Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Do Not!"

Ah, a week of scandals among the ruling class.  In New York, a French politician is given an American "perp walk."  In California, the former governor reveals a (no longer) secret "love child."  And, in England, a politician and his spouse face questions about the lurid details of their . . . traffic tickets.  (Something to do with "speeding points" shenanigans.) 

I -- being craven and weak -- cannot help but hear the Siren call of Schadenfreude.  But I tell myself to resist that sweet sound.  Perhaps the following poem by Stevie Smith will help.

                              Do Not!

Do not despair of man, and do not scold him,
Who are you that you should so lightly hold him?
Are you not also a man, and in your heart
Are there not warlike thoughts and fear and smart?
Are you not also afraid and in fear cruel,
Do you not think of yourself as usual,
Faint for ambition, desire to be loved,
Prick at a virtuous thought by beauty moved?
You love your wife, you hold your children dear,
Then say not that Man is vile, but say they are.
But they are not.  So is your judgement shown
Presumptuous, false, quite vain, merely your own
Sadness for failed ambition set outside,
Made a philosophy of, prinked, beautified
In noble dress and into the world sent out
To run with the ill it most pretends to rout.
Oh know your own heart, that heart's not wholly evil,
And from the particular judge the general,
If judge you must, but with compassion see life,
Or else, of yourself despairing, flee strife.

Stevie Smith, Collected Poems (1975).

                                          Raymond Booth (1929- )
                               "Magpies in the Vegetable Garden"      

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