All for Show
A Mock-Epic Satire
Addressed to the Politicians
Smart Muse, pray, twixt your forefinger and thumb
Hold true, to strike my careful target dumb,
My worded aim as steady as a tree;
Though dumb-struck they before and current be;
And with that thumb and finger posed sublime,
Squeeze out my song! As you’d some spot divine.
Politicians, they that grow the state:
What should we mortals know of their famed fate?
The highest office to which we might aspire,
It soon begs need of funeral attire.
So we might dream to be a Senator;
But, no: they speak not well, and lack an editor.
I do not think that many would be Mayor:
Small towns keep not the Judicious or the Fair;
Large towns smother them ‘neath crooked decay,
And City’s pleasures keep the Mayor from visiting the day.
Reason is lost when in the Seat, it seems:
The House objects, some few reject, and reams
The Speaker on to stall, while the Candidate schemes.
What the use, then, shows for all this show?
The Drama’s there, but the purpose all is low.
We’d best displace our eyes: quick! Look away!
The show must soon be stopped! This could not last a day!
Yet, while they live, the Politicians play;
And we cannot avoid at least to hear the things they say.
Take for my purpose now the Faerie’s Land:
Great nation, that; but oft’ by dischord manned.
Once, it knew ideal Cooperation;
But ideals have drowned that lost vocation,
Torn the habit off young Democracy,
Then drowned her too, and dressed deceptively
In soiled second hand her sibling dread,
Corrupt, by whom Decision’s brought to bed.
Up past towers of gold, this wets her wits:
‘Twixt two rivers, opposèd firm, she sits.
The river “Tell” moves straight, unruly fast,
Down some way to a waterfall it blasts.
That cataract is called “The Great Mistake”,
For Titan once did a full mountain break,
Not looking where he tread, and let the flood
Of “Tell” erupt. There Titan washed in blood:
His hulking frame, now fleshed away to bone,
Can still be seen, among his ruins of stone.
The other river, “Echo in the Ear”,
Runs firm but slow; its waters are quite clear.
It moves out to a sighing breadth of Sea,
Where no one goes: some say it may not be.
These rivers, two, surround a mountain high,
A mighty mountain, “Justice”, rules the sky.
And at the summit of Mount Justice lies
The “Speak-Hall”, goal of govern-minded eyes.
There the “Grand Faerie-Head Elect” resides,
And represents the gen’ral cares and prides:
All complaints of the lower crowd are told
By him to the “Deciders”, they who mould
The State in voting by majority:
This way knows not inferiority.
Say that a faerie’s silken wings be torn:
Let him straight appeal; by the “Hall” be bourn
His piteous case, debated left and right,
Whether help be given, or not, the injured sprite.
Let us hear, now, one such spate half moved,
And view the grounds where government is proved:
When to the “Speak-Hall’s” inner dens we reach,
We hear the echo of this scorching speech:
“It’s told us he has made, of Faerie’s gold,
Enough to pay his needs: therefore, too bold!
That he has asked us to his aide is scandal,
When he has enough for his own needs to handle.
Let him hold a changeling boy at ransom,
And it should catch him fortune, if it’s handsome.
But we should refuse, by state-earned resource,
To fix the fool. So the Hall should set its course.”
This spoken from “The Grand Old Wings” at court:
Foremost to cry the claim: “The Little Faeries We Support!”
Foremost, as well, to uphold Faerie law,
(Unless it shouldn’t be upheld. They saw
So clearly then: “it should be torn apart!”:
But, then, they’d search through all the shredded bits,
When the letter their design well fits.)
And for “The Grand Old Wings”, as represent,
The fiery-spoken Shock most oft’ is sent.
Sure it was he now spoke “The Grand’s” consent:
From his pulpit on the right his rhetoric is spent.
Next, in retort, “The Faeries for Faeries” speak:
They for the gen’ral good of Faeries seek.
For the “Left-Wings” (as such they’re often named)
There spoke young Temper back, and thus he claimed:
“The law allows all Faeries find their way,
In their own way, ‘tis true. But a moment stay.
We and the Elect have drawn a thought,
The which, if you’ll be patient, you’ll be taught.”
Here Temper paused, a great effect to make:
Allow the “Grands” a moment’s breath to take.
