What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!—
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
Read the rest of this by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Today Gene Edward Veith at Cranach blogged on the point (which I’ve brought up myself here) that in our society today all crimes, however vile, are considered preferable to hypocrisy. In theory the modern American thinks that a man who struggles in the privacy of his soul with a besetting sin like drunkenness is a hypocrite, and therefore far more to be condemned than a mass murderer, providing the mass murderer commits his crime in public, before the eyes of all.
In my comment I referenced a poem of Ogden Nash’s, which seemed to me prophetic. I’ll post the poem here. This version comes from the collection Verses From 1929 On, published by Modern Library.
THE STRANGE CASE OF THE IRKSOME PRUDE
Once upon a time there was a young man named Harold Scrutiny.
Harold had many virtues and practically no vices.
He smoked, to be sure.
Also he drank and swore.
Moreover, he was a pickpocket.
But, for all that, Harold was no prude.
I am no prude, Harold often said.
But Detective Guilfoyle of the Pickpocket Squad is a prude, the old prude, said Harold.
One day Harold went into the subway to pick some pockets.
There was a man on the platform penciling a beard on the lady on the toothpaste placard.
Hey, said Harold.
Hey who, said the man.
Hey you, that’s hey who, said Harold.
Aren’t you going to give her a moustache?
Sure I’m going to give her a moustache, said the man.
What do you think I am?
I think you’re somebody that puts beards on ladies on toothpaste placards before they put on the moustache, said Harold.
Don’t you know enough to put the moustache on first?
You put the moustache on first, why then you can turn it up or turn it down, whichever you want, said Harold.
You try to turn a moustache down after the beard’s on, it runs into the beard, said Harold.
It don’t look like a moustache, only like a beard grows up and down both.
Go on, said the man, go on and pick some pockets.
Harold turned to his work, but his mind was elsewhere.
Suddenly the lady on the toothpaste placard got off the toothpaste placard and arrested him.
It was Detective Guilfoyle of the Pickpocket Squad all the time.
You got a beard grows up and down both, said Harold.
Detective Guilfoyle searched Harold.
He certainly was surprised at what he found.
So was Harold.
Harold hadn’t picked any pockets at all because his mind was elsewhere.
He had picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Detective Guilfoyle wanted to call Harold a name, but he couldn’t because he was a prude.
Harold picked his pocket and later became the smokingest swearingest, drinkingest Assistant District Attorney the county ever had.
Don’t be a prude.
I’ve been researching the history of my organization, CBMC (I’m a designer at the national service center). We put out a magazine for decades called CBMC Contact, and I found this poem on the back cover of a 1952 issue. It’s cute, and cute things should be blogged (within certain strict guidelines).
The Typographical Error
The typographical error is a slippery thing and sly;
You can hunt til you are dizzy, but it somehow will get by.
Til the forms are off the presses, it is strange how still it keeps;
It shrinks down in a corner and it never stirs or peeps.
That typographical error, too small for human eyes,
Til the ink is on the paper, when it grows to mountain size.
The boss, he stares with horror, then he grabs his hair and groans;
The copyreader drop his head upon his hands and moans–
The remainder of the issue may be clean as clean can be,
But the typographical error is the only thing you see.
I put these words to a 15th Century hymn tune, which is often sung as “Sing We Now of Christmas.” You can listen to a good midi version through that link. I also found part of it sampled from this choral album. It has that beautifully ancient quality I admire in many hymns.
Glory to our God who reigns over everything.
He rebuilds our hearts to give us mind to sing
Of Him, the I Am
Our hope in heaven’s Lamb,
His redemptive choice, and eternal blessing.
The Lord gives His blessing to all who receive
By the mouth confessing, by the heart believe
That Jesus is Lord
And from the grave restored,
That all who come believing may His life receive.
To Love’s gracious call we could not answer then;
For as Adam’s children, we were dead in sin.
But Jesus, our Lord,
Had chosen us before
He set the planets spinning in the solar wind.
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
O LORD, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah
(Psalm 3, English Standard Version)
I love these lines from an Aline Kilmer poem:
When people inquire I always just state:
“I have four nice children and hope to have eight.
Though the first four are pretty and certain to please,
Who knows but the rest may be nicer than these?”
Even if they aren’t nicer, they will be my children, and I will love them better, I hope, than I have in the past.