Shaped like history, the focused eye
Is utterly pitiless. Our century,
Rich in indestructible paperwork,
Is also a regular El Dorado
Of unintentional and/or black humor.
Measure yourself therefore not just
Against peers but before descendants.
Some Chateaubriand waits, "charged
With the vengeance of nations," armed
In time's mail with an icepick wit.
You'd be advised not to resist him.
To serve him, indeed, as you can
Across some golden gulf of fools.
Alas, there is no book. To start,
Serve the gods and obey the ancestors,
And call a thing by its actual name.
What then hate? First and foremost,
Hate is the word in quotes - "hate."
A marvel of our age, a marvel even
Of all the human story; a Saturn 5
Of the art of public enlightenment;
Your very Sumerians had nothing on it.
We do see other contemporary work,
Like "change," but what comparison?
Just a huger sound, whacking you
In the liver like a ton of heroin.
You might not be sure about "change" -
You know how to feel about "hate."
We won't try to change that. We'll
Just seal it in a bag of quotes, and
Carry on with the mere word itself.
Hate is like color, an abstraction
Made concrete by mere diffraction.
And only a binary monochrome:
Resentment and contempt, brackets
Of the spectrum of personal status.
If your time zeppelin lost sync
And you had no idea when you were,
You'd set the controls for any age
Which had abolished contempt, under
Great penalty of law, tamen usque
Recurret - and worked indeed the week
Of Sisyphus with Virgil's pitchfork -
And, with the very same hand, yea
In the very same word, did adore
Fondly as a hand-cupped chick,
Seed and water, reap and thresh
Year upon year, revere even
As some proto-man served a fire
He could steal but not yet set,
A secular coal in a shaman's box,
Nestled in grass and eiderdown,
Bane of wolves and cause of soup,
Heating caves and branding knaves,
A ruby defined as life itself -
Resentment, the last god found
Living in America. Observe yon
Castle; well-made as any other;
Its stones are marble coffins,
As in any age; indeed no age
Seems made without its tower,
But each defined by choice of grout.
What is this mortar of power? What,
The gunk between the ashlar? What,
You should ask. You learned all about
Those old forts of contempt, whose
Lime was white with human chalk -
But nothing mixed on site is pure.
White on inspection is always gray.
And gray is black, the tensed wire
Between our stones, which takes its own
Prey in its own way. If hate was not
A hazardous material, it would not hold
One stone upon another. Do you find it
To a fresh eye noxious? Have patience,
For men have always mocked the stacks
Of stone that lock their eyes in place.
But marble without mortar is rubble,
And life without lords soon terrible.
Timeless mind in temporal man
Is the only ideal; the soul is free,
The meat must serve. And please note:
When mind and man divide, the
Tongue and fingers remain in earth.