

"Less black than we were painted"? -- Faith, no word of black was said;
The lightest touch was human blood, and that, you know, runs red.
It's sticking to your fist to-day for all your sneer and scoff,
And by the Judge's well-weighed word you cannot wipe it off.

Hold up those hands of innocence -- go, scare your sheep together,
The blundering, tripping tups that bleat behind the old bell-wether;
And if they snuff the taint and break to find another pen,
Tell them it's tar that glistens so, and daub them yours again!

"The charge is old"? -- As old as Cain -- as fresh as yesterday;
Old as the Ten Commandments -- have ye talked those laws away?
If words are words, or death is death, or powder sends the ball,
You spoke the words that sped the shot -- the curse be on you all.

"Our friends believe"? -- Of course they do -- as sheltered women may;
But have they seen the shrieking soul ripped from the quivering clay?
They! -- If their own front door is shut, they'll swear the whole world's warm;
What do they know of dread of death or hanging fear of harm?

The secret half a county keeps, the whisper in the lane,
The shriek that tells the shot went home behind the broken pane,
The dry blood crisping in the sun that scares the honest bees,
And shows the "bhoys" have heard your talk -- what do they know of these?

But you -- you know -- ay, ten times more; the secrets of the dead,
Black terror on the country-side by word and whisper bred,
The mangled stallion's scream at night, the tail-cropped heifer's low.
Who set the whisper going first? You know, and well you know!

My soul! I'd sooner lie in jail for murder plain and straight,
Pure crime I'd done with my own hand for money, lust, or hate,
Than take a seat in Parliament by fellow-felons cheered,
While one of those "not provens" proved me cleared as you are cleared.

Cleared -- you that "lost" the League accounts -- go, guard our honour still,
Go, help to make our country's laws that broke God's law at will --
One hand stuck out behind the back, to signal "strike again";
The other on your dress-shirt-front to show your heart is clane.

If black is black or white is white, in black and white it's down,
You're only traitors to the Queen and rebels to the Crown.
If print is print or words are words, the learned Court perpends: --
We are not ruled by murderers, but only -- by their friends.

Base Details

IF I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.

   -- Siegfried Sassoon

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air --
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath --
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows 'twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear . . .
But I've a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Alan Seeger

And thanks to Jes for posting one of Kipling's most vitriolic poems. I've often reckoned that, if you look only at his post-John work, he ranks as one of the great war poets. There are a lot of examples, but try Epitaph for a Statesman (or any of his war epitaphs), or A Death Bed. (Note: I always assumed that this poem was referring to the Kaiser, but he was still alive in 1918; could it be Franz Josef I? Anyone)

“THIS is the State above the Law.
    The State exists for the State alone.”
[This is a gland at the back of the jaw,
    And an answering lump by the collar-bone.]

Some die shouting in gas or fire;
    Some die silent, by shell and shot.
Some die desperate, caught on the wire;
    Some die suddenly. This will not.

“Regis suprema voluntas Lex”
    [It will follow the regular course of—throats.]
Some die pinned by the broken decks,
    Some die sobbing between the boats.

Some die eloquent, pressed to death
    By the sliding trench as their friends can hear.
Some die wholly in half a breath.
    Some—give trouble for half a year.

“There is neither Evil nor Good in life
    Except as the needs of the State ordain.”
[Since it is rather too late for the knife,
    All we can do is to mask the pain.]

Some die saintly in faith and hope—
    One died thus in a prison-yard—
Some die broken by rape or the rope;
    Some die easily. This dies hard.

“I will dash to pieces who bar my way.
    Woe to the traitor! Woe to the weak!”
[Let him write what he wishes to say.
    It tires him out if he tries to speak.]

Some die quietly. Some abound
    In loud self-pity. Others spread
Bad morale through the cots around  .  .  .
    This is a type that is better dead.

“The war was forced on me by my foes.
    All that I sought was the right to live.”
[Don’t be afraid of a triple dose;
    The pain will neutralize half we give.

Here are the needles. See that he dies
    While the effects of the drug endure.  .  .  .
What is the question he asks with his eyes?—
    Yes, A11-Highest, to God, be sure.]

ajay: (Note: I always assumed that this poem was referring to the Kaiser, but he was still alive in 1918; could it be Franz Josef I? Anyone)

I can answer that question! *waves hand* In the Angus Wilson biography, Wilson says that this poem (which he hates) was written when there were rumors that the Kaiser had throat cancer - Kipling appears to have hoped the rumors were true, and wrote the poem to celebrate.

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