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Ballade of Pride

They’re a proud people. —The Frugal Gourmet

Of every group whose food he shows,
this Doctor of Diet, this Frugal Gourmet,
this chef whose goodness simply glows
and who doesn’t know there’ll be hell to pay,
we need not ask just what he’ll say,
for he shouts it from the TV steeple
like the old ham actor in the play
When the Master Race Meets the Chosen People.

He shouts of any group he knows,
“A proud people, those from Cathay;
those, too, from Kilimanjaro’s snows.”
He doesn’t know there’ll be hell to pay
when these proud people meet someday.
I wish all this pride would go and sleep ill.
But meantime let me get out of the way
When the Master Race meets the Chosen People.

Proud Capulets, proud Montagues,
proud Hatfields and real McCoys all day,
proud people everywhere, God knows,
and who doesn’t know there’ll be hell to pay?
They make you want to kneel and pray
that you needn’t hear another peep till
ugly young pride is old and gray
When the Master Race meets the Chosen People.

When Evil meets Good, as it will on the way,
who wouldn’t know there’d be hell to pay?
Heaven’s buried beneath a deep hill
When the Master Race meets the Chosen People!

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E.M. Schorb’s work has appeared in Agenda (UK), The American Scholar, The Carolina Quarterly, TRINACRIA, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, Measure, Stand (UK), The Massachusetts Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The North American Review, Poetry Salzburg Review (AU), The Yale Review, and Oxford Poetry (UK), among others. His collection, Murderer’s Day, was awarded the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and published by Purdue University Press years ago, and a subsequent collection, Time and Fevers, was the recipient of the Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Award for Poetry and also an Eric Hoffer Award.


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52 Responses

  1. Brian Yapko

    I appreciate the ballade form, sir, as well as the caution against pride. I’m not on board with finding even the remotest equivalence between Nazis and Jews.

    Reply
    • Joshua C. Frank

      I have to admit that, though I’m not Jewish, I had a similar discomfort. The Jewish concept of the “Chosen People” isn’t a source of pride; rather, they consider it a burden. I’ve even heard some say, “Choose someone else!”

      Even if it were a source of pride, ethnic pride isn’t the same as the vice of pride. I’m Italian-American, and as such, I see that as a good thing, but that doesn’t mean I think I’m better because of it.

      Reply
  2. James A. Tweedie

    E.M.

    I share the same discomfort expressed by Brian and Joshua, but I also feel some confusion.

    Consider the phrase:

    the old ham actor in the play
    “When the Master Race Meets the Chosen People.”

    Is there such a play with such a name (the capital letters imply that it is) or is this just a rhetorical device? If not rhetorical, I can find no reference to a play with such a title.

    Also, at the end, the phrase, “When the Master Race Meets the Chosen People” is paralleled with the phrase, “When Evil meets Good.” Is this to suggest that Evil is parallel with “Master Race” and Good with “Chosen People?”

    Or is this to suggest that the “Master Race” and the “Chosen People” are both Evil and that they will someday come under the judgment of God who is Good?

    Like many poems, you leave much to the imagination and interpretation of the reader. In this case, however, there are some possible interpretations–that may or may not have been intended–that I would find (for lack of a better word) intemperate.

    Reply
  3. Joseph S. Salemi

    To Yapko, Frank, and Tweedie:

    I think all three of you misunderstand what E.M. Schorb is doing in this poem.

    First off, the poem is a satiric slap at “The Frugal Gourmet,” and his incessant repetition of that stupid sentence “They’re a proud people” in every one of his broadcasts. He said it so many times that I secretly rejoiced when his TV show was cancelled.

    Second, the phrases “Master Race” and “Chosen People” are being used metaphorically to represent what every ethnocentrically healthy cultural group does — namely, hyperbolically glorify itself and claim the mantle of superiority. The phrases don’t mean “Nazis and Jews.” They mean all human groups that maintain pride in themselves, their culture, and their history.

    Third, what Schorb suggests in his ballade is that when groups are proud and high-spirited in this manner, conflict is bound to happen eventually, and that this is merely the price we pay for maintaining our cultural identity. The deeper irony and satire of this poem is that “The Frugal Gourmet” was a minister, and he innocently and mistakenly thought that by saying everyone was “proud” he was complimenting them and honoring them. He was doing that — but he was blissfully unaware that ethnic and cultural pride are also engines of conflict.

    Reply
    • Brian Yapko

      I appreciate the explanation but, irrespective of benign intent, Master Race universally refers to the Aryans of Nazi Germany. The Chosen People universally refers to the Jews. I’m no snowflake but to have them linked in this way is offensive to someone like me who actually lost relatives in the Holocaust and whose mother served as a translator at the Nuremberg trials. If one is Jewish, Master Race and Chosen People do not go together unless one is truly either completely oblivious to the implications (which seems improbable to me) or intent on causing offense. I cannot regard this poem as anything but antisemitic. The only question in my mind is how casually so it is.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        They “go together” in the same way that any elements in a metaphor go together. Suppose the poet has said (instead of “Master Race” and “Chosen People”) any of the following pairs:

        White settlers and American Indians
        Stalinists and Ukrainian kulaks
        Cromwellian Brits and Irish Catholics
        Australians and Native Tasmanians
        French revolutionists and the inhabitants of La Vendee
        Ancient Israelites and vast populations of Caananites

        Any one of above pairs (and I could list PLENTY more) would have served the same metaphorical purpose in Schorb’s poem. It is silly to attack Schorb’s poem as “anti-semitic” when all it does is point out that savagery towards our fellow men is a perennial aspect of life, and is committed by ALL peoples and ALL races, no matter in what mantle of superiority or piety they cloak themselves.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Joe, he didn’t say Nazis and Jews, he said Master Race and Chosen People, which (to me) suggests that the Jews were somehow partly to blame for what happened on the grounds that they’re a “proud people” (which I have actually heard people say).

