by Cause Bewilder

for Joshua Philipp

Grave statue after statue falls with strict impunity.
Memorials and monuments yield to community.
The wind whips up no recollection; it cannot forget;
the soldiers dead in Dixieland must twice be crushed to death.

Robert E. Lee must lose again; the bronze equestrian
must ride anew into eternity—oblivion.
Cement or plaster, marble too, by time’s fierce scrutiny;
the Gallant Eight must join again the Southern mutiny.

All must be cannon fodder: mortar, bricks, cement and lime.
A quarter million must not be remembered in our Time.
As headstones fall like dominoes to Nature’s firm command,
the rumour of mortality blows all across the land.

 

Post your Confederate statue poetry below in the comments section.

 

Cause Bewilder is a poet living in Washington State.

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21 Responses

  1. David Hollywood

    An extraordinary poem, written about a cause I don’t believe in.

    Reply
  2. Joseph S. Salemi

    LET’S NOT MINCE WORDS

    Your poem’s elegiac, with a wistfulness that irks–
    I’d rather hear you denigrate the pack of pompous jerks
    Who are the motive force behind this vile iconoclasm,
    And want to gut our history to satisfy a spasm
    Of virtue signals, posturing, and self-congratulation.
    They’re the ones who’ve brought about this public devastation.
    It’s not enough to mourn our loss, and quietly retire–
    It’s time to name the arsonists who lit this blazing fire:
    The hordes of screeching left-wing scum who stirred up all this fuss.
    And they won’t stop at statues, pal–they’re coming after us.

    Reply
  3. Lorna Davis

    From your resident left-wing scum 🙂

    If Only We Had Won

    There stands a mounted rider in the square
    Who looks down with a brazen, callous glare
    That says “Your servitude would not be done
    If only I, and those I led, had won.
    If only we had won, you’d be a slave
    And know the lash from birth to early grave.
    Our streets would not be filled with all your chatter;
    We’d never have to hear that black lives matter.
    Then gracious gentlemen could still retire
    To shaded halls, and leave you to perspire
    Out in the heat of someone else’s sun –
    All this, and more, if only we had won.”

    Let’s move these statues to some fine museum,
    Where those who really want to can go see ‘em.

    Reply
  4. Cause Bewilder

    Mr. Salemi is number 5, and first-rate—molto bene. And he is correct about the tone, which is wistful, useful in trying to convey ideas to an unreceptive audience. Of course, most of the poem is a revision of the beginning of Allen Tate’s much longer poem “Ode to the Confederate Dead,” a Fugitive answer to T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland,” and part of its wistfulness comes from that. If it were ever in a published book of poems, I would also use the quote “Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause…” from Henry Timrod’s “Ode on the Confederate Dead,” which speaks of a statueless heroism, and likewise underlies much of this poem’s tone. Though even more elusive, and probably too obscure, “Time” and “Nature” are drawn from Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” But in response to Mr. Salemi’s top-notch attack, I do think the elegiac nature of this poem requires a certain solemnity, and I think its subtle interwoven ironies save the poem from an indictment of melancholy, despite the unsatisfying concluding words in lines 2 and 6.

    And here is where I disagree with Mr. Salemi. When one is writing on an eternal plain, a gut reaction (or a simple emotional reaction) is not necessarily the reaction to the ‘gutting of history’ that will endure. As a poet in the classical tradition, I am hopeful that it is the more thoughtful, clearer, and more rational response that over Time will have the greater lasting power, even if one doesn’t see it in one’s life time, or even if it remains hidden from the great masses of humanity, like those many hidden gems of truth that populate our planet.

    Ms. Davis’ heroic couplets have a nice undertone to them, reminiscent of those of Phillis Wheatley. Most of her poem quotes “a mounted rider in the square,” an imagined cruel slave-holder, though I am sure she knows, slavery is a complex, historical issue. For example, should we discount all of what David, the ancient king of Israel wrote, because he had slaves, or all of what Mohammad says in the Qur’an because he captured, bought, sold, and had slaves, or Simon Bolivar, the famous leader of Latin American independence, should we disregard his contribution to Latin American independence because he once had slaves? The English-speaking world was at the forefront of the abolition of slavery; but as the American Civil War showed it was a painful part of history. Even Julia Ward Howe’s famous lines from “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” still ring with controversy in the 21st century, for several reasons:

    “In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me
    As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.”

    In the end, Ms. Davis offers a neat solution, with a humourous undertow to the question of the statues; but that, of course, is only peripherally what this poem is about; although it is what allows the poem to be on the edge of docupoetry. However, on better reflection I should drop the first word of the title (because it is hardly an ode); despite my allusion to Allen Tate’s poem, the title should simply be “To the Confederate Dead,” which locates the theme, Mr. Hollywood, I am writing about. Like most of humanity, I have no sympathy whatsoever for slavery, whose banishment the English-speaking world was thankfully at the forefront of.

    Reply
    • Lorna Davis

      Mr. Bewilder, I can’t claim to know the mind of the subject of any of these statues; I was simply giving voice to what I suspect they must say to those people who were, arguably, their true intended audience.

