Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat (1100?)
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
10th GRADE POETRY
Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” I would read this during a unit on poetry techniques. Ironically, the poem has traditionally been taught as an argument on how important decisions are in our lives. The speaker looks back on his life and admits how a single decision has made all the difference in his life. Read Ivor Winters’ essay on the poem. He corroborates my claim that the speaker never makes a decision yet throughout the poem agonizes over how important making just the right decision is. The speaker equivocates throughout. I made this argument to a high-school English teacher in Los Angeles once and she told me that “No, he does make a choice. We don’t know what that choice is except that we know that it was important.” So we’re supposed to swoon at profound nothingness?
What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers
When you could be safe at home free from all dangers?
A recruiting sergeant came our way
To an Inn nearby at the close of day
He said young Johnny you’re a fine young man
Would you like to march along behind a military band,
With a scarlet coat and a big cocked hat,
And a musket at your shoulder,
The shilling he took and he kissed the book,
Oh poor Johnny what will happen to ya?
The recruiting sergeant marched away
From the Inn nearby at the break of day,
Johnny went too with half a ring
He was off to be a soldier he’d be fighting for the King
In a far off war in a far off land
To face a foreign soldier,
But how will you fare when there’s lead in the air,
-Oh poor Johnny what’ll happen to ya?
What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers
When you could be safe at home free from all dangers?
The sun shone hot on a barren land
As a thin red line took a military stand,
There was sling shot, chain shot, grape shot too,
Swords and bayonets thrusting through,
Poor Johnny fell but the day was won
And the King is grateful to you
But your soldiering’s done and they’re sending you home,
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to ya?
They said he was a hero and not to grieve
Over two wooden pegs and empty sleeves,
They carried him home and set him down
With a military pension and a medal from the crown.
You haven’t an arm and you haven’t a leg,
The enemy nearly slew you,
You’ll have to go out on the streets to beg,
Oh poor Johnny what have they done to ya?
What makes you go abroad fighting for strangers
When you could be safe at home free from all dangers?
The name “Fireside Poets” is derived from that popularity: their general adherence to poetic convention (standard forms, regular meter, and rhymed stanzas) made their body of work particularly suitable for memorization and recitation in school also at home, where it was a source of entertainment for families gathered around the fire. The poets’ primary subjects were the domestic life, mythology, and politics of the United States, in which several of the poets were directly involved. The Fireside Poets did not write for the sake of other poets: they wrote for the common people. They meant to have their stories told for families. Mark Twain gave an infamous after-dinner speech in which he satirized the poets as uncouth drunkards.
CIVIL WAR POETRY (1861-1865)
Here is a brief review of “Thanatopsis.”
“Thanatopsis” views death as part of the return to nature, claiming death as one phase of life rather than the end to life. Bryant states, “Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,” (Bryant). This line says that as a person has lived upon the Earth, the Earth will now live upon him. The person shall live on but in another form. “Surrendering up Thine individual being, shalt thou go To mix forever with the elements,” (Bryant) states that one’s ownership is self will be lost to the cosmos
“Thanatopsis” reminds the reader that he will not go to die alone. In death’s eyes, we are all equal. And this is supposed to be a comfort to the living? “and what if thou withdraw In silence from the living, and no friend Take note of thy departure? All that breathe will share thy destiny.” This, to me, is insufficient to console the brilliance and eccentricities of the individual.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882.
Historical timeline for Longfellow and his works.
Evangeline, 1849. This epic poem describes the deportation of the Acadians and their trek to Louisiana. Peter Viney explains that The Band’s song Evangeline of course also refers to “Evangeline from the Maritimes”. The facts are stated in a “Prefatory Note” (sic) by Longfellow, and these are as much history as Robertson would have needed:
In the year 1713, Acadia, or as it now named, Nova Scotia, was ceded to Great Britain by the French. The wishes of the inhabitants seem to have been little consulted in the change, and they with great difficulty were induced to take oathes of allegiance to the British government. Some time after this, war having again broken out between the British and French in Canada, the Acadians were accused of having assisted the French, from whom they were descended and connected by many ties of friendship, with provisions and ammunition at the siege of Beau Séjour. Whether the accusation was founded on fact or not, has not been satisfactorily ascertained: the result however was most disastrous for the primitive, simple-minded Acadians . The British government ordered them to be removed from their homes and dispersed throughout the other colonies, at a distance from their much-loved land. This resolution was not communicated to the inhabitants till measures had been matured to carry it into immediate effect: when the British governor of the colony; having issued a summons calling the whole people to a meeting, informed them that their lands, tenements and cattle of all kinds were forfeited to the British crown, that he had orders to remove them in vessels to distant colonies, and that they must remain in custody until their embarkation. 
