Allen Tate

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

False Nightmare - Poem by Allen Tate

'I give the yawp barbaric
Of piety and pelf
(Who now reads Herrick?)

'And contradict myself
No matter, the verse is large.
My five-and-ten cent shelf

'The continent is: my targe
Bigger than Greece. The shock
Of Me exceeds its marge

'Myself the old cock
With wind and water wild
(Hell with the privy lock):

'I have no woman child;
My son, alone, beguiled

'By my complacency
In priggery to slay
My blind posterity . . .'

-These words, at dawn of day
In the sleep-awakened mind,
I made Walt Whitman say:

Wherefore I and my kind
Wear meekly in the face
A pale honeydew rind

Of rotten-sweet grace;
Ungracefully doating
Great-aunts hanged in lace

We are: mildly gloating
Dog bones in a trunk
Saved in the attic. . . .

Hating king and monk,
The classes and the mass,
We chartered an old junk

(Like Jesus on his ass)
Unto the smutty corn
And smirking sassafras.

In bulled Europa's morn
We love our land because
All night we raped her-torn,

Blue grass and glade. Jackdaws,
Buzzards and crows the land
Love with prurient claws;

So may I cunning my hand
To clip the increment
From the land or quicksand;

For unto us God sent
To gloze with iron bonds
The dozing continent-

The fallow graves, ponds
Full of limp fish, tall
Terrains, fields and fronds
Through which we crawl, and call.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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