Norman Podhoretz’s latest work of epic fantasy, entitledWorld War IV, declares another ‘Low dishonest decade’to be upon us. He seems to have missed the greater relevanceof the poem with which that quote's author, W.H. Audenwound down World War II at Harvard’s first post-warCommencement in 1946:Under Which Lyre ?A Reactionary Tract for the Times.It begins:Ares at last has quit the fieldThe bloodstains on the bushes yieldTo seeping showers,And in their convalescent stateThe fractured towns associateWith summer flowers …And continues below Intercalated with its revisionas a Neocon Recessional:What A Rich Pyre !A Tract Redacted by The Washington TimesNorman at last has quit the field,
The bloodstains left by Bushies yield
To seeping showers,
As in their convalescent state
The Neocons associate
With Thomas Powers
Encamped upon the college plainRaw veterans already trainAs freshman forces;Instructors with sarcastic tongueShepherd the battle-weary youngThrough basic coursesEncamped upon the college plain
William Kristol can’t explain
What Strauss endorses;
Nor Hanson with Laconic tongue
Shepherd the battle-weary young
Through Persian courses
Among bewildering appliancesFor mastering the arts and sciencesThey stroll or run,And nerves that steeled themselves to slaughterAre shot to pieces by the shorterPoems of Donne.Among the shattered appliancesOf the darker arts and sciences
They stroll or run,
As those that steeled themselves to slaughter
Aim their laughter at the shorter
Odes of Frum
Professors back from secret missionsResume their proper eruditions,Though some regret it;They liked their Dictaphones a lot,T hey met some big wheels, and do notLet you forget it.Professors back from Baghdad’s frissons
Resume their proper eruditions,
Though some regret it;
Although Kevlar can be hot,
They wore theirs indoors and do not
Let you forget it.
But Zeus' inscrutable decreePermits the will-to-disagreeTo be pandemic,Ordains that vaudeville shall preachAnd every commencement speechBe a polemicSo did we all, but Zeus' decreeAbout the will-to-disagree
Is now pandemic,
Ordains all calls to Recht und Ordnung
Should fall as flat as waterboarding
Though treason’s endemic.
Let Ares doze, that other warIs instantly declared once more'Twixt those who followPrecocious Hermes all the wayAnd those who without qualms obeyPompous Apollo.Ares will doze. A worse warInternecine flares once more
Twixt those who follow
Cheney all the way
And those who now with qualms obey
Brutal like all Olympic games,Though fought with smiles and Christian namesAnd less dramatic,This dialectic strife betweenThe civil gods is just as mean,And more fanatic.Brutal like all Olympic games,Though fought with smiles and Christian namesAnd less dramatic,
This dialectic strife between
The Neocons could be foreseen,
As more fanatic.
What high immortals do in mirthIs life and death on Middle Earth;Their a-historicAntipathy forever gripesAll ages and somatic types,The sophomoricWho face the future's darkest hintsWith giggles or with prairie squintsAs stout as Cortez,And those who like myself turn paleAs we approach with ragged sailThe fattening forties.What high immortals do in mirthBut amplifies the Beltway’s girth;
Antipathy forever gripes
All ages and somatic types,
'Tis sophomoricTo face the future’s darkest hints:J- Pod scarfs another blintz
As stout as Cortez,
So not to think, and thus turn pale,
On how a target like a whale
Invites cruel sorties
The sons of Hermes love to playAnd only do their best when theyAre told they oughtn't;Apollo's children never shrinkFrom boring jobs but have to thinkTheir work important.The Editors that we see todayCan only do their best and pray,Wars really oughtn’tFrom Euphrates ever shrink,Lest someone somewhere pause to thinkHe’s not important.If he would leave the self alone,Apollo's welcome to the throne,Fasces and falcons;He loves to rule, has always done it;The earth would soon, did Hermes run it,Be like the Balkans.If such would leave the world alone,
Apollo would smile from his throne,
Fasces and falcons;
Olympus loves to rule, has always done it;
Yet now see voters crowd the summit:
Ron Paul walk-ins.
