.

When the statues were felled the crass multitude cheered.
Historians wept while the rioters yelled.
Society crumbled. Debate disappeared.
Where fraud gorged on Truth only anarchy dwelled.

The protests unprincipled radicals held
Preached self-loathing dogma to which they adhered
With threats we must join them, by choice or compelled.
When the statues were felled the crass multitude cheered.

Our best minds surrendered. I know what they feared:
The pitchforks and torches; the slander propelled
By those who let justice and truth be veneered.
Historians wept while the rioters yelled.

Culture was cancelled. Civility quelled.
The mob mocked what patriots loved and revered,
Though honor disparaged could not be dispelled!
Society crumbled. Debate disappeared.

Icons were smashed as the nihilists leered.
But our spirits are safe—that’s where courage is held;
Our anger is just and our blindness has cleared!
Where fraud gorged on Truth only anarchy dwelled.

But we can prevail if we’re truly impelled
To stand up to bullies despite being smeared.
This hatred of history must be repelled!
The future must know righteous men persevered
When the statues were felled.

.

.

Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


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32 Responses

  1. Daniel Kemper

    I just love this structurally; the intertwining folds are great. They support the sound so nicely, whether or not pursued intellectually for the pattern. But the poem rewards both. I’ll be back to savor it again!

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you, Daniel. The form is so tricky, so I’m very pleased that you think my attempt works. For me, the idea behind the pattern was the building up of an endless cycle of culture and history being senselessly attacked. Again.

      Reply
  2. Julian D. Woodruff

    A triumph of skill and persuasiveness, Brian. It’s impressive that having decided to repeat the root “-pell,” you found a place for 5 (=all, I think) of its prefixes.

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you, Julian. The message here came from the heart — something that has deeply troubled me since these cancel cultures riots started last year. Thanks for noting the “-pell” root words. My use of all prefixes was completely unintentional but it’s especially pleasing to have that pointed out to me. I learn things about my own poems here that I never fully grasp when writing them!

      Reply
  3. Tonia

    “Where fraud gorged on Truth only anarchy dwelled”:
    This is my favorite line of your wonderful work.__

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you so much, Tonia. I rewrote that line multiple times. It was probably the hardest one to get right so I’m very pleased my efforts payed off!

      Reply
  4. Margaret Coats

    Brian, this is a powerful use of both form and meter to address this vital topic. The rondeau redouble texte (first stanza) states the issue with compressed force, as Tonia acknowledges in her appreciation of its final line. Then you approach the topic in four meaningfully different ways, and conclude with a battle cry stanza. Anapestic meter is regular in the first line, but you begin most other lines with an iamb. These bracing starts become unexpectedly forceful when the fourth and fifth stanzas begin with headless iambs (a single stressed syllable as the first foot of a line). They function like a commander’s encouraging shouts when the fight has been long. All in all, it’s a fine military reveille (wake-up), returning to fully regular anapests only in the final repetition, where readers can look forward to the battle being over and won.

    This is personally heartening to me, as just yesterday a priest was cancelled from my local parish by the reading of a letter from a cowardly bishop, who tried to blame the expulsion on the priest’s religious superior in another diocese. The priest had given a sermon describing the signs that the unseen Holy Spirit is present, and applying this to church and state, where the opposite signs are present. He named big names, and not only was the offending livestream sermon removed from the parish website, but also every other sermon the priest had made. We do know that, given an opportunity to explain himself, the priest retracted nothing. Bravo, Father Francis!

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you very much, Margaret! Your explication of my meter gives me more credit than I deserve. I know I wanted to build and keep building until a reactionary emotional outburst became inevitable but I didn’t know precisely how I was achieving this metrically until you analyzed it for me. I certainly look forward to this battle being over and won!

      I’m so sorry about the situation at your local parish. I am deeply tired of gutlessness in the face of cancel culture. To paraphrase the old adage (Edmund Burke? John Stuart Mill?) the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing. I hope your priest gets uncancelled — and soon. And I can’t wait for cancel culture to enter the dustbin of history along with the Cultural Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution and all the other historical seizures that have tried to destroy or rewrite history.

      Reply
      • Margaret Coats

        Brian, this is the way Father Francis Gloudeman expressed it in his canceled sermon: “Nazi Germany would have never happened with just a few wicked men in high places. The only way that could happen was having a bunch of yes-men. Don’t question, just look out for yourself.”

