My Fourth of July Tradition
Ain’t That America #7

Perishing Republic

You may have noticed that my previous post about Independence Day says nothing at all about the actual holiday, or about the nation, or my views on its current state. That was deliberate and doesn’t indicate that I’m not thinking about it, only that I don’t particularly feel like composing what would be a pretty melancholy reflection. But I’ve found the title of this great poem by Robinson Jeffers running through my mind often for the past few days. I’ll let it speak for me; not in many of its details, but in its mood. (Jeffers’ lines are way too long to appear properly here; I’ve tried to indent them in such a way that his intended line breaks are clear, but they may not appear that way in all browsers.)

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity,
    heavily thickening to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass,
    pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens,

I sadly smiling remember that the flower
    fades to make fruit, the fruit rots to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances,
    ripeness and decadence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is
    good, be it stubbornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less
    than mountains: shine, perishing republic.

But for my children, I would have them keep their distance
    from the thickening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie
     at the monster’s feet there are left the mountains.

And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man,
    a clever servant, insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits,
    that caught—they say—God, when he walked on earth.

From the Christian point of view, of course, those last two lines carry quite different implications.

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