        It seems like modern culture’s propensity to blame the victim for what the perpetrator does. Shall we start saying unborn babies are to blame for abortion because they exist when it’s “inconvenient” for the mother, like the liberals are saying?

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I don’t think it suggests anything of the sort. Look at the other possible pairs that I mentioned. In every case, one was the oppressor and the other the victim. All that Schorb’s poem is saying is that when humans oppress each other, there is always one stronger, bullying group that is beating up on some weaker victim group. Nowhere in the poem is it suggested that the victim group is “at fault.”

        In fact, in the course of human history all victim groups eventually become bullying groups themselves, or vice-versa. The Spanish conquistadors brutalized the Incas, but the Incas themselves were an arrogant “Master Race” that had brutalized all the subject peoples in their vast empire.

        If we are going to pick out special groups that cannot be mentioned or criticized here at the SCP, we are on the path to becoming just another politically correct po-biz site.

        All healthy and vigorous peoples are proud, including the Jews.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Yes, that would be a problem… Either way leads to directions none of us want to go, and that makes me even more uncomfortable. Are we in a position of having to accept pro-Nazi speech to avoid being politically correct? (Brian and I have both already explained why that line is precisely that, and why no amount of excuse-making will change it.) Being pro-life, I can’t accept either option.

        On the other hand, it is raising this issue, and maybe that was the intent…

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Joshua, there is nothing in E.M. Schorb’s poem that is “pro-Nazi.” The poem is a generalized statement about pride and suffering and conflict and human cruelty, and the terms “Master Race” and “Chosen People” are used metaphorically. If persons decide to read those phrases as “offensive,” they should rethink how poems are interpreted.

  4. James A. Tweedie

    Joseph,

    You are no doubt correct in your interpretation of the poem and your assessment of the poet’s intentions (I even referred to the likelihood of this in my comment).

    But even if the phrase in question is intended as an illustrative metaphor, it is a poorly-chosen one for the reasons expressed by Brian.

    After all, wasn’t it Hitler who said to God, “I know. I know. We are Your Master Race. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?”

    Oh, my bad. It was Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof who said, “I know. I know. We are Your Chosen People. But, once in a while, can’t you choose someone else?”

    Evil has no sense of either humor or self-deprecation. Judaism is overflowing with both.

    I believe that the contextual juxtaposition of “Master Race” and “Chosen People” and their implied illustrative equivalency is both mistakenly-conceived and (for some of us, at least) offensive–as well as being without parallel in any of your examples.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      All you’re saying is that the metaphorical juxtaposition works for some people but not for others. Well, what else is new? When has it been any different in literary appreciation? Are subjective judgments to determine what we can publish here?

      As for your saying that my given examples are in no way equivalent to what you are thinking about when you see the pairing of “Master Race” and “Chosen People,” I wonder if you would dare say that to any of the millions of kulaks deliberately starved to death by the Stalinists, or the Irish Catholics subjected to centuries of genocide by British Protestants, or to the current victims of nightmarish murder being perpetrated in Red China against Falun Gong or the Uighurs.

      Everybody’s got a holocaust, either that they suffered or inflicted, or more likely both. I don’t think that one particular mass murder should be singled out as more important than any other. That’s what you seem to be trying to do.

      Reply
      • Brian Yapko

        I have read and reread this poem probably 10 times now. Jews are the only grouping that are specified that actually exist in the here and now. Cathay and Kiliminjaro are meaningless. The Master Race is long defunct and no one else is identified in any meaningful way. So we’ve got Hatfields, McCoys, Montagues, Capulets, the defunct Master Race and my brother and sister in law in San Diego, my Uncle Dave and Aunt Florence, and my late father and a whole bunch of other “Chosen People” who really don’t deserve to be lumped into this diatribe against pride. This isn’t about abstractions. This is about people alive today. In fact, the only living, identifiable grouping out of this whole poem.

        “Everybody’s got a holocaust.” Perhaps. But not many have an entire industrial complex of transport, concentration camps, chemical research, and an army of gestapo built around their legally mandated destruction. And not many have had a full third of their people on the planet slaughtered because… Hitler. That was and remains something never seen in the history of civilization. In terms of scale, organization and actual effect on population, If any slaughter deserves to be the “metaphor” for senseless destruction of an oppressed people it was the Nazi Holocaust.

      • Evan Mantyk

        Just to clarify, I think Cathay is a widely recognized reference to China. Also, it is perhaps a little-known fact in the West that the Japanese saw the Chinese as an inferior race that should be wiped out. They conducted Nazi-style inhumane experiments on Chinese. At the time China was not industrialized and Japan was highly modernized and industrialized. See the Rape of Nanking and Unit 731: https://www.atomicheritage.org/history/unit-731
        This was part of the Century of Humiliation that included Western powers attacking and defeating the unindustrialized China on somewhat weak grounds during the two Opium Wars.

  5. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    To me, this poem initially read as the pitfalls of pride, and how every race and creed succumbs to it. The first line of the final stanza moves on from ‘pride’ to “When Evil meets Good” which led me to think the repeating line: “When the Master Race meets the Chosen People” ultimately means Good versus Evil.