Shock flourished mocking hands, small purpose there,
But to remind, his presence full to share.
Temper puffed ripe red at that duress.
Oft’ had he warmed at Shock’s facetiousness.
But Temper managed his anger’s disrepair.
He puffed, but kept his choicèd words with care.
“Here is our “Thought”,” continued Temper, waving
Thick-bound sheaves (in which words found no saving).
“In this you’ll find what saves our state from wreck;
And once you read it,” (here he threw the stack to Speck;
Speck rushed about on tiny wings of fleet,
Dispersed the “Thought”, then flit back to his seat,)
“You must agree: our counsel take the course,
As set by what is writ. We will not force
You, though, to fill full straight hours at seat,
Without adjournment met to take to feet,
And work the restless matter so the mind
May full recuperate, and recourse find.
I offer the “Speak-Hall” break, repose to seek;
Sep’rate reflect for the turn of a week.
That’s time enough to thorough read our scrip,
From felt form thought; opinions take, those censure for the lip,
Thereby, complacent, argue, not to slip
The tongue to dagger at our ears, or flip
The tables for unreasoned fears. Clip
Your wings of fancy, and prune your locks of the grand:
Lest we lose this Hall’s careful command.”
So Temper spoke, and then good Temper sat.
Up now Speck who started “That is that,”
His little eyes appealed, with nervous motion,
The swelling hall to pay him one moment’s devotion.
In Speck’s hands appear his little book and pen.
With tip to blank uncovered page, said he then:
“We shall call it straight into a vote.
Those in favour, say favour, those not, say not; I’ll note.
Well. First I’ll ask the ones in favour speak.”
They spoke a not resounding “I”, but not a weak.
“That’s noted,” noted Speck, regarding his own note,
Which read: “Hundred “I” – that’s favour,” this he wrote.
“Next, after favour, comes “not”: those “not”, speak “not”,
As I had rendered before in my first plot.”
There followed, then, some uneasy silence:
Speck noted; silent counted with some violence;
The whole hall waited, Speck scratched the guiltless page
With his furious pen, as if the ink were in a rage
To mark the surface of that thoughtless spectre,
Whether with senseless blot, or character;
Then Speck flew his tables to the “Elect”,
Who read Speck’s notes while Speck stood by direct.
Th’Elect was silent set above the court;
He gazed his half-lid eyes with dread import:
His great grey locks, held tight unto his skull,
Shook terribly ‘cross coarse-wove robes and dull.
He moved- lethargic- if at all he lift
That aged wrist wilst sandy garments sift.
Or else he stayed: remote for long whiles keeps;
That few can tell he ponders or he sleeps.
Speck was at, and quick he came aright,
That massive seat; upon a heavy shoulder light:
Speck’s paper to that parchment hand he took,
Th’Elect; to that did ponderously look.
That serious Fay; grave of necessity;
Read out such tables as if a recipe,
And seeing Speck’s results held not the yield
Elect desired, his lips he slowly peeled
Apart, and frowned out these frowning words to Speck:
“Methinks, good Speck, you needs again take check
Of what is here writ in your voting book-
It says you’ve counted hundred “I” – but look:
Naught have said “not”, and it surprises me
Such number lack a vote as sixty-three.
Check again, Speck, check again: check close.”
So slight Speck pinched a pair, upon his nose,
Of golden spectacles, and scanned the page
With wide attention, then said wise and sage:
“Elect, I see that you are right; right fool
Am I! I’ll fix in sixty with the tool
Of reason straight! Don’t move! I’ll take the vote
A second time, but here I’ve clearly wrote:
“Remind them all to vote,” for, as you’ve clearly
Pointed out – how observant you! – Some number
Sixty-three we’ve missed! A funny blunder!”
Speck flew to the center of the floor again:
“All the blame on me by myself is rightly lain;
But gentlemen and ladies, I’ll explain
The problem – that there were none, I would fain,
But there is one! Some sixty-three in vain,
When asked to vote for “not”, they voted “naught”,
That is, they did not vote! The hands of the lot
That voted not, may I see? I’ll measure…
Ah! Sixty-three exact! Now, by your pleasure,
I’ll take again the vote, as previous;
But when I say: ‘Vote “not” for “not”, understand us,
We mean you to say “not”, the very word,
Not to not say a word. Let’s hope a third
Vote is not needed. If understood, your hands –
An hundred-sixty-three! Heavenly bands
To my quick-counting eyes – Now! The second.