Like to a gypsy camp, or a leaguer after a battle
All escape cut off by sea, and the sentinels near them
Lay encamped for the night the houseless Acadian farmers
… and a few lines later:
But on the shores meanwhile, the evening fires had been kindled
Built of the drift-wood thrown on the sands from wrecks in the tempest
And the departing Acadians watch their village burn from the sea. It’s worth a lengthier quote:
Many a weary year had passed since the burning of Grand-Pré
When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed
Bearing a nation, with all its household goods, into exile
Exile without an end, and without an example in story
Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed
Scattered were they, like flakes of snow, when the wind from the north-east
Strikes aslant through the fogs that darken the banks of Newfoundland
Friendless, homeless, they wandered from city to city
From the cold lakes of the north to the sultry Southern savannas …
Longfellow, whatever his status in poetic fashion, has a rhythm and musicality that has inspired composers. Mike Oldfield once ventured an interesting recording of Hiawatha. Robertson’s friend Neil Diamond also wrote a song called Longfellow Serenade in 1974. 
The Bells of Christmas Day, 1863
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then peeled the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” This is typical liberal drek. What a terrible idea. Reportedly said by Holmes in a speech in 1904. Alternately phrased as “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society, including the chance to ensure”, Compania General De Tabacos De Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue, 275 U.S. 87, 100, dissenting; opinion (21 November 1927). The first variation is quoted by the IRS above the entrance to their headquarters at 1111 Constitution Avenue.
Walt Whitman, 1819-1892.
I Hear America Singing, 1860.
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat,
the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning,
or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
The errors in the Address.
And what it really means.
51,000 died at the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln’s address justified and consecrated the slaughtered.
Julia Ward Howe, 1819-1910
Julia Ward Howe, author of the murderous “Battle Hymn of the Republic“—written to glorify Lincoln’s war—had the honesty and decency to reject war after she saw its results. In 1870, she advocated the institution of a Mother’s Day. Here is her radical and moving proclamation:
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts,
Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy, and patience.
We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of the devastated Earth, a voice goes up with our own.
It says: “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
The Man He Killed, 1902, Thomas Hardy
Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!
But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.
I shot him dead because—
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although
He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like—just as I—
Was out of work—had sold his traps—
No other reason why.
Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat, if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.
WWI POETRY, 1914-1918
Picasso’s 1937 Guernica is always offered up as the painting to indict the merchants of death against slaughter, brutality, and atrocities of the 20th century. But consider Otto Dix’s paintings, 1891-1969, as the strongest indictment against the horrors of WWI. Here is a Google collection of Dix’s work.
Alan Seeger, 1888-1916.
I Have a Rendezvous with Death, 1916
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.
Dulce Et Decorum Est, 1920
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
“I Didn’t Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier” by Morton Harvey, 1915
Aftermath, March 1919
Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked a while at the crossing of city ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same—and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz—
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench—
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack—
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads—those ashen-gray
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the slain of the war that you’ll never forget!
Thursday, November 13, 2014
from the Bionic Mosquito . . .
Siegfried Sassoon, a veteran of the war, writes in “Blighters” that he:
…would like to see them crushed to death by a tank in one of their silly patriotic music halls, . . .
and in “Fight to the Finish” he enacts a similar fantasy. The war over, the army is marching through London in a Victory Parade, cheered by the “Yellow-Pressmen” along the way.
Here is the poem:
The boys came back. Bands played and flags were flying,
And Yellow-Pressmen thronged the sunlit street
To cheer the soldiers who’d refrained from dying.
And hear the music of returning feet.
‘Of all the thrills and ardours War has brought,
This moment is the finest’ (So they thought.)
Snapping their bayonets on to charge the mob,
Grim Fusiliers broke ranks with glint of steel,
At last the boys had found a cushy job.
I heard the Yellow-Pressmen grunt and squeal;
And with my trusty bombers turned and went
To clear those Junkers out of Parliament.
. . .
Suddenly the soldiers fix bayonets and turn on the crowd:
“At last the boys found a cushy job.”
Sassoon did not neglect the politicians:
I heard the Yellow-Pressmen grunt and squeal:
And with my trusty bombers turned and went
To clear those Junkers out of Parliament.
Edwin Arlington Robinson, 1869-1935
Mending Wall, 1914
By Robert Frost
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
The Road Not Taken, 1916
By Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
“The Road Not Taken” has often been used at high-school commencement ceremonies to alert seniors about important decisions that they will make on their path forward into adulthood. Despite its popularity, it may be the wrong poem to alert kids to portentousness of any single decision, for the poem, according to Yvor Winters, is about a guy who makes no decision at all. Winters’ essay is worth a read. I have made the case several times that the speaker never makes a decision but suffers crippling doubt and hesitation that effectively renders his decision meaningless if non-existent. Winters’ essay is worth a read.