    Having read other’s valid and thought-provoking views, I can see how a different conclusion could be reached. I can see how that conclusion is offensive. I can also see how my view might be wrong. I can also see that this site is a place where people who have rhyme, rhythm, and rapture in common is also a platform for some of the most intense and uncomfortable discussions. I applaud that in a world that shuts down all speech that is deemed offensive. This poem may be offensive. I would love to hear the poet’s intentions. The fact that we are divided on the meaning means there’s room for doubt… and the fact we’re allowed to express ourselves forthrightly and with passion is a marvel in this day and age. Where can we talk, where can we reason, where can we work to find common ground these days? I think the SCP is uniquely positioned because of its fearlessness in an age of fear. Free speech means many will be offended… I’ve been offended many times on this site, and I’m certain I’ve offended many… but being shut down and out would be my worst nightmare.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Susan,

      Well expressed.

      And Evan is to be commended for moderating the site, it’s contents, and it’s comments in a way that promotes what you describe.

      Reply
      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Absolutely, James! Evan is the man when it comes to poetry meets freedom of speech… rare assets in these cancel-culture times. Thank you, Evan!

  6. Brian Yapko

    I want something to be understood very clearly. The offense is in the linking of a historical tormentor, the Nazis, with their victims, the Jews in a context where they are given the equivalency of the Hatfield or McCoys or the Capulets and Montagues. The most “woke” interpretation of this is the frequent and vilely defamatory comparison of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank as being likened to genocide. There is no foundation in this poem for an interpretation of this being a struggle between good and evil. More specifically, there is nothing to indicate Master Race evil, Chosen People good.

    I did not write this poem. I can only read it. But there is no reasonable interpretation of “Master Race’ other than Nazi Germans and there is no reasonable interpretation of “Chosen People” other than Jews. That being said, when you now link the tormentor with the tormented in this way — four times as the theme of a poem which, despite the first line of the envoi is clearly not about the battle of good versus evil — it is about how Pride seems to hurt everyone — when proud people come into contact with proud people then there will be “hell to pay” (which also comes up four times.) In any of these situations is there any sense of oppressor versus oppressed, of tormentor versus the tormented? Not present. It is about Hatfield versus McCoy equivalence. As such, this linkage of Nazis and Jews is as hurtful as thematically linking slave-owners and their black slaves, Cambodians with the Khmer Rouge, Turks with Armenians or the C.C.P. with the Falun Gong. I am not an advocate for censorship and I despise canceling history. But a trivialization of unspeakable tragedy into a feud of “pride” between Nazis and Jews is the worst form of historic canceling.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      I think my interpretation of those phrases is perfectly reasonable, and in accord with professional canons of criticism.

      You of course have a different interpretation, and that is your right. But your comments clearly suggest that you think the poem OUGHT to say something different from what it says, because you personally find the poem “offensive.” Or maybe that it shouldn’t have been written or published at all.

      That is the essence of political correctness, and cancel culture. Poems (and poets) can say whatever the hell they want.

      Reply
      • Brian Yapko

        What you say is very true. Freedom of speech exists and exists for a reason. And I deplore cancel culture. For the record, the only piece of writing I would consider cancelling is Mein Kampf. With a possible second item being Mao’s Little Red Book. Otherwise, anyone can publish anything they want to submit and that they can convince an editor to publish. My issue is more one of propriety of the forum of publication — and my conscience.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Joe: Brian articulated my point exactly. My issue is also with putting the two groups on equal footing, the essence of moral relativism. And, if the poet gets to do that, don’t Brian and I get to object? Or should our views be canceled because they don’t fit in with free speech? Are Brian’s views as a Jew who was personally affected by the Holocaust and my views as a pro-life person less valid than those of someone else who published here?

        This isn’t to argue that the line shouldn’t have been written or published, but rather to ask, are there limits? If so, where are they? If not, should people be allowed to say there are limits? On the one hand, canceling Nazi speech could lead to canceling pro-life speech (I already can’t get published anywhere but here), but on the other, allowing it could lead to allowing the woke to muzzle us. This is the paradox of free speech. No matter what arrangement we have, there will always be free speech for some but not for others. That’s just a fact of life.

        I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m enjoying discussing these questions.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        I deeply regret that this entire issue has arisen. It can easily lead to resentment and bad blood. But it allows me to bring up an important point that may bring all of us to some kind of understanding and comradeship. Please bear with me, everyone. I put all polemics aside.

        Joshua, there’s one thing that the current campaign to gut the First Amendment, to de-platform enemies, to censor social media posts, and to strangle dissenting views should teach us: Free speech is for EVERYBODY, or it’s for NOBODY. There is no third option.

        Yes, of course you and Brian have the right to raise objections to anything you please. No one is denying that. That’s part of free speech also. Just as political freedom is highly dependent on a person having economic freedom, so also does freedom of speech depend on a person having the physical right to publish or broadcast whatever he wants to express.

        All I’m trying to say is that this is a place for posting poems, analyzing them, seeing how they work, criticizing technical faults, commending well-crafted stuff, and learning new things. But a poem should not be judged, rejected, or condemned on the basis of its subject matter, or on perceived insults or slights to the reader. When that happens we have the birth of an unspoken public orthodoxy, which everyone is required to respect and obey.

        When you ask “Should there be limits?” you are really asking this: “Should there be a public orthodoxy that everyone is bound to honor and not transgress?”

        My personal answer to that question is No. And I can bring up, in defense of my position, the fact that here at this website I have always (vociferously) fought against any attempt by my fellow Catholics to censor what I write, or to demand that I tailor my verse to fit the requirements of “decorous language” or pietistic “niceness.” I am a Roman Catholic, but nobody is going to tell me that as a poet I have to stick within the confines of the Baltimore Catechism. So this is an issue that goes beyond our personal religious commitments or racial loyalties. Whether we are Catholic or Jewish or Protestant or atheist or agnostic or anything else, any public orthodoxy is the enemy of us all.