        Mike, thanks for doing the search. These priests who preach the truth of the Gospel are being treated the way criminally abusive priests never were. Now we know what bishops are capable of, and that’s a real sign the Holy Spirit is not working in most of them.

      • Brian Yapko

        Thank you, Mike! All aspects of cancel culture are just awful!

    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Margaret, thank you for the link to your priest’s sermon. It really is painful to see someone who tries hard to be a good shepherd being cancelled because of being on the wrong side of political popularity. You know my private views on some of these points and my personal interest. But, since I triage my relationship with God above all other things, any such personal interest is secondary. I overwhelmingly believe that the freedom to speak out is precious, as is the freedom to disagree in a respectful debate. One should not lose a job over presenting one’s well-reasoned views — especially when one is trying to provide good leadership on all-important issues of moral clarity.

      Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Paul — yes, an interesting form which is very tricky! Thanks for checking in on this poem and for placing it in historical context. I’ll check out the poem that you referred me to. Thank you!

      Reply
    • Margaret Coats

      There are many SCP poems of more immediate relevance to Brian’s topic. Just search “statues” in our own SCP search bar, top right above the “Trending Poems.” Some of the results are not about cancel culture, but it’s surprising how many are.

      Reply
      • BRIAN YAPKO

        Thank you, Margaret. I look forward to seeing how other poets have covered this subject.

  5. Sandi

    Brian, you are one of my favorite poets here, and this poem is exceptional on many levels. The form alone is a difficult one that I have never attempted-well done. Your rhyme and meter are always pleasing to the ear, and you address the insanity of the world with a bang. Perhaps you can write a poem about the new statues we have to take their place, like the 700-pound bronze statue of G.F. A true heroic role model for all our children to admire and emulate.

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you for your very kind comment! I’m so grateful that you like my work! This particular poem was indeed a difficult form. This was my first attempt and it really took a lot of nipping and tucking! I’m also glad that you appreciate what I’m trying to say in these challenging times. As for your proposed G.F. poem — a brilliant idea which, however, I think may be better suited to another poet — perhaps one who likes chaotic contemporary forms in which rhyme, meter, structure and message really don’t matter so long as it’s loud and demands attention.

      Reply
  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Bravo Brian! I love everything about this poem – the form (one of my favorites), the adept execution, the message, and the passion and panache with which you deliver it. You are a poet after my own heart and I applaud your talent and your decision to blaze instead of bleat! An absolute treat! Thank you!

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you, Susan! No, you’re a poet after my heart! Whether you know it or not, I consider you an important mentor. Your poetry never fails to move me and I always find something new to learn from your obviously God-given skill at the use of form, meter, language, tone and — perhaps most importantly — your extremely good taste. If you hadn’t challenged me to try my hand at a rondeau a few months back, I would never have attempted this. And, of course, I have your brilliant rondeaux to inspire me.

      As for the subject matter, yes… thank you. I can’t stand being around the “sheeple” who bleat and accept and apologize and whine and who abdicate responsibility again and again. You, on the other hand, are an incredibly brave poet who has taken risks on very challenging subjects and I respect that tremendously. If I’m blazing, it’s largely because you’ve paved the way. So thank you.

      Reply
  7. C.B. Anderson

    You did a great job with an especially demanding fixed form, and the content was handled adeptly, without any hitches, weak lines or wrenched syntax.

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      Thank you very much, C.B. I am always grateful for your input!

      Reply
  8. David Watt

    The underlying form, although demanding, is unnoticed because the content is clear and strong.

    Reply
  9. James Sale

    Brian, this is a tour-de-force of a poem, exceedingly technically adept; and it is your mind speaking with a full and ready force. As an aside, as good as this is, I prefer it when I hear your soul communicating with itself: you know when that is, don’t you? It’s when Prospero is on that island and magic happens. Know what I mean?

    Reply
    • BRIAN YAPKO

      James, thank you very much for the compliment and thank you for the words of caution. Yes, I know exactly what you mean. To run with your Tempest metaphor, my most meaningful work is definitely written when I’m on that island and engaging with my soul. Sadly, my rather long history as a lawyer means that I default into zealous advocacy perhaps more often than is restful. But rest assured, getting up on a soap box like this is more the exception than the rule!

      Reply

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