Monday, April 30, 2012

"Mad Agility In Compound Deceit"

In the country in which I live, we are in the midst of a presidential election campaign.  The months between now and the first Tuesday in November lie before us like a yawning abyss.  One thing can be stated with absolute certainty and without fear of contradiction:  the media will put on a display of "mad agility in compound deceit."  (One of my favorite phrases from Saul Bellow.  (It is from Mr. Sammler's Planet.)  Ten syllables in what may be iambic pentameter.  It sounds like something by Shakespeare or Donne. Bellow could have been a poet.)
While at all times protesting their "neutrality."  But of course.

                                       George Price Boyce (1826-1897)
          "Newcastle from the Rabbit Banks, Gateshead-on-Tyne" (1864)

                  The Trade

The language fades.  The noise is more
Than ever it has been before,
But all the words grow pale and thin
For lack of sense has done them in.

What wonder, when it is for pay
Millions are spoken every day?
It is the number, not the sense
That brings the speakers pounds and pence.

The words are stretched across the air
Vast distances from here to there,
Or there to here:  it does not matter
So long as there is media chatter.

Turn up the sound and let there be
No talking between you and me:
What passes now for human speech
Must come from somewhere out of reach.

C. H. Sisson, What and Who (1994).

                                Harold Jones, "The Black Door" (c. 1935)


Shelley said...

That poem makes me think of the new Atlantic article saying that Facebook and texting make people lonelier, not happier.

Stephen Pentz said...

Shelley: that doesn't surprise me. I think that nearly all of the so-called "communication" "innovations" of the past 20 years or so have only succeeded in speeding up lives, and little else.

Except for blogs, of course!

As always, thank you for your thoughts.