        Right now, throughout the entire Western world, there is a deliberate and ferocious effort to establish a new public orthodoxy that all persons must follow, under penalty of imprisonment, loss of employment, impoverishment, public shaming and shunning, and complete marginalization. The forces pushing this new public orthodoxy are incredibly wealthy and powerful, they control most of the positions of great influence world-wide, and they are fanatically committed to imposing their views and rules on all of us. A significant percentage of the common population is on their side, and you will find its partisans among your closest friends, colleagues, and family members.

        A place like the SCP is as rare as incunabula. It is a place where we can all breathe, and where we do not need to worry about what others think. But if we open the door one small crack to allow a public orthodoxy — ANY public orthodoxy! — into our discussions and deliberations, we are doomed to collapse very quickly.

        That is why I have argued so hard against the objections to E.M. Schorb’s poem. If they had been raised in the name of better structure, or improved technique, or more clarity, I would have remained silent. But when they came as a complaint about the poem being “objectionable” on non-aesthetic grounds, I could smell the fumes of a nascent public orthodoxy.

        Peace to everyone reading these words. I hope they are not spoken in vain.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        The thing is, you’re absolutely right. (I’m Catholic too, so nice to see another on here!)

        As I see it, there are no clean options. Leaving aside whether or not Brian and I are right in our interpretation, everything you say about freedom of speech is true. I always say, regarding liberals, that without God, anything is permissible (as Dostoyevsky put it). But I never thought about the fact that they could say the same about me: that is, once I disobey society (which functions for many liberals as a kind of god) by believing everything the Church teaches, I have to be willing to accept other people disobeying in their own ways. (Of course, God is right because He is God, but that’s another discussion.)

        This is why I don’t do politics. Too complicated. (I don’t see writing pro-family poetry as political because morality is something separate from politics.)

        I hope you don’t think I bear any ill will toward you or the poet. In fact, you’ve both given me a lot to think about.

      • Brian Yapko

        Joseph, you are of course right. Anyone should be free to write what they want. Please note that I’ve never once suggested that this poem be removed, censored, altered in any way. I asked for its message to be recognized for what I believe it is based on the very language and structure of the poem. I repeat, recognized. Not censored. I do think it is fair game to call out a position set forth, whether poetically or in a comment, as being wrong. I also have a right to speak my mind regarding content and I’ve noticed that you are no shrinking violet when it comes to speaking your mind on issues of content which have little to do with the quality of the poem. This site encourages debate and the occasional tear-down on issues like cancel culture, abortion, climate change, elections, gun rights, and a host of other subjects which have brought vigorous debate. This poem has inspired one more such debate on an issue which matters. I called it as I saw it in terms of ethnic insult. I remember a poem only a few months ago by a frequent contributor on this site to which enormous umbrage was taken by two other regular contributors to this site. That became a uniquely ab hominem attack situation. I don’t believe this has risen to anything like that level. And yes, I take this personally — as personally as others might take anti-Catholic views. But I never once asked for either this poem or the debate to be shut down. Now THAT would be cancel culture. And with respect to poetic criticism itself, the ambiguity in this poem is not an asset. It has created a distraction for more than one reader.

      • Sally Cook

        While it is good to discuss anything, I am disappointed to find people I admire taking a side issue and beating it to death.
        How can any of us say what another should have written?
        I am with Dr. Salemi on this. Write whatever you like – any topic – then discuss the poem on its merits as a poem .
        So why is the poem Mr. Schorb published here being attacked?
        Please consider this: once limits of any kind are put on speech, no matter how seemingly virtuous, but especially in the arts, a can of worms is opened and one cannot go back. I am sure all of you see that in the illogic of PC speech, and in its desire to further control.
        All this has done is to increase my interest in Schorb’s work.

  7. Yael

    As a German Jewish Nazi I approve of this juxtaposition of the Master Race with the Chosen People. My maternal grandfather was a pilot in the German Luftwaffe and did not survive that war. My paternal grandfather was a German Jewish lawyer who did a survival stint in Palestine and then returned to Germany where he had a lucrative career handling reparations cases. I know for a fact that many Jews were Nazis and many Nazis were Jews, as they still are to this day. When I get upset at some perceived injustice in my life I just look in the mirror and cuss myself out. That’s putting the blame where it belongs.
    I’ve never watched cooking shows but I like this ballad.

    Reply
    • Mike Bryant

      Yael, your background gives you a perspective, an insight, that is rare and valuable. We must look more to the future and pull together for the sake of our children, our sanity and our individual sovereignty. Your attitude is admirable. Thanks for putting an apt personal perspective on a difficult question.
      Your unique take on this horrific, historic nightmare is humbling and inspirational.

      Reply
  8. Evan Mantyk

    As the editor, I emphasize the below statement that appears below all poems:

    “The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments”

    If I had read this as anti-Semitic, we would not have published it and I don’t think Mr. Schorb meant for it to be. Mr. Schorb has published a lot of free verse and this certainly reads better than some of his other poetry, so I will applaud him for that.

    In this day and age, when feeling offended, I’d suggest sleeping on it for a day or two, and coming back to it. That’s what I usually do. Then if something needs clarifying, then by all means clarify it. There is a maxim I’ve read in the book Zhuan Falun which I’ve found helpful:

    “When encountering a conflict, take a step back and you will see that the seas and skies are boundless.”

    -Evan Mantyk
    SCP Editor

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      E.M. et al,

      Criticism is not a bad thing if it is offered in an attempt to further a conversation rather than to end it. Nor do I find it a matter of pride to express one’s honest response to what is at the same time a quixotic, provocative and as-yet-still-unexplained juxtaposition of the two parties (both victim and executioner) involved in the greatest systematic genocide in human history.

      In addition, it would seem to be the antithesis of pride for me to confess uncertainty and confusion and to ask questions in an attempt to understand an author’s intent or to gain some clarification as to the meaning of their poem.

