Interlude: Two Thousand and Thirteen (with apologies to W.B.Yeats)
"Obama's Decision to Seek Approval First Lengthens Suspense of Attack"-- New York Times, 29 August/1 September 2013
I. MANY ingenious lovely things are gone That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude, protected from the circle of the moon That pitches common things about. There stood Amid the ornamental bronze and stone An ancient image made of olive wood -- And gone are Phidias' famous ivories And all the golden grasshoppers and bees. We too had many pretty toys when young: A law indifferent to blame or praise, To bribe or threat; habits that made old wrong Melt down, as it were wax in the sun's rays; Public opinion ripening for so long We thought it would outlive all future days. O what fine thought we had because we thought That the worst rogues and rascals had died out. All teeth were drawn, all ancient tricks unlearned, And a great army but a showy thing; What matter that no cannon had been turned Into a ploughshare? Parliament and king Thought that unless a little powder burned The trumpeters might burst with trumpeting And yet it lack all glory; and perchance The guardsmen's drowsy chargers would not prance. Now days are dragon-ridden, the nightmare Rides upon sleep: a drunken soldiery Can leave the mother, murdered at her door, To crawl in her own blood, and go scot-free; The night can sweat with terror as before We pieced our thoughts into philosophy, And planned to bring the world under a rule, Who are but weasels fighting in a hole. He who can read the signs nor sink unmanned Into the half-deceit of some intoxicant From shallow wits; who knows no work can stand, Whether health, wealth or peace of mind were spent On master-work of intellect or hand, No honour leave its mighty monument, Has but one comfort left: all triumph would But break upon his ghostly solitude. But is there any comfort to be found? Man is in love and loves what vanishes, What more is there to say? That country round None dared admit, if Such a thought were his, Incendiary or bigot could be found To burn that stump on the Acropolis, Or break in bits the famous ivories Or traffic in the grasshoppers or bees. II. When Loie Fuller's Chinese dancers enwound A shining web, a floating ribbon of cloth, It seemed that a dragon of air Had fallen among dancers, had whirled them round Or hurried them off on its own furious path; So the platonic Year Whirls out new right and wrong, Whirls in the old instead; All men are dancers and their tread Goes to the barbarous clangour of a gong. III Some moralist or mythological poet Compares the solitary soul to a swan; I am satisfied with that, Satisfied if a troubled mirror show it, Before that brief gleam of its life be gone, An image of its state; The wings half spread for flight, The breast thrust out in pride Whether to play, or to ride Those winds that clamour of approaching night. A man in his own secret meditation Is lost amid the labyrinth that he has made In art or politics; Some Platonist affirms that in the station Where we should cast off body and trade The ancient habit sticks, And that if our works could But vanish with our breath That were a lucky death, For triumph can but mar our solitude. The swan has leaped into the desolate heaven: That image can bring wildness, bring a rage To end all things, to end What my laborious life imagined, even The half-imagined, the half-written page; O but we dreamed to mend Whatever mischief seemed To afflict mankind, but now That winds of winter blow Learn that we were crack-pated when we dreamed. IV. We, who seven years ago Talked of honour and of truth, Shriek with pleasure if we show The weasel's twist, the weasel's tooth. V. Come let us mock at the great That had such burdens on the mind And toiled so hard and late To leave some monument behind, Nor thought of the levelling wind. Come let us mock at the wise; With all those calendars whereon They fixed old aching eyes, They never saw how seasons run, And now but gape at the sun. Come let us mock at the good That fancied goodness might be gay, And sick of solitude Might proclaim a holiday: Wind shrieked -- and where are they? Mock mockers after that That would not lift a hand maybe To help good, wise or great To bar that foul storm out, for we Traffic in mockery. VI. Violence upon the roads: violence of horses; Some few have handsome riders, are garlanded On delicate sensitive ear or tossing mane, But wearied running round and round in their courses All break and vanish, and evil gathers head: Herodias' daughters have returned again, A sudden blast of dusty wind and after Thunder of feet, tumult of images, Their purpose in the labyrinth of the wind; And should some crazy hand dare touch a daughter All turn with amorous cries, or angry cries, According to the wind, for all are blind. But now wind drops, dust settles; thereupon There lurches past, his great eyes without thought Under the shadow of stupid straw-pale locks, That insolent fiend Robert Artisson To whom the love-lorn Lady Kyteler brought Bronzed peacock feathers, red combs of her cocks.