Wallace Stevens, 1879-1955.
“Sunday Morning,” 1915. And some evaluations of the poem from Illinois University.
Find more of Stevens’ poems and reviews here.
A bit of trivia surrounding Wallace Stevens. Wikipedia explains that “Weinman never disclosed the name of the model for the obverse, and no person ever claimed to have been her. The winged Liberty is widely believed, however, to have been based on a 1913 bust Weinman sculpted of Elsie Stevens, wife of Wallace Stevens. A lawyer and insurance executive, Wallace Stevens later became famous as a poet; Wallace and Elsie Stevens rented an apartment from Weinman from 1909 to 1916. In a draft of his unpublished autobiography, Woolley wrote that Weinman refused to name the model, but told him it was the wife of a lawyer who lived above his Manhattan apartment. (Woolley, in a later version, omitted the location, saying only that Weinman said it was the wife of a lawyer friend.) Woolley recorded that he was told that the model wore the top of an old pair of stockings to simulate the cap. In 1966, Holly Stevens, Wallace and Elsie’s daughter, noted in her edition of her father’s letters that Elsie had been the model for Weinman’s dime and half dollar.”
1920-1965, Donald Davidson. I post this passage on M.E. Bradford because he studied under Davidson.
Mel came from Oklahoma and Texas cattle families that had migrated from Tennessee at an early period. He was a prodigy and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a major in philosophy. [M.E. Bradford] then came to Vanderbilt to study literature under Donald Davidson, the most faithful of the Agrarians. He was also influenced by Andrew Lytle and by the work of Frank Owsley. He was drawn to Agrarianism, as he made clear, not as an attractive theory, but because it expressed what he knew in his own life and that of his forebears and kinsfolk to be true. The South and its way of life was not an intellectual construct. It was an inheritance, a patrimony (patrimony is a word he used often) of priceless value—because it embodied much of what was most valuable in the West, but also because it was our inheritance and good people honor their inheritance.
Donald Davidson is important for the following reasons cited by Wikipedia.
Davidson was an English professor at Vanderbilt University from 1920 to 1965.While at Vanderbilt, Davidson became associated with the Fugitives, who met to read and criticize each other’s verse. Later, they founded a review of the same name, which launched the literary careers of the poets and critics John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate and Robert Penn Warren, the poet Laura Riding, and the poet and psychiatrist Merrill Moore. He enjoyed a national reputation as a poet, in part due to the inclusion of his dramatic monologue, “Lee in the Mountains”, in early editions of the influential college literature textbook Understanding Poetry. Its editors were his former students Warren and Cleanth Brooks. From 1923 to 1930, Davidson reviewed books and edited the Nashville Tennessean book page, where he assessed more than 370 books.
SPANISH CIVIL WAR, 1936-1939
William Carlos Williams, 1883-1963
John Dos Passos, 1886-1970.
from John Dos Passos, The Grand Design (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1949), pp. 416–18.
At home, we organized blood banks and civilian defense and imitated the rest of the world by setting up concentration camps (only we called them relocation centers) and stuffing into them American citizens of Japanese ancestry (Pearl Harbor the date that will live in infamy) without the benefit of habeas corpus….
The President of the United States talked the sincere democrat and so did the members of Congress. In the Administration, there were devout believers in civil liberty. “Now we’re busy fighting a war; we’ll deploy all four freedoms later on,” they said…
War is a time of Caesars.
The President of the United States was a man of great personal courage and supreme confidence in his powers of persuasion. He never spared himself a moment, flew to Brazil and Casablanca, Cairo to negotiate at the level of the leaders; at Teheran, the triumvirate without asking anybody’s leave got to meddling with history; without consulting their constituents, revamped geography, divided up the bloody globe and left the freedoms out.
And the American People were supposed to say thank you for the century of the Common Man turned over for relocation behind barbed wire so help him God.
We learned. There were things we learned to do but we have not learned, in spite of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence and the great debates at Richmond and Philadelphia, how to put power over the lives of men into the hands of one man and to make him use it wisely.
Ezra Pound, 1885-1972
Thomas Stearns (T.S.) Eliot, 1888-1965.
1915, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This site has a decent review of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Here are some interesting critiques on Eliot.
NEW DEAL SAGAS
1929, “Black Tuesday” refers to the October 29, 1929 stock market crash. Black Monday refers to the 1987 stock market crash, so please distinguish them. “Black Tuesday refers to the Wall Street collapse. The day when the American stock market–which had been roaring steadily upward for almost a decade collapsed. The Great Depression followed it. Murray Rothbard says it best:
The Great Depression was a failure not of capitalism but of the hyperactive state.
