Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte

One of the Things I Did During COVID Lockdown was resolve to read a poem every night, generally whilst sipping something with a decently high proof. (See also here.) So I moved my meagre collection of poetry volumes to a spot under the liquor cabinet.

Poetry Library and Shelley
Did I have four years’ worth of liquor stored before the pandemic as I’d thought? I did NOT, I had TWO.

For proper contemplative and immersive value, I resolved to do my poetry-reading solely from printed books. So what you see here is double the size of what it was in 2019, and I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

Poetry Library and Shelley
The Poetry Library
Poetry Library and Shelley
From left: Collections of Greek and French smut poems and English poetry, and then it’s all alphabetical by poet, starting with a slim volume of Balzac (more smut, but hilarious) before Browning and Byron…
Poetry Library and Shelley
…including a battered 1834 Works of Lord Byron (which the title page breathlessly states is”Including the Suppressed Poems”), and Poems of the Past by Marcus Selden Goldman, about which more anon.
Poetry Library and Shelley
Continuing on to some volumes of my favorite poet, A.D. Hope, and a 1922 Kipling with an innocent-for-the-time honest-to-God-swastika embossed in the cover….
Poetry Library and Shelley
Finishing up with Poe, Sappho, Robert “Fucking Awesome” Service, lots of Tennyson, and a slim volume of Oscar Wilde, among others.

The half of these books I bought during COVID I purchased used — very used — on Amazon, for what I’m estimating was an average of ten bucks each, shipped — about fifteen bucks a month over the twelve months. Not bad! (All the Easton Press leatherbound editions shown I’d purchased way back in college; they don’t count.)

Poetry Library and Shelley

One of these delight-filled tomes is an ex-West Kentucky University Library copy of Volume II of the 1975 Oxford University Press’s Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Poetry Library and Shelley
Dominus Illuminatio Mea (“the Lord is my Light”), the opening words of Psalm 27 and Oxford’s motto in its coat of arms. Neat!

Prior to COVID my poetry experience was from high school or from allusions and excerpts in Robert Parker’s Spenser novels. I wasn’t sure I’d like Shelley that much; turns out there’s some gems here.

Poetry Library and Shelley

In this one, Shelley, an atheist who I presume supported the French Revolution, bemoans how the tyrant Bonaparte betrayed the cause of the Republic, and yet moans more still on how the forces of reaction, tradition, and religion combined to defeat L’Empereur. (Interestingly, it’s right below his rant about Wordsworth’s political betrayal of Shelley’s radical ideals.)

Feelings

While the parallels to today’s politics are inexact, it’s fun to think of them. Observing the foaming-at-the-mouth reactions to both the “January 6th Insurrectionists”* and the subsequent Inaugural shenanigans, I thought of three:

  • (1) The poet, a BernieBro or BLM activist, crying “I hated thee, fallen tyrant!” at Trump yet bemoaning that his demise came at the hands of the old corporatist Democrat establishment;
  • (2) The poet, a RINO, crying “I hated thee, fallen tyrant!” at Trump yet bemoaning that the GOP is now firmly in the hands of a Trumpist base that’s legally textualist (“old Custom”), genuinely religious (“bloody Faith, the foulest birth of Time”), and perfectly willing to Do What’s Necessary to Win Next Time Because the Democrats Cheated First (“legal Crime”);
  • (3) The poet, one of that Trumpist base in (2) above, furious that Trump, “a most unambitious slave,” did so little to prepare for the obvious legal fights required to snatch victory from the forces of the corrupt Swamp (old Custom, legal Crime”) leaving us at the hands of the new Woke religious orthodoxy (“bloody Faith, the foulest birth of Time”).

And yes, this post was powered by a glass of that Courvoisier in the first pic. Napoleon’s brandy, indeed!

* Shit, it doesn’t seem so archaic and weird anymore that the French referred to dates as the “Coup of 18 Brumaire,” does it?

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