      And while it is arguable as to whether it is or is not appropriate to raise moral issues in an academic setting offering a critique of a work of poetry submitted as a class assignment, I have not previously observed SCP members hesitating to raise moral issues relative to poems submitted to the SCP site in the past–including Dr. Salemi.

      As I understand it, the SCP is an open forum where all opinions and viewpoints offered in a respectful manner have been permitted, allowed and encouraged.

      If I can be shown how my comments have been offense and/or grounded in “pride,” then I will apologize, for that was not my intent. That said, until evidence of such is offered, I have no intention of retracting anything that I have said thus far on this thread.

      Reply
      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Who asked you to retract anything, or to apologize?

        You’re taking E.M. Schorb’s facetious throwaway line as if it were a challenge to a duel. All he’s done is reinforce his poem’s claim that pride and ethnocentric love of one’s identity and culture are good things, but that they do lead to conflict and sometimes worse.

        Of course one may raise moral issues when discussing a poem — as long as that is not the primary concern of one’s criticism. The New Critics had to wage a long hard battle to put an end to that deplorable American tendency.

    • Joshua C. Frank

      Insulting your critics isn’t going to endear us to you or your work; rather, it will only confirm that we’re spot on in every word of our criticism, which I’m already beginning to suspect based on your evasive response.

      What if, instead, you explain to us what we’re missing in our understanding? I believe we’ve articulated our confusion well enough to enable you to do so without further questions. If we’re wrong in our assessment of your message (and I sincerely hope we are), I’m interested in hearing how.

      Reply
      • Yael

        As a deed of public service and in the spirit of good and helpful intent I will volunteer to answer your question J.C. Frank.
        Question: “What if,… , you explain to us what we’re missing in our understanding?”
        Answer: You seem to believe that how you make yourself feel is caused by the poet’s choice of words which you voluntarily chose to read. Based on how you perceived his words and how you filtered them through your un-dealt-with insecurities which cause you to victimize yourself, you try to blame him for what you are doing to yourself.
        I sincerely hope this answer will help someone.

      • Joshua C. Frank

        Yael, don’t presume to tell me how I feel. It’s condescending, and it’s not even accurate.

        I’m not insecure, and I’m not victimizing myself. As I said, I’m not even Jewish. I am, however, a pro-life poet, and I couldn’t, in good conscience, ignore what seemed to be pro-Holocaust speech, given the unsettling similarities between abortion and the other mass murders that have taken place throughout history.

        But if you really are a Nazi, as you say, and as confirmed by your approval of such a juxtaposition, then I don’t expect a pro-death person such as yourself to understand the concepts of pro-life or conscience. You and I have such irreconcilable views that I don’t think any further discussion is possible.

  9. Margaret Coats

    There is effective wording here, appealing for the reader’s sympathy against the Frugal Gourmet (about whom I know nothing). However, I think the structure of the double refrain ballade is poorly used. This kind of lyric is well suited to contrast/comparison, but with two refrains returning at brief, regular intervals, it takes a great deal of skill to keep thought coherent even if actually discussing two items. Here we have paired stereotypes instead of discussion. They are stereotypes of hatred or enmity, of which pride (not discussed) is merely the implicit cause. “Hell” is just an emphatic epithet, and despite the rush to include good and evil and heaven in the envoi, the associations remain unclear.

    But perhaps the poet intends to mock the form as light verse suited only to subjects such as the Frugal Gourmet. Or to suggest that more serious examples need to be written. As far as I can tell the double-refrain ballade was invented by Austin Dobson, whose “Ballade of Prose and Rhyme” is the best. I have never seen one in French, and would be grateful to anyone who points out a French example. For English, see also “Ballade Tragique” by Max Beerbohm, and “Ballade of Youth and Age” and “Ballade of Midsummer Days and Nights,” both by William Ernest Henley. Here I show my academic critic’s pride, and suggest the form hasn’t reached its potential yet.

    Thanks for bringing it some attention. I am interested by the comment lumping the poem’s critics together as a “proud people.” The cleverest part of this poem is the poet-speaker guarding himself from his condemnation of prideful groups. He is a single voice, and dangerous pride is collective.

    Reply
  10. James A. Tweedie

    For Joseph,

    Obviously no one asked me to apologize or to retract anything. My challenge was rhetorical and offered facetiously in response to E.M.’s flippant dismissal of his “critics” by accusing them of being motivated by the sin of pride, the same sin addressed in his poem. My offer was made knowing he could not produce any evidence to support his comment.

    As Joshua has pointed out, we are still waiting for him to respond to our sincere requests for clarification.

    If his response points in the same direction as your interpretation (which is, of course, a reasonable one) that would be entirely satisfactory to me.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Mr. Tweedie:

      With all due respect, do you realize that you are talking like a prosecutor in a criminal case? You are “waiting for [Schorb] to respond”? A certain type of response “would be entirely satisfactory to [you]”? Schorb cannot “produce any evidence to support his comment”?

      Do you think that you have the right to demand answers in this manner?

      What the hell is going on here? We are not in a legal tribunal. E.M. Schorb wrote a poem. He is under NO OBLIGATION AT ALL to defend it, apologize for it, explain it, or beg anyone’s pardon for it. Is that clear to everyone?

      I have tried to be polite in this thread but now it is becoming evident that this is nothing but a rather unpleasant eruption of “identity politics,” where some parties take umbrage at something, and then turn it into an occasion for berating somebody who isn’t in step with politically correct “public orthodoxy.”