I cite that passage from Rothbard because capitalism is always blamed for all of society’s ills. This is done to keep out potential competitors from the marketplace. Much of the blame for the Great Depression has to be put on Herbert Hoover, 1929-1933. Robert Higgs explains
Between 1929 and 1933 the great economic contraction left millions of Americans destitute. State and local governments, straining to provide unprecedented amounts of relief while their own revenues were shrinking, called on the federal government for help. President Herbert Hoover opposed federal involvement in relief efforts, but he reluctantly signed the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932, which transferred federal funds to the states for relief of the unemployed (under the fiction that the transfers were loans).
1932, FDR’s Pittsburgh Speech and how it was a piece of masterful deception. The date of FDR’s inaugural address in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was March 4, 1933. It’s the “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” speech. That speech is here. It’s putrid. If you hate lying, then you’ll also find his speech putrid. Gary North writes
Today marks the 80th anniversary of the most deceptive speech in American political history. Nothing else comes close. Of all the flip-flops in American political history, this was the premier flip. The flop was his inaugural address on March 4, 1933.
The setting was an industrial city where unemployment was astronomical. The steel town of the world was effectively shuttered. There was little demand for American steel in 1932. Industrial production had collapsed.
1933-1934, New Deal One.
If one can penetrate the fog of war and of propaganda, there is no way that anyone can come down on the side of FDR. Let’s start with some “Tough Questions for Defenders of the New Deal,” and by extension, FDR himself.
The Roosevelt Myth by John T. Flynn is the best book ever written on the New Deal, the drive to war, and the terrible consequences of the FDR presidency.
Then there is this tidbit from the IBD article
For instance, Jack Magid, a New Jersey tailor, was jailed for pressing a suit for 35 cents when the NRA had fixed the price at 40 cents.
The NRA was explicitly modeled on what Benito Mussolini had done in Italy. Flynn didn’t endear himself to many by daring to call FDR’s policies fascism.
1934, The Dust Bowl. The first wave. Then again in 1936, and 1939-1940. On the cause of the Dust Bowl, there are a few takes. One was the easy credit released by the Federal Reserve Bank, creating an army of farmers, many of whom as beginners knew little soil or farming and inevitably ended up tearing up the land.
On November 11, 1933, a very strong dust storm stripped topsoil from desiccated South Dakota farmlands in just one of a series of severe dust storms that year. Beginning on May 9, 1934, a strong, two-day dust storm removed massive amounts of Great Plains topsoil in one of the worst such storms of the Dust Bowl.
1935-1938, New Deal Two.
In America: A Narrative History, we get all the details of Watergate and of Nixon’s abuse of power (as we should), but not a word about FDR as the pioneer of such activity. When the Paulist radio station of poor Fr. James Gillis in Chicago criticized FDR’ s court-packing scheme, the FCC took its license away. As early as 1935, FDR requested that the FBI initiate a series of investigations into a variety of right-wing organizations, and later in the decade secretly sought proof (which, of course, never came) that prominent members of the America First Committee were receiving Nazi money. America Firsters were routinely smeared as Nazis and traitors. Our authors provide us with plenty of one-sided coverage of Joe McCarthy, but nothing about any of this.
Historians have spread the myth that FDR “spent the country out of the Depression,” but the overriding objective of New Deal spending was to strategically buy votes to help assure FDR’s reelection. A 1938 “Official Report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Campaign Expenditures” found, for example, that Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers in Kentucky and Pennsylvania were required, as a condition of employment, to vote for the senior senator from Kentucky, an FDR supporter. Republicans in those states were instructed to change their party affiliation if they wanted to keep their jobs, and all WPA employees were told to donate 2 percent of their wages to the Roosevelt campaign in order to remain employed.
In Pennsylvania, “employment cards” were issued by the Roosevelt administration that entitled card holders to “two to four weeks of employment around election time,” while in Illinois WPA jobs consisted of “canvassing” for Democratic votes shortly before election time, after which the workers were laid off.
More recently, economists William Shughart and Jim Couch (The Political Economy of the New Deal) noted that even though the South was most adversely affected by the Depression, the lion’s share of New Deal subsidies went to western states, where FDR’s support was weakest. The average resident of a western state received 60 percent more subsidies than did the average southerner.
Check out this little ditty by Louis Satchmo Armstrong with the Mills Brother, making fun of the lack of incentive inherent in the Works Progress Administration, the largest of the New Deal’s make-work programs, employing millions of men at taxpayer’s expense.
