13 November 2016
by W. H. Auden
As I walked out one evening As I walked out one evening, Walking down Bristol Street, The crowds upon the pavement Were fields of harvest wheat. And down by the brimming river I heard a lover sing Under an arch of the railway: ‘Love has no ending. ‘I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you Till China and Africa meet, And the river jumps over the mountain And the salmon sing in the street, ‘I’ll love you till the ocean Is folded and hung up to dry And the seven stars go squawking Like geese about the sky. ‘The years shall run like rabbits, For in my arms I hold The Flower of the Ages, And the first love of the world.' But all the clocks in the city Began to whirr and chime: ‘O let not Time deceive you, You cannot conquer Time. ‘In the burrows of the Nightmare Where Justice naked is, Time watches from the shadow And coughs when you would kiss. ‘In headaches and in worry Vaguely life leaks away, And Time will have his fancy To-morrow or to-day. ‘Into many a green valley Drifts the appalling snow; Time breaks the threaded dances And the diver’s brilliant bow. ‘O plunge your hands in water, Plunge them in up to the wrist; Stare, stare in the basin And wonder what you’ve missed. ‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard, The desert sighs in the bed, And the crack in the tea-cup opens A lane to the land of the dead. ‘Where the beggars raffle the banknotes And the Giant is enchanting to Jack, And the Lily-white Boy is a Roarer, And Jill goes down on her back. ‘O look, look in the mirror, O look in your distress: Life remains a blessing Although you cannot bless. ‘O stand, stand at the window As the tears scald and start; You shall love your crooked neighbour With your crooked heart.' It was late, late in the evening, The lovers they were gone; The clocks had ceased their chiming, And the deep river ran on.
06 November 2016
by Marilynne Robinson
Every four years Americans give themselves information about who they are and where they are on a spectrum of tradition and aspiration that normally frames our politics. The documents that have mattered to us have given us a set of ideals against which actual institutions and practices can be measured, and an abstract and deliberate language for encountering the issues that arise among people, which can, and often do, devolve into visceral and intractable conflict. The origins of these electoral arrangements are to be found in our history. They have been sustained over many generations by an agreed deference to custom and law.
This is to say that they are fragile, and that they are, in a sense, arbitrary. As resilient as they have proved to be through the trials of centuries, when their value and authority are not generally granted they can be overturned and dismissed, suddenly and almost casually. Let the idea take hold that elections are rigged, and popular government begins to seem no more than an illusionary empty exercise. Discredit the press, and the First Amendment is only a license to bloviate and slander. In other words, the viability of our system depends on a certain care, a restraint that avoids unjustified attacks and unfounded accusations against the system itself, and that demands integrity of those who hold positions of authority. If the generations that succeed us have a free press and elected governments, they will have the means to address our failures and their own.