      The story of slavery may be long and bitter, but it’s no longer complicated for us. We know better. It’s indefensible, and those being honored were willing to kill or die to defend it. That fight to preserve slavery is what they’re being honored for, not something we revere them in spite of. Let’s put them in a museum, and let’s tell the whole story – not just the courage of those who fought for slavery, but the suffering of those who endured it. And the long path post-war, with its gains and setbacks for human rights. Let’s learn from the mistakes we’ve made instead of clinging to them.

      Reply
  5. Charles

    I would not call this “extraordinary”, as the meter begins to falter as early as line 2. Worse, the point of it seems to be that remembering the dead is the moral equivalent of elevating them, which doesn’t quite hold up when you extend this argument to any other opponent of the US Army over the past 200 years. We can respect and remember Japanese dead or German dead or British dead or Spanish dead, but we don’t consecrate monuments to them. At least, not on US soil.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      To Charles: The Confederate dead are American dead. Monuments to honor them and their courage and sacrifice are just as appropriate on American soil as monuments to honor any other American who died in combat.

      To Lorna Davis: Thinking that the War Between the States was about slavery is like thinking that World War II was about the Polish Corridor.

      All polite discussion about this controversy seems to evade the plain fact that this iconoclasm is a political charade, designed solely by a clique of activist left-liberals to demean and belittle white Southerners, working-class Trump voters, conservatives, and anyone else who falls into Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables.” You want to demean and belittle us? Fine. But we fight back.

      Reply
  6. Wilbur Dee Case

    Okay, your poem is okay, Mr. Bewilder, but I agree with C; I would not call this an extraordinary poem. Its heart-felt feelings are not that deep, nor is its imagery that profound. Its incorporation of earlier American literature is not that refined, nor does its language seem irrevocably true. Its assonance is not that artful, nor is its opening pun that striking. Its handling of a Latinate vocabulary is not that remarkable, nor is its handling of the alliteration of “m” that noteworthy. Now we know, in general, that great writers do not follow meter absolutely at all times, and the greatest of writers break meter purposefully at times [Emily Dickinson is an excellent example.], but I must disagree with C on the meter. I think the only metrical variance in the entire poem is at line 5—”Robert E. Lee”—which I think breaks the meter purposefully. Note that “Robert E. Lee” cannot be iambic. However, to cede this point to C, I would suggest that, as each of us has an individual fingerprint, so too do we have individual ideogrammatic sensibilities that we best make allowances for occasionally, lest we seem dull-witted.

    I also have to take umbrage when Mr. Bewilder says that Ms. Davis’ heroic couplets are reminscent of Wheatley’s. As you can see, in the following poignant lines of Wheatley, she never allows an unstressed syllable at the ends of her lines, even when she is writing about the traumatic effects of slavery that she endured.

    Should you, my lord, while you peruse my song,
    Wonder from whence my love of Freedom sprung,
    Whence flow these wishes for the common good,
    By feeling hearts alone best understood,
    I, young in life, by seeming cruel fate
    Was snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy seat:
    What pangs excruciating must molest,
    What sorrows labour in my parent’s breast?
    Steel’d was that soul and by no misery mov’d
    That from a father seiz’d his babe belov’d:
    Such, such my case. And can I then but pray
    Others may never feel tyrannic sway?

    And that is classic.

    Reply
  7. G. M. H. Thompson

    Ode to Odes Heroic to Dead Heroes and Villains

    The ghost of Alexander Pope still stalks these halls
    & makes verse end as if it’s penned by alcohol,–
    for Heaven’s sake, these couplets make my stomach churn
    thus if I could, I surely would erase such lines;
    forget iconoclasm, pawn these Marxist dreams,
    I’d auction mother’s grave, smash brother’s ashes’ urn
    if someone please! (I’m on my knees!!!) wrote novel rhymes
    about who cares, just don’t be scared of B A B.

    I find it strange that traitor’s grey is shrined in stone
    at all, for he who won should eat the laurel’s mead.
    That being said, they’re all long dead; indignant hands
    can’t change the past; Hungary’s Dracula is known
    for purging thousands; plus his crown fell in defeat
    to Basarab, Mehmed’s toy, yet Vlad’s statues now stand.

    *note that the name “Mehmed” is pronounced as I understand it with only one syllable (or at least some people pronounce it with one syllable and it is an acceptable form of pronunciation, as far as I can tell), as in “Mehmd”. In a related side-note that isn’t really all that related, the word “heaven” used to be pronounceable in English using only one syllable. Which is really to say that people talking in English used to say the word “heaven” like “heavn”, and they still do if they talk fast enough (Paradise Lost is actually way more metrically perfect than most people assume– all this talk of Milton making meticulous metrical errors has always seemed like tea-leave-reading-over-analysis to me– the man’s mind was a machine that printed poetry; it wasn’t in his nature (or, rather, lack of nature, if you think about it) to make chic, artful organic imperfections; his ambitions were far too heavnly for that). For that matter, the dictionary doesn’t want you to know this, but “fire” and words like that can have either one or two syllables, depending on how you want to say them. But to get back to the point, if you say “Mehmed” with two syllables, you’re saying it wrong and someone ought to demolish your statue, whatever that means. It’s got one syllable– say it right or face the consequences.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      You can’t “eat” mead. It’s a beverage. Do you mean “meed,” the older word for price, compensation, gift, or bribe? And what is B A B?