Now wake up, boys, get out on the rock
It ain’t daybreak, but it’s four o’clock
Oh, no, no, no, Pops, you know that ain’t the play
What you talkin’ ’bout? It’s the W.P.A.
Sleep while you work, while you rest, while you play
Lean on your shovel to pass the time away
T’ain’t what you do; you can’t die for your pay
Now don’t be a fool; working hard is passe
You’ll stand from five to six hours a day
Sit down and joke while you smoke; it’s okay
I’m so tired, I don’t know what to do
Can’t get fired, so I’ll take my rest until my work is through
Don’t mind the boss if he’s cross when you’re gay
He’ll get a pink slip next month anyway
Three little letters that make life okay
1936, The Dust Bowl refers to the agricultural regions of the neighboring states that experienced severe drought. 1936 was the second wave of drought. Gary North likes Ken Burns’ documentary. See the source material for Burns film.
1936, Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone With the Wind, is published. It’s stupid to ban books. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. If you find it offensive, walk on by. Kelleigh Nelson answers the call from the war party Left to ban Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, published in 1936. The movie was released in 1939. Interesting history on the novel by Donald W. Miller, and then Gail Jarvis does an excellent job comparing Gone with the Wind with Harper Lee’s, 1960 protest novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
1936-1939, SPANISH CIVIL WAR
1937, Picasso’s Guernica is always offered up as the painting to defer to as an indictment against slaughter, brutality, and atrocities by mankind during the 20th century.
In his Reclaiming the American Right, Justin Raimondo says “Archibald MacLeish, the ‘poet laureate of the New Deal’ and Librarian of Congress, gave the lunch party his blessings when he told the ANPA (the American Newspaper Publishers Association) that certain of their members were guilty of treason.”
1939-1940, The Dust Bowl. The third wave of drought. Ken Burns’ The Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was a 1930’s ecological disaster brought on by easy credit that created an army of farmers who tore up the land.
WWII Poetry, 1941-1945
Elie Weisel has been designated as the Jewish writer and spokesman for the Jewish Holocaust of WWII. His “Night” is quite good, I enjoyed it, but questions have been posed as to the authenticity of that memoir. See here, titled “Truth and Fiction in Night.”
Robinson Jeffers, 1887-1962
Elizabeth Bishop poetry seems to be my favorite. She was the US Poet Laureate. Here is her poem “The Fish,” published in 1946. I made the argument, erroneous it turns out, that Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Fish” was addressing confessional poets who bared the rawness of their soul in print. I was wrong. The Confessional Poets came after Elizabeth Bishop in the 1950s and 1960s.
An explanation of Bishop’s “The Fish.”
Randall Jarrell, 1914-1965.
The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner by Randall Jarrell, 1945
From my mother’s sleep, I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose. 5
Randall Jarrell’s note:
A ball turret was a Plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine-guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus (I hate that word; it dehumanizes the child) in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose.
The 1990, star-filled cast of Memphis Belle is about a B-17 bomber with a ball turret gunner. Here’s a little background on the Memphis Belle. Here are a few pics of a ball turret with gunner inside. Prior to the ball turret, gunners used to stand inside the fuselage with the 50 caliber gun pointing out a window. See here and here.
Here is the Poetry Speaks series where poets read their own works. Might be worth having if you’re going to create some YouTube poetry videos.
Cold War Poetry, 1945-1991
Denise Levertov, 1923-1997.
In Thai Binh (Peace) Province for Muriel and Jane, 1972.
by Denise Levertov
I’ve used up all my film on bombed hospitals,
bombed village schools, the scattered
lemon-yellow cocoons at the bombed silk-factory,
and for the moment all my tears too
are used up, having seen today
yet another child with its feet blown off,
a girl, this one, eleven years old,
patient and bewildered in her home, a fragile
small house of mud bricks among rice fields.
So I’ll use my dry burning eyes
to photograph within me
dark sails of the river boats,
warm slant of afternoon light
apricot on the brown, swift, wide river,
village towers – church and pagoda – on the far shore,
and a boy and small bird both
perched, relaxed, on a quietly grazing
buffalo. Peace within the
It is that life, unhurried, sure, persistent,
I must bring home when I try to bring
the war home,
Child, river, light.
Here the future, fabled bird
that has migrated away from America,
nests, and breeds, and sings,
common as any sparrow.
Posted Monday, June 10, 2013
What Were They Like?, 1966
1) Did the people of Vietnam
use lanterns of stone?
2) Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
3) Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
4) Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
5) Had they an epic poem?
6) Did they distinguish between speech and singing?
1) Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways.
2) Perhaps they garthered once to delight in blossom,
but after the children were killed
there were no more buds.
3) Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
4) A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.
All the bones were charred.
5) It is not remembered. Remember,
most were peasants, their life
was in rice and bamboo.
