Allen Tate

(19 November 1899 - 9 February 1979 / Winchester, Kentucky)

Eclogue Of The Liberal And The Poet


LIBERAL
In that place, shepherd, all the men are dead.

POET
Yes, look at the water grim and black
Where immense Europa rears her head,
Her face pinched and her breasts slack.

LIBERAL
I said, shepherd, all the men are dead.

POET
Shall I turn to the road that goes America?
Is that a place for men to be dead
Or living? If you don't mind being asked.

LIBERAL
Try it and see. It's a pretty good way
To skim three thousand miles in a day
And none of them America.

POET
But what about her face and the tasked
Wonders of her air and soil, her big belly
That Putnam writes about under the sun?

LIBERAL
I don't know Put, I don't know his Nelly-
To name her that if she'd name it fun
But you know she hasn't any name,
Nowhere you touch her she's the same,

POET
What, shepherd, are we talking about?

LIBERAL
You started it, shepherd.

POET
Shepherd, I didn't.

LIBERAL
You did; you saw the poetical face of Europe.

POET
You said it was no place for men to be.

LIBERAL
I meant seawater; you thought I meant hope.

POET
Hell, I reckon you think I am a dope.

LIBERAL
I didn't say that; I said there was no place.

POET
If not in a place, where are the People weeping?

LIBERAL
They creep weeping in the lace, not place.

POET
Is it something with which we may cope-
The weeping, the creeping, the peepee-ing, the
peeping?

LIBERAL
Hanging is something which I will do with this
rope.

POET
Alas, for us who peep, weeping.
Alas, for us you see but little hope.

LIBERAL
Alas, I didn't say that; you rhymed hope with rope.
I meant I was going to hang us both for creeping.

POET
Afterwards they could process us into soap;
Afterwards they would rhyme soap with hope.

BOTH
What a cheerful rhyme! Clean not mean!
Been not seenl Not tired expired!
We must now decide about place.
We decide that place is the big weeping face
And the other abstract lace of the race.

LIBERAL
Shepherd, what are we talking about?

POET
Oh, why, shepherd, are we stalking about?

Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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