Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Political Richard Wilbur

Okay, guys! We've got an easy one today. I sincerely doubt you'll have any trouble figuring out what this one is all about.

A Fable
by Richard Wilbur

Securely sunning in a forest glade,
A mild, well-meaning snake
Approved the adaptations he had made
For safety's sake.

[The rest of the poem has been removed because it’s almost certainly still in copyright. But I doubt you’ll have any trouble finding it on the Web.]

Yep, it's political. To figure out the specifics, you have only to go to the copyright date, which turns out to be 1987. Which means that the President of the United States was ...?

Don't everybody raise your hands at once.

That's right, Ronald Reagan. So this was an anti-SDI ("Strategic Defense Initiative," better known as "Star Wars") poem -- note the penultimate (this extremely cool word means simply "next to last") line. Not exactly subtle. Nor is it meant to be.

Now we're not going to go into the pros and cons of SDI -- intelligent people of good will may disagree on this issue. But I wanted to point out that (a) this poem is political as hell and that (b) many poems are political as hell. Including some which were so well made that they outlasted the common knowledge of just what those politics were.

One of those tomorrow.

All best,


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