When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
maybe fathers told their sons odd tales.
When bombs smashed those mirrors
there was time only to scream.
6) There is an echo yet
of their speech which was like a song.
It was reported their singing resembled
the flight of moths in moonlight.
Who can say? It is silent now.
Theodore Roetke (1908-1963)
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Anne Sexton, 1928-1974.
Ted Hughes, 1930-1998.
Allen Ginsberg, 1926-1997.
“Capitol Air,” 1980.
I don’t like the government where I live
I don’t like dictatorship of the Rich
I don’t like bureaucrats telling me what to eat
I don’t like Police dogs sniffing round my feet
I don’t like Communist censorship of my books
I don’t like Marxists complaining about my looks
I don’t like Castro insulting members of my sex
Leftists insisting we got the mystic Fix
I don’t like capitalists selling me gasoline Coke
Multinationals burning Amazon Trees to smoke
Big Corporation takeover media mind
I don’t like the Top-bananas that’re robbing Guatemala banks blind
I don’t like K.G.B. Gulag concentration camps
I don’t like the Maiosts’ Cambodian Death Dance
15 Million were killed by Stalin Secretary of Terror
He has killed our old Red Revolution for ever
I don’t like Anarchists screaming Love Is Free
I don’t like the C.I.A. they killed John Kennedy
Paranoiac tanks sit in Prague and Hungary
But I don’t like counterrevolution paid for by the C.I.A.
Tyranny in Turkey or Korea Nineteen Eighty
I don’t like Right Wing Death Squad Democracy
Police State Iran Nicaragua yesterday
Laissez-faire please Government keep your secret police offa me
I don’t like Nationalist Supremacy White or Black
I don’t like Narcs & Mafia marketing Smack
The Generals bulling Congress in his tweed vest
The President building up his Arimies in the East & West
I don’t like Argentine police Jail torture Truths
Government terrorist takeover Salvador news
I don’t like Zionists acting Nazi Storm Troop
Palestine Liberation cooking Israel into Moslem soup
I don’t like the Crown’s Official Secrets Act
You can get away with murder in the Government that’s a fact
Security cops teargassing radical kids
In Switzerland or Czechoslovakia God Forbids
In America it’s Attica in Russia it’s Lubianka Wall
In China if you disappear you wouldn’t know yourself at all
Arise Arise you citizens of the world use your lungs
Talk back to the Tyrants all they’re afraid of is your tongues
Two hundred Billion dollars inflates World War
In United States every year hey’re asking for more
Russia’s got as much in tanks and laser planes
Give or take Fifty Billion we can blow out everbody’s brains
School’s broken down ’cause History changes every night
Half the Free World nations are Dicatorships of the Right
The only place socialism worked was in Gdansk, Bud
The Communist world’s stuck together with prisoners’ blood
The Generals say they know something worth fighting for
They never say what till they start an unjust war
Iranian hostage Media Hysteria sucked
The Shah ran away with 9 Billion Iranian bucks
Dermit Roosevelt and his U.S. dollars overthrew Mossadegh
They wanted his oil then they got Ayatollah’s dreck
They put in the Shah and they trained his police the Savak
All Iran was our hostage quarter-century That’s right Jack
Bishop Romero wrote President Carter to stop
Sending guns to El Salvador’s junta so he got shot
Ambassador White blew the whistle on the White House lies
Reagan called him home cause he looked in the dead nuns’ eyes
Half the voters didn’t vote they know it was too late
Newspaper headlines called it a big Mandate
Some people voted for Reagan eyes open wide
3 out of 4 didn’t vote for him That’s a landslide
Truth may be hard to find but Falsehood’s easy
Read between the lines our Imperialism is sleazy
But if you think the People’s State is your Heart’s Desire
Jump right back in the frying pan from the fire
The System the System in Russia & China the same
Criticize the System in Budapest lose your name
Coca Cola Pepsi Cola in Russia & China come true
Khrushchev yelled in Hollywood “We will bury You”
America and Russia want to bomb themselves Okay
Everybody dead on both sides Everybody pray
All except the Generals in caves where they can hide
and fuck each other in the ass waiting for the next free ride
No hope Communism no hope Capitalism Yeah
Everybody’s lying on both sides Nyeah nyeah nyeah
The bloody iron curtain of American military Power
Is a mirror image of Russia’s red Babel-Tower
Jesus Christ was spotless but was Crucified by the Mob
Law & Order Herod’s hired soldiers did the job
Flowerpower’s fine but innocence has got no Protection
The man who shot John Lennon had a Hero-worshipper’s connection
The moral of this song is that the world is in a horrible place
Scientific Industry devours the human race
Police in every country armed with tear Gas & TV
Secret Masters everywhere bureaucratize for you and me
Terrorists and police together build a lowerclass Rage
Propaganda murder manipulates the upperclass Stage
Can’t tell the difference ‘tween a turkey & a provacateur
If you’re feeling confused the Government’s in there for sure
Aware Aware wherever you are. No Fear
Trust your heart Don’t ride your Paranoia dear
Breathe together with an ordinary mind
Armed with Humor Feed & Help Enlighten Woe Mankind
Frankfurt-New York, December 15, 1980 By Allen Ginsberg
Vietnam War Poetry, 1960-1975
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son was released in 1969.