Those agreed to quit the Hall, as reckoned
Before, I’ll hear an “I” again. I’ll keep
The record straight as you shall several speak.”
So spoke again the “I”, just as the first,
The same in number, though some now mildly cursed.
Speck counted these and scrawled: “Second Record:
Hundred “I” – (some fifty cursed ‘By th’ Lord!’)”
So; and then, “Now, those who disagree;
Who think to quit the Hall abuse of Liberty;
Rather believe to keep us all oppressed,
To dreary seats another moment pressed,
Speak now the very word – aloud – “NOT” –
And have your record cast – I’ll count the lot.”
So spoke a weak and spotted “not” the few
Lesser, and these – “Some sixty-three “NOT” do
Vote”- did speck record into his notes
Filled with various votes, and votes on votes.
Again did Speck engage in his fierce mode
Of calculation; to arithmetically load
Himself with mundane facts and figures his daily treasure:
Then Speck flew the Elect again his measure
Of the vote recounted; quick conversed;
Then returned to center to present:
“The vote proper: ‘gainst sixty-three were sent
An hundred here to favour quitting court;
To leave and in one week again report.”
So the vote: cast, measured, and decided.
The “Hall” was quit; one week unpresided -
But no! Just at the tail of Speck’s short speech
Protestment swelled out from the right’s far reach;
Like if some adolescent frog, mid learning
How to ‘croak’, decides, with young throat burning
To be noiseful, to fill the swamp up full
With his unwieldy sound, though all do pull
Their ears tight shut against his prideful call;
The young Shock rose, and puffed up and boiled, all gall.
He raised his voice up such as all referred,
Though they consented not, did hear Shock’s word:
“I raise my exception to this distasteful “Thought” proposed,”
Shock shouted, (fist, upheld in air, tight-closed).
All faeries sev’ral sighed, turned eyes away,
All wearied, to where Shock and his small crowd did stay.
Temper turned roused with indignation; he thus derided:
“Shock! The vote’s been cast and all decided!
Move yourself, like all the rest, without.
There’ll be no exceptions, even you mewl and pout!
I’ve known your sudden ways before, you wrench!
You disagree with what your fancy drench
With some unfounded disalignment to your morals,
Then you drown the “Hall” in dreary chorals
Of speech, full hours long, and run to days,
And manage never once to speak of ways
You’d speak against the thing you’d speak against!
You only ill-use time and leave us sleep-entranced.
Not now to rant, you penny-gazing flit,
Do not rise now, lest you will I would spit
Down your words, and pluck out slow each feather
Of your wings, so you’ll not fly at weather
That you know not purpose of or reason!
Tis not the time; no, tis not yet your season!”
So ran Temper’s speech without a breath,
To bring Shock’s protest to an early death.
But Shock would not let his opinions die;
Up to the Elect he quick did fly;
The Elect turned round and granted audience
To Shock, who wasted no time with his witted parlance:
“Grand Faerie-Head Elect, I beg you stay,
But for a moment more the Hall not fly away:
Grant me warrant: moment’s last remark,
Else, be sure, I’ll plague you with the Tyrant’s mark:
I’ve no recourse left to me but extreme,
For otherwise you’d say: ‘Twas obscene,
That Shock, and better we had let him rant
Alone.’ I realize you wish my words more scant,
That you think I am a prodigal in discourse,
But ‘tis my way to be heard. If I must force
My words upon you, so; do not believe
But I’ll speak. Grant a moment’s word, I’ll leave.”
As he spoke, all sighed exasperation,
It seemed no faerie wished for Shock’s placation.
Young Temper’s huffs were loudest of them all,
But as he started to protest was stalled:
The Elect; still; silent; motioned him to hush
(The quicker Faerie complied with bloodred blush);
Then motioned that Shock speak his moment’s word:
And this incendiary was by the whole “Hall” heard:
“I represent not only my own mind,
But of my colleagues too, in whom I find
A like agreeance to my thoughts on this,
The “Thought” that you propose we read: you miss
The mark in most of what you say, but now,
With this hateful creed in ink, you ill endow
Yourselves with power to variate the very law!