But jealous of our god of dreams,His common-sense in secret schemesTo rule the heart;Unable to invent the lyre,Creates with simulated fireOfficial art.But jealous of their godlike dreams,Some persevere in secret schemes
To rule the heart;
Unable to invent the lyre,
Create with simulated fire
And when he occupies a college,Truth is replaced by Useful Knowledge;He pays particularAttention to Commercial Thought,Public Relations, Hygiene, Sport,In his curricula.Athletic, extrovert and crude,For him, to work in solitudeIs the offence,The goal a populous Nirvana:His shield bears this device: Mens sanaQui mal y pense.And when in one Chicago college,Truth's replaced by arcane Knowledge;
Sense may take offence,
And Democracy's Nirvana:
Pay the price: Hart’s for Obama
And Buckley Bush repents.
Today his arms, we must confess,From Right to Left have met success,His banners waveFrom Yale to Princeton, and the newsFrom Broadway to the Book ReviewsIs very grave.Yet still our arms, we must confess,
At least on Fox show some success,
Though Islam raves
From Indus to Hormuz, and the news
In lesser New York book reviews
Is very grave.His radio Homers all day longIn over-Whitmanated songThat does not scan,With adjectives laid end to end,Extol the doughnut and commendThe Common Man.Rush Radio hammers all day longIts over-Whitmanated song
That does not scan,
With adjectives laid end to end,
Like rolling Oxycontin to commend
His, too, each homely lyric thingOn sport or spousal love or springOr dogs or dusters,Invented by some court-house bardFor recitation by the yardIn filibusters.Their Policy's no lyric thing,
Devoid of sport and love and spring
All blood and blusterIn the White House Spartan bards,Rehash 300 by the yard,In filibusters.
In fake Hermetic uniformsBehind our battle-line, in swarmsThat keep alighting,His existentialists declareThat they are in complete despair,Yet go on writing.In fake Hermetic uniforms
Behind our battle-line, in swarms
To warm the fighting,
That they forswear complete despair,
And go on writing.
No matter; He shall be defied;White Aphrodite is on our side:What though his threatTo organize us grow more critical?Zeus willing, we, the un-political,Shall beat him yet
No matter; they shall be defied.
With Aphrodite at our side: Though they admit Intel quite diseased
Zeus willing, honest NIE’s, Shall beat them yet.Lone scholars, sniping from the wallsOf learned periodicals,Our facts defend,Our intellectual marines,Landing in little magazinesCapture a trend.Though aimed at heavenIn the hallsOf Neo PeriodicalsThe tracer fire of small magazinesOften rips though grunt marinesAs it descends .In our morale must lie our strength:So, that we may behold at lengthRouted Apollo'sBattalions melt away like fog,Keep well the Hermetic Decalogue,Which runs as follows--In our morale must lie our strength:So, that we may behold at length
Last battalions melt away like fog,
Eschew The Weekly Standard Decalogue,
Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,Thou shalt not write thy doctor's thesisOn education,Thou shalt not worship projects norShalt thou or thine bow down beforeAdministration .Thou shalt not answer questionnairesOr quizzes upon World-Affairs,Nor with complianceTake any test. Thou shalt not sitWith statisticians nor commitA social science.Do not as the West Wing pleases,Write not any doctor's thesis
On abstinence education,
Whilst electing, thou and thine
To lie, Anne Coulter-like, supine
Before AdministrationNeither fib to questionnaires
Or quizzes on K-Street affairs,
Nor in compliance
With statisticians fit
In false knowledge, nor commit
To deny science.
Thou shalt not be on friendly termsWith guys in advertising firms,Nor speak with suchAs read the Bible for its prose,Nor, above all, make love to thoseWho wash too much.Thou shalt not live within thy meansNor on plain water and raw greens.If thou must chooseBetween the chances, choose the odd;Read The New Yorker, trust in GodAnd take short views.Thou shall not be on friendly termsWith focus groups and PR firmsWho fear the Muses’ ardent touchAnd read the Bible for its prose.Nor, above all, make love to thoseWho worship such.
Let them live beyond their means
On Tigris water and raw greens.
If you must choose
Twixt candidates forsaken by Taft and TR's Muse
Trust in Reagan's God and Buckley's, not National Review's .
-- Russell Seitz
C. 2008 the Author;1946 Auden PBK poem courtesy
of the President & Fellows of Harvard College.