Sky Pilot by Eric Burden and the Animals was released in 1968.
Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” was released in 1970.
Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction was released in 1965.
The audio on this recording is better.
Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound,” released in 1966, is a bit of a pacifist’s song and not so much a pro-peace song. One line reads “Battle lines are bein’ drawn, and nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” Problem with that is that not everybody is wrong and that not nobody is right. The melody is beautiful. The singers are high-profile and representatives of a rebellious or hippy lifestyle. They were not serious social philosophers or fantastic poets for that matter. They were troubadours for a liberal, pot-smoking, booze-drinking, psychedelic-experimenting culture.
The irony is that given the characterization of the music of the 1960s as protest rock, much of the music from England and from American rock bands were not strictly protest . . . at all.
Undercover U.S. Intelligence agents used drugs to target leftist leaders from SDS, the Black Panthers, Young Lords, and even the Occupy Movement. It also tells how the particularly targeted leftist musicians, like John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Kolbain, Tupac Shakur to promote drugs while murdering them as they started to sober up. And goes into details how agents dosed, ah gave LSD to Mick Jagger and got Elvis involved.
John Lennon’s 1972 release, “Happy Xmas” with Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band is an excellent indictment of war and the merchants of death.
Bob Marley “War No More”
Bob Dylan’s 1963, “Masters of War,” is also an excellent indictment of the build-up to the Vietnam War. Not easy to find a good acoustic version with Dylan actually singing his song.
Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?!
Born Robert Zimmerman in Minnesota, Bob Dylan (1941-) was arguably the most important American songwriter of the 1960s. He wrote numerous songs pertaining to Cold War events and themes, protesting against military aggression and the nuclear threat. Masters of War is the angriest, most hostile song in Dylan’s expansive repertoire, a condemnation of the military build up of the early 1960s.
Porter Robinson‘s “The State.”
Murray Rothbard’s “The Anatomy of the State,” 1974.
Poems Outside the Canon
Sunday, June 9, 2013
I found an interesting poem this morning, quite by accident. Is there any other way to find a poem? It is written by Ann Darr, 1920-2007. This poem reads almost like an Emily Dickinson poem but better.
Advice I Wish Someone Had Given Me, 1971
by Ann Darr
Be strange if it is necessary, be
quiet, kindly as you can without
feeling the heel marks on your head.
Be expert in some way that pleasures
you, story-telling, baking, bed;
put truth and people in their right-
ful angle in the sun . . . find the shadow,
what it falls upon.
Trust everyone a little, no one much.
Thicken your skin to hints and hurts, be
allergic to the soul scrapers.
Monday, June 10, 2013
I Sing of That Which I Would Rather Hide (before 1200)
by Countess of Dia (born about 1140)
I sing of that which I would rather hide:
Where is the one who should be at my side
And whom I dearly love, come ebb or tide?
My kindness and sweet grace he has denied,
My beauty and good sense and goodly show.
I am betrayed, deceived, my love defied,
As if I were the lowest of the low.
Yet I take heart: I never brought you shame
Nor ever did the least to hurt your name.
My love surpasses loves of greater fame,
And I am pleased I beat you at love’s game–
Outscored you when devotion was the test.
Your cold words and your slights all speak the same–
And yet you play the charmer with the rest.
Friday, November 14, 2014
One Tin Soldier
Writes Daniel Mahaffey: Lew, There’s a lot of anger, and a lot to be angry about, in the antiwar songs you’ve place in the blog. Given the empty reasons for war, and the hypocritical support for war from our neighbors and friends, I can’t help but recommend “One Tin Soldier,” my favorite antiwar message. The suicidal folly of it all comes through clearly, and without anger—just shame.
Writes Bill: Interesting being reminded of the different sources of antiwar songs. Thanks for the posts.
Here’s a few more. From the 1930s, Bill Monroe on the Forgotten Soldier Boy. Writer of Universal Soldier was Buffy St Marie. Her version with her introduction explaining writing it. Gary North did an LRC article on Earl Scruggs when he died a couple years ago. Flatt and Scruggs also did a version of Universal Soldier in the 60s I think. Hard to imagine this from country music today.