No such perversion in this Hall I saw,
Until just now! To alter our foundation!
The bedrock, the very rock! Of our proud nation!
Indeed, I represent the very sustenance
Of Faery kind in this my remonstrance!
It assaults my senses sore that this government
Which I adored, with belief of a better sense in it,
Would think it a wise thing to change what ages,
Ages of prosperity, of sages
Old the work, in pain and passion pure,
Has shown to do but good. This I’ll not endure!
Reject the perversion that inconstant change applies!
A thing, unknown in deed, is equal to lies!”
So spoke Shock, a verbal-edged attack.
Some ten behind played his assenting pack.
Now Old John; of Shock’s own right-side kind;
Attendant to the Hall an age, resigned
In his declining years to heed the youth,
Wanton and untactful, communed truth,
As seemed to him, the slower truth, and careful:
More so far than the sharp and oft’ resentful
Truth of preening youth: presented thus
To Shock a fellowship’s advice (to us):
“Young Shock! Of such unbound tenacity,
We lack! I champion your alacrity!
You will be such an Atlas to our world,
And part Achilles! Braced beneath the furled
Leaves of over-weighty legislation,
Indeed! A planet’s-worth weighs down our nation!
Whilst fighting hard and best of all; unequaled;
You’ll guard which keeps our nation hap’ly peopled.
Ten times a god, or godly mortal, you;
Who’ll tell what greatness, in future, you will do?
Mind, then: the verdict is retired;
No more should we but what has been transpired.
There is the promise of a future day,
But now may we be tongueless, and not say
What, in a week’s fine fermentation pure,
We may say better far. So let’s endure!
A week of silence, what is it but naught?
In light of our long-agèd lives, we’ve time enough for thought.”
So said Old John his uprobation mild,
To his young friend’s rash activism wild.
And saith Shock to his kin adversary
This rasher, rushèd, sharper polemicary:
“Old John, that vanguard of a baser front;
Be silent, thou! Be washed by my high tide
Of purpose, and in the idle lobby there abide.
I speak the power of our latest kind!
Of ours, I the clearer and the purer mind!
Be not illusioned in old age’s dim:
Mine is the more recent, more relevant whim!”
Hence Old John back to the elder crowd,
Thus bullied by the younger frenzied rowd.
Then Temper: “Ah! This is the very thing!
Unthinking words this fay, unthought, does bring!
Elect! I pray you: call this broiling tempest
With a conscious, proper vote, to rest!”
The Elect; a wise and prudent mind he owned;
Did give consent to what Temper bemoaned.
So up again the tiny Speck did rise,
And called up “Vote”, thought dormant, to reprise:
“Well, one more vote! Rash Shock, the upstart wild,
Of “The Grands” at Hall, contests the previous mild
On grounds that the “For Faerie’s” meek proposal
Is unjust – and wants a quick (unjust) disposal.
So we decide: the “I” consents to condescend
This Shock; that on fruitless efforts his time does spend;
The “nots” will want an ear to Shock and crew,
And greater time spent here in Hall do hew –
So to – the “I’s” first call, and I’ll record.
(We’ll settle soon, I hope, this vote implored.)”
The Hall resounded with a shocking “I”.
Speck recorded (by ear, not by his eye.)
“The “nots” next speak” – and these were some eleven;
Their thoughts unprecedented yield no leaven.
Up flew Speck to the Faery-Head Elect.
There from his notes all accuracy checked.
Old John: “So shameful fayhood is denied,
And younger Faeries older, purposeless, deride.”
Then Speck, down from the Elect’s high seat to call
The vote as proper; saith he to faeries all:
“The vote is set: ill Shock has been ill met
By the gen’ral choir: Shock! No more will fret
The Hall: we still retire one whole week.
I hope, to Shock, some counsel he will seek.”
So stood result. All faeries quit their post
One week; and emptied all the Hall its host.
But as it emptied Shock, a moment more:
His cause, the “Faeries for” proposal to deplore:
“I will not work but to dismantle you,
Who shirk shameless the Law: you know now that I’ll do.”
The Hall slow emptied; Shock’s words seemed ignored.
Shock left the last; his eyes were all a-sword!
End Book I