Tales XLIX, The Shocking Demise Of Poetry

As selfish as the Cities on the Plain, and as arrogant as Babylon,

the City of which I speak had expanded and extended its precincts

to the fullest possible occupation of its world.  Its governors, being

first and foremost politicians, had not forgotten to establish, on the

City's edges, the requisite slums which had always been a feature

of cities from time immemorial.

  On a starless, moonless night full of the chills of Autumn, and a mist

that arose from the wide river that flowed through the very center of the

City, Poetry, clad in rags, her iambic feet unshod, wandered through the

streets and, near the hour of midnight, was accosted by Prose, who had

been lurking stealthily behind her.  

   Who are you? Prose asked.

   I am Poetry.

   What misfortunate has befallen you?

   And Poetry replied, I have been prostituted by those who resented me,

They presented themselves as artists, but they revealed themselves as thugs.

They stripped me of my ancient vestiture, and turned me out into the street;

amd there, as they commanded, I was to cry Woe is me, Woe is me, and offer

myself for the amusement of those poseurs who want to sodomize me.

   You speak the Truth, Prose answered.

   Have you been following me, Poetry inquired.

   I have followed you through my entire existence, Prose admitted.  And I

have hated you for it.

   With a plaintive tone, Poetry asked, Why have you hated me?

   Came the answer, from Prose, Because you are better than I am, and I

cannot bear the natural order that has separated us.

   And before Poetry could even scream in horror, much less offer a prayer in faith,

Prose produced from the folds of a garment a shiny, sharp, and enlongated knife;

and with the blade, she slit Poetry's throat deeply and fully across.  With immense

satisfaction, Prose watched the light go out of Poetry's eyes, as her life's blood

gushed in great outs from the gaping wound in her throat, and the stiffening chill

began to enter her limbs beneath the tatters of her once luxurious gown.  Sic semper

Tyrannis, Prose shouted triumphantly, although unaware of who had first spoken

these words, and where and when.

    Later, while Prose still hovered, gloating, over her victim, the ravagers began to

climb, like vermin, for their secreted lairs; and fell upon Prose and brutally beat

her, and then severed her body into pieces with her own blade---not to avenge her

murder of Poetry, but to extend the horror of it, the horror on which they thrived

because it numbed their feelings of inadequacy and gave them a sense of control.


Author's Notes/Comments: 

After the short story, "Mistaken Identity," by Lord Dunsany, opcit.

Ezekiel 16:48 lists the failings of Sodom, but does not mentioned homosexuality in that list,  Sodom's great failure is indicated in its lack of consideration for others---which would also be descriptive of the atack upon Lot's visitors in Genesis 19.

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lyrycsyntyme's picture

p/s I'd be remiss not to say

p/s I'd be remiss not to say that I thoroughly appreciated the intensity this piece, as well as the write on the whole.

Starward's picture

Thank you for both of your

Thank you for both of your comments.  I admit a prejudice toward a more informed, or even scholarly, poetry---a poetry aware of its literary precedents, of the great ones who have preceded it, and with the expectation that reader is equipped with more than a nosy curiosity; in other words, the poetry of Callimachus, John Milton, T. S. Eliot, and J.V. Cunningham.  One of the great, and underserved, privileges of my life was the opportunity, during my senior year in high school and then my undergrad four, to study with scholars who preferred, and taught (and taught very well) this kind of poetry.  In our own era, as poetry continues to become a tool of the demotic, and just one more vehicle for saying,"Oh, woe is me," time will determine which poems are the cream and which are the curds; and Eternity, the one I believe in qnd for which I hope, will fix and finalize, once and for all, the great and summary Canon of literature.

  This thought dame to my mind, something I had not considered for decades, another influence on my attitude toward poetry is some of the narrator's aside comments in Roger Zelazny's great science fiction story, "A Rose For Ecclesiastes."


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lyrycsyntyme's picture

That was more intense than I

That was more intense than I anticipated, despite the title's warning of a "shocking demise".


Perhaps poetry has taken a turn for the shallower and the more narcissistic, as has much else in society. Though perhaps it is just that either (a) when we look back at the poetry of the ancients, we are only seeing the best, which would survive many generations or (b)we are witnessing the downside to a modern world where access to writing is greater, and there are less requirements to "pen" a poem. Of course, the latter would come with the caveat that whether this is actually a downside is interpretive, because even "bad" poetry may be worth something, and if nothing else may be worth more than a person not having written at all.