A more modern song about W’s war, “Man of God” by Eliza Gilkyson
“The Forgotten Soldier Boy,” recorded in 1936.
I’m just a poor ex-soldier that’s broken down and blue,
Fought out in the Great War for the old red, white, and blue.
I left my parents and my girl I loved, to France did go
And fought out on the battlefield through hunger, sleet, and snow.
I saw my buddies dying, and some shellshocked and torn
Although we never faltered at the battle of Amarne
And we were told when we left home we’d be heroes of the land,
So we came back and found no one would lend a helping hand.
They promised gold and silver, and bid us all adieu.
They said they’d welcome us back home when the terrible war was through.
We fought until the war was o’er, they said we’d won the fight,
But we have no job or money, no place to sleep at night.
They called us wandering boys bums, asking for shelter and bread
Although we fought in no man’s land and a-many poor boy is dead.
So listen to my story and lend a helping hand
To the poor forgotten soldier boy who fought to save our land.
Somebody asked about whether there were any serious bluegrass songs. This is very early, from the Monroe Brothers, Charlie and Bill, 1936. I am not sure it is available anywhere at the moment. It was on a old (great) vinyl collection, Country Music South and West from New World Records. Recorded by the Monroe Brothers, October 12, 1936
I appreciate all you do and I love your antiwar, non-interventionist stance. I was a warmongering right-wing Christian for many years and hated anyone who was Anti-American.
Through God’s grace and the influence of men like you and Ron Paul, I have since repented and changed direction.
When you talk about anti-war songs, you should also include the Rise Against song, “Hero of War”. It is about a soldier whose eyes are opened during his destructive tour for America’s military machine.
Once again, thanks for all you do. Blessings.
Here are the lyrics.
And the beat rolls on . . . .
Songs of war-weary soldiers by Will Grigg.
MOVIES WORTH SHOWING TO STUDENTS
1. The Lego Movie with Will Ferrell, 2014.
Eva Marie Saint.
One of my favorite actresses growing up was Eva Marie Saint. I loved her look. I loved the empathy in her voice. I loved her in On the Water Front, 1954, and I loved her in the How the West Was Won, 1977.
This shows the advantages of technology exquisitely.
Rosemead, 2011 by Mike Walgenbach
As my feet strode carefully on the ground in Rosemead, California,
My head considered the air from Auburn, Alabama,
Reviewing God, gold, and guns.
Mises fought Keynsians and Socialist fiat,
Nock the godless Stalins.
Can you really know the world
From inside your car?
Get out . . . fill in the space.
Feel the uneven sidewalk.
Note the Atlas push of a spiny weed through concrete.
Peer down a lane and find the farthest point,
And measure it perpendicular to the street.
Inhale the entrepreneurial vibrance, “Open for Business.”
Feel that remote sun climb over San Jacinto.
Businesses won’t relent, thank God.
Owners lure you with a flashing, neon “Open” sign on the door.
Amidst the glitz and glamour, don’t overlook the landmarks:
Burger King, Super A Foods, and Denny’s.
The boulevard rushes, and traffic builds.
The copper button of a crosswalk signal was cold to the touch.
Drivers impatiently pull out of a gas station.
A shop is abandoned. Investment miscalculated.
Lights out at Goody’s and the talk from white-haired luncheons.
Diamond-tucked, orange booths stand as monuments to post-war prosperity in plastics.
Norma Parker, Ma and Pa, Mom and Dad, Pam, and me alone,
Trying to figure out the Enron disaster. A visit back to Auburn to Rockwell, DiLorenzo, and Block.
Cherished memories of 6-lane Las Tunas Boulevard:
Shakey’s pizza, Aloha miniature golf, and O’Donnell Chevrolet,
All from inside my Dad’s ’62 baby-blue Volkswagen bug.
Vincenzo’s is gone, the red and white tablecloth and candles in Chianti.
Mike Byers ate there on his runs to the San Gabriel Valley.
Beto’s replaced it, courted local authorities. He too is gone.
Cannot forget improbable Broadway Avenue.
The hospital where Pa took his last breath marked the era and seared the landmark.
His small body and large head rested in a convalescent home on San Gabriel Blvd.
Before the lifeless body, I knelt with my dad and prayed
And studied this champion’s rigorous body.
The rhythms of Catholic prayer was my only solace.
Not even the lifeless body could contain the trucker’s spirit.
His storied-life ran across my father’s faithful, intersecting mind.
His body was smaller than I’d remembered.
The world was black and white and stark.
His faith, his love of language and wordplay, and devotion to family buoyed him. Dad turned the sun-scorched memory of Rosemead into an earthly Jane Austen lane.