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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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?