Friday, January 31, 2014

The Final Piece of the Third Edition of Machinery

The Poverty of Our Circumstances

 In sharp edged lands where many dwell
All things are true or false, and if you try,
A little thought will be enough to tell
My truth from your illusion or your lie.

From which it follows, as the night the day,
Since all of us have use of reason’s tools
That all who disagree with what I say
With certainty are either rogues or fools.

I have not found it so; the world I see
Has honest men with minds as good as mine;
I can find reasons that seem good to me
But proofs beyond dispute are hard to find.


At 5:18 PM, January 31, 2014, Anonymous Ross Levatter said...

Ironically, this itself is one of the better reasons to not initiate force.

At 5:27 PM, January 31, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first line has four feet, but the others have five. I'm not sure if this is an intended effect, or a problem, or simply something you don't care about.

At 8:03 PM, January 31, 2014, Anonymous Bruce said...

I'd lose 'can', 'that seem', and 'But' from the last four lines. YMMV; it feels like a smarter Basil Bunting wrote this poem.

At 9:54 PM, January 31, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruce: What, and destroy that perfect iambic scansion?

At 9:10 AM, February 01, 2014, Anonymous bruce said...

'What, and destroy that perfect iambic scansion?'

You bet. Poetry is heightened rhetoric before it is a verse form- departures from scansion at moments of emphasis are a very proper part of having scansion in the first place, and the kicker should climax.

At 10:49 AM, February 01, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...


"Departures from scansion" is too simple. It's possible to use variations of scansion effectively--consider Dickinson's "The Soul Selects its Own Society," or Kipling's "The Last Suttee" as examples. But simply breaking scansion doesn't do it.

At 11:09 AM, February 01, 2014, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It hardly surprises me that you would grasp that. With Bruce's emendations I get

I find reasons good to me.
Proofs beyond dispute are hard to find.

And that's just limp. Besides, it changes the meaning: "I find" says that you do come up with reasons, "I can find" that you could do so if you chose (but you are dismissing those as not fundamental), and "good to me" treats goodness as subjective, but "that seem good to me" suggests that there are or may be objectively good reasons but that we can't easily judge if we've found them. I find the original philosophically different and more interesting.

At 11:48 AM, February 01, 2014, Blogger David Friedman said...

On the subject of meter ... The second line and (less clearly) the last each has a reversed foot in it.

Not deliberate, except in the sense of writing by ear.

At 3:34 PM, February 05, 2014, Anonymous Bruce said...

On rereading I withdraw my suggestion. The stable measure goes with the sense of stable, reasonable, triumphantly hymned reasonable Io Logos. The poem fits the book the way the sonnet at the start of of a very different book, The Mask of Sanity fits it.

At 3:35 PM, February 05, 2014, Anonymous Bruce said...

Second 'reasonable' my bad.


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