Thursday, July 24, 2008 15 Comments

Grant's Tomb

Horny-handed scions of the soil,
Loggers, and adult children of oil,
May visit here, and leave their souls.
Confirm them, soldier, in their roles.

Review our serried generals of peace,
Braided and squabbling for office.
Award them stars for being bright,
Hard-working, careful, and polite.

Gifts from the gods are gifts to own;
Generals are men. Our gifts are loans.
Blue, bearded Ulysses, our drinker,
Our only patron saint of failure,

I may yet stop by with open hands.
Try and be closed for maintenance.

15 Comments:

Anonymous m said...

I only understood the 2nd paragraph and the first half of the 3rd paragraph. Maybe I'm just dense. The only poetry I've read since high school has been on this blog, though.

July 24, 2008 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

M -- you should go to www.strongverse.org.

MM -- no comma after "oil"

and the last line, she do not work.

Otherwise very fine and good.

GMP

July 24, 2008 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

"Hard-working, careful, and polite."

With apologies to Prufrock.

July 24, 2008 at 3:40 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Echoes, I think, of our chill, deranged, Bostonian soul brother:

"and the Republic summons Ike,
the mausoleum in her heart."

Nicely done.

July 25, 2008 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

More replies need to be in verse.

I'm still a philistine and can't do poetry to save my life, but it would still be cool.

July 25, 2008 at 5:40 PM  
Blogger Dennis Mangan said...

Though Grant be but a gift of men
His grace transformed the nation;
He yet inspires poetry
With Qualified Reservations.

July 26, 2008 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

GM, you're obviously a grammar Nazi. Inevitable in the editing line, I fear. If you drop the comma after "oil" and change "Try and" to "Try to," the tone she is all wrong.

I hadn't been thinking of Prufrock - but yes. And For the Union Dead is, well, it's beyond comparison. But yes.

July 30, 2008 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger method said...

Not terribly needed gloss: When you think of generals and what it takes to win a war, think of Grant, a corrupt drunk who assumed command of the Union army after a string of incompetent, cautious generals ("Hard-working, careful, and polite") nearly lost the war. "Our patron saint of failure" was a limited man whose corrupt governance arguably led to the collapse of Reconstruction policies and the rise of Jim Crow. As such he is a good figure to review more recent leaders, including a certain "adult child[...] of oil" (and... Jimmy Carter??). The author hopes that when he stops by the tomb will be closed for maintenance, so the author can avoid being another pawn of history.

Writing a gloss turns poetry into an intellectual puzzle. Defense reaction.

July 30, 2008 at 2:25 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Menc --

Good to see you reading the comments. The last line doesn't work, not because of the and/to argument -- but because it just doesn't quite make sense; why does the speaker want Grant (or his tomb) to be closed if he's planning to stop by? The end seems like a twist ending of Millay's --

It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.


But you haven't set us up for that -- we have no reason to suspect that the speaker may not value grant or want to give or get gifts. I mean, it would be all interesting if the last lines were "hands,/ try, and be" but I doubt that's what you had in mind.

M

and the comma after oil just doesn't work. . .

July 30, 2008 at 7:15 PM  
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