      I have seen this happen over and over at other on-line poetry sites, and it always follows the same pattern. Somebody writes something. Someone else claims that it is “offensive.” Suddenly the writer realizes that he is in deep political trouble. He either backtracks, or argues that he had no intention to offend. Others chime in to support the aggrieved party, while others support the writer by adducing various reasons why the thing written is not offensive, or should not be understood in those terms. Volleys are fired back and forth, and the result is usually predictable: the writer is humiliated and degraded, and forced to spit out the most craven kind of self-abnegation, along with a promise to never do it again. In other words, a political orthodoxy triumphs, and freedom of speech is now seriously compromised at that website.

      I don’t think we want that kind of bush-league show trial here at the SCP.

      There are only two ways to avoid this. The first is the Salemi way, which is to say this: “Why should I give a damn if you are offended by my poem? Do you think that I write poems to keep you comfortable?”

      The second is the Schorb way, which is not to say anything at all, and to disregard whatever hostile criticism is fired in his direction. But Schorb is a North Carolina gentleman. I am a violent Sicilian.

      Reply
      • Joshua C. Frank

        I guess we’re just used to your way instead of the Schorb way, and expect him to behave more like you. Perhaps it is just a cultural difference like you say (I’m Sicilian too). I don’t think any of us considered that possibility. Thank you for explaining that aspect to us.

        If someone excoriated me for my pro-family poetry (I’m actually a little disappointed that no one has called me on my minority view like a couple of people did with some of Susan’s poems) and asked, based on the content, if I believe that (for example) a pregnant mother should choose to die rather than have an abortion (an idea that horrifies liberals and even some others), I would just say, “Yes, this is absolutely what I believe, because…” If he exaggerated it and asked if I believe that all women should be treated like livestock as in some countries, I would say, “Of course not. All I said was…” I believe in setting the record straight to avoid misunderstandings, and like you, I would refuse to apologize.

        It does make sense that we don’t want the SCP to turn into those other sites you describe. After all, if we have to censor ideas that are repugnant to some, or ideas that imply such, who among us is safe? On the other hand, the fact that it seems wrong to me on a conscience level to ignore what that line sounds like while promoting pro-life ideas in my own poetry won’t go away. As uncomfortable as I am with the risk of my own poetry being censored, I’m also uncomfortable with a “don’t criticize my ideas and I won’t criticize yours” system, as the idea that we all need a safe space because words hurt our feelings also seems to cave in to political correctness.

      • James A. Tweedie

        Joseph,

        I am not prosecuting anyone (other than to contest the charge of being motivated by pride).

        Read my comments and here is a summary:

        I read something that I interpreted in a way that offended me and I said so. But I did not know whether my interpretation was correct or what the poet actually meant.

        I asked for clarification which the poet is under no obligation to provide.

        I have not advocated censorship, have not made any accusations of a personal nature and have even said that I give the poet the benefit of doubt by acknowledging that my initial response may have been misplaced.

        Maybe the poem expresses an idea I don’t like. That’s not a big deal. So what? Let’s talk about it. Why can’t we do that in this case when we do it all the time otherwise?

        My bottom-line criticism of the poem is that I am unable to discern what it is trying to say. Perhaps this is the poet’s intent. Perhaps not.

        Is it impolite to ask and to hope for an answer?

        It seems that the only discernible chilling intent to restrict speech in these comments is being aimed in my direction with the additional implication that your interpretation of the poem is reasonable (and mine is not), that your criticism of my comments is acceptable (whereas my response to the poem is not) and that Mr. Schorb is a gentleman (and I am not).

        If we are going to enter the realm of affixing labels to one another and ourselves, I will, in this case, self-identify as a stubborn Scot and leave it at that.

        If Mr. Schorb chooses not to respond to my enquiry then so be it and I will have no reason to comment further.

        Whether this makes him a gentleman or not I have no opinion one way or the other.

  11. Joseph S. Salemi

    To James T.–

    You and I have an unpleasant history of fighting, and when I lost my temper some weeks ago on another thread, I realized that I had to apologize. Since then, I have tried to steer clear of interaction with you, simply because of something that neither of us can control: two utterly different views of the world. Like the leopard, neither of us can change his spots.

    But — and again, I want to avoid harsh polemics — you have a tendency to moralize in situations where morals are inappropriate criteria. Most clergymen are this way, which is why I avoid all dealings with them, even of my own faith.

    I never said nor implied that you were not a gentleman. In fact, my personal opinion is that you are too much of a gentleman: too polite, too soft-spoken, to ready to concede points, too anxious to promote harmony and mutual understanding.. These are not bad qualities per se, but they are often out of place in the rough-and-tumble of conflict that is the world of today. In fact, they often come across as manipulative and time-serving.

    It is particularly exasperating to deal with such qualities when someone is insistently pressing a moral or ethical point. One feels that one is arguing with Mother Theresa or Pollyanna Harrington. I would rather deal with the hard-bitten anger of Cyrano de Bergerac than the mewling piety of many saints.

    I speak this without any ill will or malice or anger. I said that Schorb was a gentleman simply because I have known him for a long time, and he is the epitome of the courtly and punctilious Southerner. There was no intended reflection on you.

    How do I show any “discernible chilling intent to restrict speech,” when I have proclaimed in my above postings that I reject all censorship or regulation of commentary here? Yes, of course I think that your interpretation of Schorb’s poem is incorrect, and that mine is the proper one. That’s called DISAGREEMENT. That’s what the world is all about — disagreement, conflict, drawn swords, warfare. Saying that one is offended by something that someone else writes, and that it should be changed or omitted or apologized for, is utterly unworldly.