      In any case, your poem is largely impenetrable.

      Reply
      • G. M. H. Thompson

        Not with that attitude you can’t. I’m quite sorry, but maybe you can’t eat mead, but I can, and I do it every time I write poetry. Meed would also work I guess, but I didn’t know about that word, and I’m not certain how many other people do, so I think I’ll stick with mead, though I appreciate your thoughts on the choice (and it was a choice I made with some consideration; besides, if you can’t eat mead, can you eat meed?– I guess you can eat a gift, depending on the gift, but it’s not really something I would say abstractly without specifying what the gift was precisely, whereas I would legitimately feel comfortable saying that I ate a pint of mead). Also, B A B is a rhyme scheme (As in ABAB; I spaced the letters out for ascetic concerns and dropped the first A because of syllabic concerns). Thanks for the criticism, & I enjoyed your poem, it having partially inspired mine.

  8. Sally Cook

    An angry paid-off mob rejects the War Between the States;
    And empty-headed simpletons rush, crush what deviates
    From current travesties. Each lives in slavery to false news;
    They follow like automatons, as if they cannot choose,
    And never know a thing about what happened yesterday,
    Except to mimic lemmings, and shriek that they want their way.

    Reply
    • Joe Tessitore

      Dear Sally.

      Wow! We see the situation in the same way. Do you think there’s a solution? Do you think you can reason with lemmings?

      can it be that Joe Salemi’s right
      and the only solution
      is to stand and fight?

      Joe Tessitore

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Hi, Joe –
        So nice to hear from you. I liked your poems so Dear Joe —
        Hearing from you means a kit, Your poems are well made and clear

        I liked them so much that I recommended you to an editor. Where can I see more? Books? Website? I’m sure others would like to know.
        Don’t want to take up a lot of space here;

        I will ask Evan Mantyk to put you in touch with me through e-mail. We’ll talk more.

        Thanks or liking the poem.

  9. B. S. Eliud Acrewe

    Mr. Thompson rightfully points out the possible syllabic counts of “fire”; Ms. Cook accurately points out there is not only human-to-human slavery; and Mr. Salemi vigourously alerts us to beware INGSOC, in its attempt to achieve total control over the people and their minds. “Freedom is slavery” seems apropos to our era.

    Influenced by Aristotle, Horace, Quintillian, and Boileau, the youthful Pope’s “Essay on Criticism” is the best poetic essay on criticism in the English language. Here are a couple of couplets from it.

    “‘Tis best sometime your censure to restrain,
    And charitably let the dull be vain:
    Your silence there is better than your spite,
    For who can rail so long as they can write.”

    Reply
  10. Wic E. Ruse Blade

    A Censored Surd
    by Esca Webuilder
    for Joseph Salemi
    “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never herd me.”
    —Wic E. Ruse Blade

    The censorship ‘s in earnest now. We hate diversity.
    We can’t allow free speech here at this University.
    And we must ban some voices from the Internet it seems,
    because they disagree with us and our elitist dreams.
    GoDaddy, Google, Apple, Cloudfare—let us all pile on.
    We cannot tolerate those who dare Gab outside the throng.
    Y Combinator too has joined the feeding, frenzied fray;
    and this is happening this moment in the USA.
    Ah, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest, attacking Liberty,
    Ulysses has succumbed at last to Lady Chatterley.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Right now, as of this very minute, over fifty alt-right and hard conservative websites, organizations, gatherings, and individuals have been silenced, threatened, or financially attacked by a well-planned and carefully coordinated campaign by well-heeled left-liberal fascists in this country. Right now. TODAY.

      This is what the left means by “diversity” and “openness” and “multiculturalism.”

      The orchestrated fake incident at Charlottesville is the American left’s Reichstag Fire. And nobody seems to be bothered at all by it. The First Amendment has been gutted like a dead mackerel, and liberals are just silently smiling.

      Reply
      • Joe Tessitore

        Under the radar I fly
        Thru’ an ever more ominous sky
        Thru’ the smoke of the volumes they burned
        Thru’ the silence of lessons unlearned
        Thru’ the sound of the shattering glass
        Thru’ the thoughts of the mindless I pass
        Thru’ the dust of the statues that fell
        On my way to the Great Living Hell

  11. Paul Gray

    Lets break em down in every town
    No humans upon pedestals
    But ants and bees I’d prefer these
    They nip and sting but not pell mell
    All those who murder and create
    The moralists filled up with hate
    Let them be lime washed and windblown
    And leave the insects to their thrones

    Reply
  12. Sally Cook

    To Joe Tessitore –

    I like this poem very much. You have a way of getting straight to the point; that point being that there is something truly evil afoot in the world. How and why, I cannot say, but the general causes are arrogance, lack of knowledge self-importance and self pity/ And most of all, lack of respect for Self.

    I am heartened to see that you too are well aware of it.

    Reply

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