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‘Tis of my country that I would endite,
In hope to set some misconceptions right.
My country? I love it well, and those good fellows
Who, since their wit's unknown, escape the gallows.
But you stuffed coats who're neither tepid nor distinctly boreal,
Pimping, conceited, placid, editorial,
Could I but speak as 'twere in the 'Restoration'
I would articulate your perdamnation.
This year perforce I must with circumspection
For Mencken states somewhere, in this connection:
‘It is a moral nation we infest.'
Despite such reins and checks I'll do my best,
An art! You all respect the arts, from that infant tick
Who's now the editor of The Altantic,
From Comstock's self, down to the meanest resident,
Till up again, right up, we reach the president,
Who shows his taste in his ambassadors:
A novelist, a publisher, to pay old scores,
A novelist, a publisher and a preacher,
That's sent to Holland, a most particular feature,
Henry Van Dyke, who thinks to charm the Muse you pack her in
A sort of stinking deliquescent saccharine.
The constitution of our land, O Socrates,
Was made to incubate such mediocrities,
These and a state in books that's grown perennial
And antedates the Philadelphia centennial.
Still I'd respect you more if you could bury
Mabie, and Lyman Abbot and George Woodberry,
For minds so wholly founded upon quotations
Are not the best of pulse for infant nations.
Dulness herself, that abject spirit, chortles
To see your forty self-baptized immortals,
And holds her sides where swelling laughter cracks 'em
Before the 6Ars Poetica' of Hiram Maxim.
All one can say of this refining medium
Is cZut! Cinque lettres!' a banished gallic idiom,
Their doddering ignorance is waxed so notable
'Tis time that it was capped with something quotable.
Here Radway grew, the fruit of pantosocracy,
The very fairest flower of their gynocracy.
Radway ? My hero, for it will be more inspiring
If I set forth a bawdy plot like Byron
Than if I treat the nation as a whole.
Radway grew up. These forces shaped his soul;
These, and yet God, and Dr. Parkhurst's god, the N.Y. Journal
(Which pays him more per week than The Supernal).
These and another godlet of that day, your day
(You feed a hen on grease, perhaps she'll lay
The sterile egg that is still eatable:
'Prolific Noyes' with output undefeatable).
From these he (Radway) learnt, from provosts and from editors unyielding
And innocent of Stendhal, Flaubert, Maupassant and Fielding.
They set their mind (it's still in that condition)
May we repeat; the Centennial Exposition
At Philadelphia, 1876?
What it knew then, it knows, and there it sticks.
And yet another, a 'charming man', ‘sweet nature,' but was Gilder,
De mortuis verum, truly the master builder?
From these he learnt. Poe, Whitman, Whistler, men, their recognition
Was got abroad, what better luck do you wish 'em,
When writing well has not yet been forgiven
In Boston, to Henry James, the greatest whom we've seen living.
And timorous love of the innocuous
Brought from Gt. Britain and dumped down a'top of us,
Till you may take your choice: to feel the edge of satire or
Read Bennett or some other flaccid flatterer.
Despite it all, despite your Red Bloods, febrile concupiscence
Whose blubbering yowls you take for passion's essence;
Despite it all, your compound predilection
For ignorance, its growth and its protection
(Vide the tariff), I will hang simple facts
Upon a tale, to combat other tracts,
'Message to Garcia,' Mosher's propagandas
That are the nation's botts, collicks and glanders.
Or from the feats of Sumner cull it? Think,
Could Freud or Jung'unfathom such a sink?
My hero, Radway, I have named, in truth,
Some forces among those which 'formed' his youth:
These heavy weights, these dodgers and these preachers,
Crusaders, lecturers and secret lechers,
Who wrought about his 'soul' their stale infection.
These are the high-brows, and to this collection
The social itch, the almost, all but, not quite, fascinating,
Piquante, delicious, luscious, captivating:
Puffed satin, and silk stockings, where the knee
Clings to the skirt in strict (vide: 'Vogue') propriety.
Three thousand chorus girls and all unkissed,
state sans song, sans home-grown wine, sans realist!
'Tell me not in mournful wish-wash
Life's a sort of sugared dish-wash!'
Radway had read the various evening papers
And yearned to imitate the Waldorf capers
As held before him in that unsullied mirror
The daily press, and monthlies nine cents dearer.
They held the very marrow of the ideals
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Use the citation below to add this poem to your bibliography:
"L'Homme Moyen Sensuel" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2022. Web. 28 Jun 2022. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/13288/l%27homme-moyen-sensuel>.