    To conclude, I think that the main issue here is “public orthodoxy.” Any kind of public orthodoxy is our enemy, and must be rigorously excluded from having any authority over what we write. I may be wrong (correct me if I am) but I believe that you, on the other hand, are perfectly willing that there be a mildly middle-of-the-road public orthodoxy of niceness, kindness, forbearance, tolerance, restricted subject matter, and restrained tongues. All of which is admirable as an ideal, but utterly strangulating in the white-hot world of language and poetry.

    I have no desire to prolong this debate , but if it continues I’ll join in with as little rancor as I can manage. The real issue is not Schorb’s poem, or whether anyone is offended by it. It is this question of a public orthodoxy.

    I sincerely wish everyone here the best.

    Reply
  12. James A. Tweedie

    Joseph,

    I appreciate your attempt to soften the discussion while stating your position plainly. I, too, wish to move on to other matters but…

    I would only respond by asking how, in this thread, have I been “insistently pressing a moral or ethical point?” I have expressed my response to something, briefly elaborated on it, and sought clarification but nowhere have I suggested that anyone change or adjust their position to align with mine. This is a diverse world and I am glad to say that this is a diverse site where I do not expect to always agree with you (or anyone else) and I do not expect everyone to agree with anything that I may say.

    I am also unaware of advocating anything akin to what you call “public orthodoxy” other than what may be essential to maintain a functional society (and, as an aside, is not that the primary role of politics? To debate, define, and refine what those “essential elements” ought to be?)

    And you are right about one thing, I take Jesus’ words to heart where I am called to be “as wise as (a) serpent(s) and as innocent as (a) dove(s).” The world already has fangs and venom in abundance. As Jesus suggests, what it could use more of is wisdom and innocence. Having said this, I may not be a street fighter, but I do know how to defend myself.

    I join with you in wishing everyone the best.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear James —

      Thank you for your comments. I’ll try to explain what I mean.

      Fights may start at a flashpoint, but the context and pre-history of a fight must be understood in order to sort out what has really happened. We can’t understand World War I by just looking at a tubercular Serb assassin in 1914 at a street corner in Sarajevo. We have to understand a century of international intrigue and conflict that came before.

      You say that you merely “sought clarification” from E.M. Schorb about something in his poem. That sounds very reasonable and innocent, and I don’t doubt that you honestly think it is. But in context, your request was provocative. Two posters had begun the thread by expressing “discomfort” at something in Schorb’s poem. You followed up those posts by reiterating the remark about “discomfort,” and by raising even more questions about parts of the poem, all in a tone of troubled worry.

      That is certainly “pressing a moral or ethical point.” It is exactly how leftists and liberals and wokesters and other politically correct types begin their attack on someone (and no, I don’t include you or the other two posters in those groups). They state that something “makes them uncomfortable,” or “needs to be explained,” or “raises a troubling uncertainty.” All of which sounds perfectly innocent, but which IN CONTEXT functions as a preliminary artillery barrage to soften up the enemy position. And it always begins with a quasi-ethical expression of hurt or misunderstanding, and a request for “explanation,” which is really a disguised demand for an apology. Such requests are completely out of place in literary discussions, where poems are fictive artifacts unconstrained by moral guidelines.

      How this all connects with what I said about “public orthodoxy” is too lengthy to explain in this short space. Let me put it into an inadequate nutshell: all orthodoxies are rooted in a commitment to what OUGHT to be, or what SHOULD be, or what MUST be, regardless of what anyone else thinks. When anyone brings up the quasi-ethical argument that one is “offended” or “outraged” by something, one is surreptitiously appealing to a public orthodoxy that is allegedly shared by all right-thinking people.

      This is where you are mistaken about public orthodoxy. You say that “the primary role of politics is to debate, define and refine what those essential elements ought to be.” (There’s that damned word OUGHT again!)

      This is simon-pure liberalism, and it is false. The purpose of politics is to get power, and keep it, and to maintain the rights and privileges of one’s people and allies. A major part of this task is accomplished by establishing a solid public orthodoxy from which persons should be frightened to dissent, and terrified to contradict openly. The left understands this very well. Liberals don’t.

      Today the left is in a frenzy to create a new public orthodoxy that enshrines their beliefs and attitudes. The major tool for doing this is to use the rhetoric of “being offended” and “demanding an explanation,” and publicly speaking in such a way as to give the impression that what they say is ethically and morally unquestionable by anyone. The biggest mistake that anyone can make in argument is to concede that something may be offensive to the left, and then try to palliate it with explanations. Do that, and you’re dead.

      Since you are a minister, I’m surprised that you disregard all the passages in scripture where it is very clear that Jesus is not opposed to violence. He violently ejects the money-changers from the Temple courtyard in John 3. He tells His disciples to sell their cloaks and buy swords (Luke 22). He says that He has not come to bring peace, but division (Luke 12). He speaks about how son will turn against father, and daughter against mother (Matthew 10). Jesus was not a Universalist-Unitarian pacifist.

      Reply
      • Joshua C. Frank

        But Joe, it seems that this group does have a public orthodoxy: a rule against any public orthodoxy. From what I’m seeing, no matter how objectionable someone’s message is, we may never say the emperor has no clothes. If that’s how we do things, then that’s fine, but I’d like that written into the rules if this is so. To be clear, it does make sense; if getting pro-family poetry published here requires my silence in the event that objectionable content is published along with it, then that may be a necessary evil.

        I’ve already stated why my conscience required me to object, but since there’s an unwritten rule against objecting (which I didn’t know), I won’t do it anymore. Let it be known to all that my silence on a poem’s content in no way constitutes approval.

        And with that, I’m bowing out of this discussion. Thank you all, it’s been very educational.

      • The Society

        Dear Joshua,

        For clarification, I’m the one who is the overall website editor and Mike Bryant is the comment moderator. There are basic rules, which I suppose you could call an orthodoxy. They are simple and printed below every poem:

        “The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to mbryant@classicalpoets.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed.”

