Two Poems on Poetry

  Alexander Pope, From Horace Odes IV.9

Lest you should think that verse shall die,
Which sounds the silver Thames along,
Taught on the wings of truth to fly
Above the reach of vulgar song;

Though daring Milton sits sublime,
In Spenser native Muses play;
Nor yet shall Waller yield to time,
Nor pensive Cowley's mortal lay.

 

Digging the Past

           Great nations have existed without rhyme,

           and lullabied by warhoops apes have laid

           their heads on silk, mute till their files of crime

           are scrabbled by the antiquarian's spade.

           The chronicles of Nineveh and Tyre,

           the riddled tablets of the Tigris mud

           reburied rest in journals, while the lyre

           of David rouses angels in our blood.

           There is no history of Assyrian sheiks,

           whose deeds were droned by scribes on the evening news;

           they live as fallguys for the well-greaved Greeks,

           or footnotes to the sufferings of the Jews.

           They ate, drank themselves sick, and drew up plans

           for Babel's tower--such Good Americans.

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

6 Responses

  1. Harry Colin says:

    I think the second poem qualifies you to be the poet laureate for our highly-literate, classically-trained, historically astute America!

  2. Vince Cornell says:

    When one considers what passes for modern American poet laureates – I think the gibbering of apes would be preferable. At least they have no potential capacity to know better.

    Dr. Fleming – have you ever collected any of your poetry? I remember some appearing in issues of some old magazine I used to subscribe to, but do not recall if there was ever any attempt at consolidation. I think such an item would look lovely in the Fleming Foundation Store.

  3. Thomas Fleming says:

    Once a month, sometimes more frequently, I go through my papers and files in order to put together a volume I originally wanted to call “Fifty Odd Years” and will soon have to call “Eighty Odd Years,” unless I can put it out soon. This sonnet must have been written about a dozen years ago, perhaps more.

  4. Harry Colin says:

    I hope this is as good a spot as any to ask Dr. Fleming for a knee rehab update!

  5. Thomas Fleming says:

    I am now spending 40 minutes twice a week with the sadists known as therapists. I am supposed to spend about the same time working by myself but I don’t come close. Because of the cruelty of the therapists, one of whom jammed my leg into 90% of a knee-bend, causing me to scream–he remarked, “That’s what I want to hear!”–I have pretty much given up the brace, though it is recommended for everyday use, and I can now walk about a mile and a half at something like 70% of my former speed. I can rise from a sitting position without much effort, sit in a car with only mild discomfort, and, best of all, I can now for the first time in two years walk up stairs in the normal, rather than the crippled fashion, but only if I concentrate on every step. Since stair walking is the most demanding of the exercises at the clinic, my trips from the living room to my study–two flights of stairs–and down to the garage and wine cellar–another flight–are a good deal of exercise.

    Some days are bad, and the leg swells up like a balloon as it did last night, but over all, I can say that in the past week I am now markedly stronger and more mobile than before the operation. With any luck, I’ll be driving in less than a month. It’s still a bit early to say, but I am pretty confident that, while I may never be back to the agility I had two years ago, I am almost ready to resume something like normal mobility. The big test will be walking down stairs, which I dare not yet attempt. I have to confess that if the therapists had been less brutal, I should never have made such progress so rapidly.

  6. Harry Colin says:

    In my recovery the swelling was the worst aspect of it, and you are correct about walking downstairs – a frightening prospect at this point in your scenario. However, that’s great news about your ability to walk; it appears you are on the road to bipedal nirvana! Thanks for the update.