        This means that if E.M. Schorb wants any comments removed, wants all comments removed, or wants zero comments allowed then he can have that done.

        E.M. Schorb has not requested anything as far as I know.

        Evan Mantyk

  13. James A. Tweedie

    Joseph,

    I raised an issue with you and you responded by clarifying and explaining your position. Now I better understand your position in a way that can move the conversation forward if desired.

    On the other hand I raised an issue with Mr. Schorb and he chose not to reply which effectively shut the door on either clarifying the matter or having any conversation at all. I’m fine with that because he has no obligation to respond and it is not moralizing for me to be disappointed in this or to have asked the question in the first place.

    Joseph, I asked a simple question about the meaning of a poem that, in my mind, raised moral, political, social, cultural issues of great import concerning matters of historical significance being debated on a global scale.

    In my initial comment addressed to E.M. I did not say I was offended by anything. I merely raised the question of what he meant by what he said.

    At the end of that comment I added, “Like many poems, you leave much to the imagination and interpretation of the reader. In this case, however, there are some possible interpretations–that may or may not have been intended–that I would find (for lack of a better word) intemperate.”

    The word “intemperate” was carefully chosen to avoid passing a subjective moral judgement on the passage in question in favor of raising one related to rhetoric. The primary definition of “intemperate” is “Not temperate or moderate, especially in rhetoric or tone.”

    My use of the word “offensive” appeared in a comment personally addressed to you, not to the poet.

    Here’s the quote:

    “I believe that the contextual juxtaposition of “Master Race” and “Chosen People” and their implied illustrative equivalency is both mistakenly-conceived and (for some of us, at least) offensive . . .”

    Here I was telling you how I felt. So what. And off you go accusing me of inappropriate moralizing in my critique of E.M.s poem when I did no such thing and reprising your laughable dismissal of ministers by lumping them (including myself) into a straw-dog
    stereotype that is both irrelevant and inappropriate insofar as it lowers your argument to the level of schoolyard name-calling by reducing me to a caricature conjured from out of your imagination.

    Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” make me cringe. So what.

    I find certain philosophies to be abhorrent, offensive and threatening for reasons that are rational. Am I not permitted to state this in the context of a critique of Pol Pot, for example, or Mein Kampf? Or a poem?

    If I find a great deal of what you say about me to be offensive and say so, so what. I’m sharing how I respond to what you have said. Would that be inappropriate “moralizing?”

    Your mischaracterizations of what I said to E.M. and who I am as a person are misplaced on so many levels that I will add but one more example and close.

    You attack me for suggesting (and here I was assuming the context of the United States) that the role of politics is “To debate, define, and refine what those ‘essential elements’ ought to be?”

    You accuse me of idealizing what in reality is all about gaining and asserting power, etc. completely missing the point that I was EXPLICITLY proffering that comment as an idealization.

    I wasn’t ignoring reality, Joseph, and here, at least, we do indeed appear to have irreconcilable worldviews. As a self-affirmed”vicious Sicilian” you see yourself engaged in a fight for power wherein you hope to “get power, and keep it, and to maintain the rights and privileges of one’s people and allies.”

    I am fighting, too, Joseph.

    But in my fight I am aiming for the ideals contained in the national vision for our country as expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers and our Constitution. I want to restore power to the people as a civil, representative democracy. Under a mutually-endorsed social contract.

    When you win your tooth and claw political victory, Joseph, what will you do with the power you will wield?

    You mock my vision. What is yours?

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      Dear James —

      Sorry for the delay in answering. I have not had internet connection for two and a half days.

      I am at a loss to understand your anger in the above post, because I tried as best I could in mine not to be offensive or arrogant. I just tried, as clearly as possible, to express my views.

      What I saw were three separate posters here putting up three separate comments on Schorb’s poem — comments that showed all the signs of becoming another politically correct pile-on because of two ordinary phrases.

      You say that all you were doing was asking a question and requesting clarification. Alright, I don’t deny that you are sincere in this. But I know from long polemical and debating experience that asking a question of a certain nature, and in a certain way, and in a certain argumentative context, can be as hostile as a body blow. I tried to explain why in my last post.

      As for moralizing, I react badly to the slightest hint of it because moralizing goes hand in hand with public orthodoxies. You can’t complain about the ethics or morals of something unless you assume that your audience shares your ethical stance. but more important. literary creations are not to be judged by whatever moral viewpoint they present. They are fictive artifacts.

      As a member of an all-round hated group (white, male, reactionary, Roman Catholic, and totally pro-Western) I don’t have the luxury of assuming that anyone around me shares my views. When I state an opinion in prose or verse I have no concern whatsoever about what anyone will think of it. If someone writes a poem that contains views with which I disagree, I either ignore it or write a better poem eviscerating it.

      I have no interest in “getting power.” All I said was that real politics is about that, rather than discussing and idealizing matters in the light of one’s ethical views.

      But since you have taken my well-intentioned last post so badly, I will from now on not comment on anything at all that you say here at the SCP, as I had decided prior to the discussion of Schorb’s piece. Since our world-views are so polar, this seems to be the best thing for both of us

      Reply
  14. Sally Cook

    I have thought almost from the beginning that This is about individuals versus groups, and I still think so.
    E.M. Schorb suggests it.

    Reply
    • Yael

      Sally, I think you are exactly spot on with your assessment and it looks to me like the discussion which took place in the comments section bears out your interpretation.

      Reply
  15. Sally Cook

    Yael, apparently no one cares you considered this… To me, it strongly suggests that many people are more comfortable repeating old arguments than they would be in resolving them. I don’t know why, but haven’t we enough awful things going on in this century?

    Reply

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