[Milton-L] Political and Correct

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Mon May 26 21:55:54 EDT 2008

I doubt that Milton was a serious pacifist, nor am I, but one need not
be pacifist to   disapprove of all u.s. wars except for that which
crushed the Insurrection of the Slave Drivers (for the dead of which
Memorial Day was originally intended) and (with qualifications) WW2.
That war turned criminal with the Terror Bombing of German and Japanese
cities, culminating in Hamburge, Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, & Nagasaki.
Those slaughtered directly or indircetly by the U.S. since have long
since outnumbered the casualties of WW2.

You should feel for Stan Goff, who opposes the present u.s. aggression
in Iraq & Afghanistan, but whose son, following his father's actions
rather than words, is a combatant in Iraq. I can empathize with Stan. In
the first Gulf War I hoped for the successful defeat of the U.S.
aggression, while my own son served with the Marines in Saudi Arabia. It
was agonizing.


Substitute "America" for "Germany" in the following great poem:

Germany, Pale Mother
        by Bertolt Brecht

'Let others speak of her shame
I speak of my own.'

O Germany, pale mother!
How soiled you are
As you sit among the peoples.
You flaunt yourself
Among the besmirched.

The poorest of your sons
Lies struck down.
When his hunger was great.
Your other sons
Raised their hands against him.
This is notorious.

With their hands thus raised,
Raised against their brother,
They march insolently around you
And laugh in your face.
This is well known.

In your house
Lies are roared aloud.
But the truth
Must be silent.
Is it so?

Why do the oppressors praise you everywhere,
The oppressed accuse you?
The plundered
Point to you with their fingers, but
The plunderer praises the system
That was invented in your house!

Whereupon everyone sees you
Hiding the hem of your mantle which is bloody
With the blood
Of your best sons.

Hearing the harangues which echo from your house,
   men laugh.
But whoever sees you reaches for a knife
As at the approach of a robber.

O Germany, pale mother!
How have your sons arrayed you
That you sit among the peoples
A thing of scorn and fear!

And then there is Elizabeth Barrett Browning's fine poem:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

      A Curse for a Nation.


I heard an angel speak last night,
        And he said, "Write!--
Write a nation's curse for me,
And send it over the Western Sea."

I faltered, taking up the word:
        "Not so, my lord!
If curses must be, choose another
To send thy curse against my brother

"For I am bound by gratitude,
        By love and blood,
To brothers of mine across the sea,
Who stretch out kindly hands to me."

"Therefore," the voice said, "shalt thou write
        My curse tonight.
>From the summits of love a curse is driven,
As lightning from the tops of heaven."

"No so," I answered, "Evermore
        My heart is sore
For my own land's sins: for little feet
Of children bleeding in the street:

"For parked-up honors that gainsay
        The right of way:
For almsgiving through a door that is,
Not open enough for two friends to kiss:

"For love of freedom which abates
        Beyond the Straits:
For patriot virtue starved to vice on
Self-praise, self-interest, and suspicion:

"For an oligarchic parliament,
        And bribes well-meant.
What curse another land assign,
When heavy-souled for the sins of mine?"

"Therefore," the voice said, shalt thou write
        My curse tonight.
Because thou hast strength to see and hate
A foul thing done *within* thy gate."

"Not so," I answered yet again,
        "To curse choose men.
For I, a woman, have only known
How the heart melts, and the tears run down."

"Therefore," the voice said," shalt thou write
        My curse tonight.
Some women weep and curse, I say,
(And no one marvels) night and day.

"And thou shalt take their part tonight,
        Weep and write.
A curse from the depths of womanhood
Is very salt, and bitter, and good."

So thus I wrote, and mourned indeed,
        What all may read.
And thus as was enjoined on me,
I send it over the Western Sea.

            THE CURSE


Because ye have broken your own chain
        With the strain
Of brave men climbing a nation's height,
Yet thence bear down with brand and thong
On souls of others -- for this wrong
        This is the curse. Write.

Because yourselves are standing straight
        In the state
Of Freedom's foremost acolyte,
Yet keep calm footing all the time
On writhing bond-slaves, for this crime
        This is the curse. Write.

Because ye prosper in God's name,
        What a claim
To honor in the old world's sight,
Yet do the fiend's work perfectly
In strangling martyrs, -- for this lie
        This is the curse. Write.

Ye shall watch while kings conspire
Round the people's smouldering fire,
    And, warm for your part,
Shall never dare -- O shame!
To utter the thought into flame
    Which burns at your heart.
        This is the curse. Write.

Ye shall watch while nations strive
With the bloodhounds, die or survive,
    Drop faint from their jaws,
Or throttle them backward to death:
And only under your breath
    Shall favor the cause.
        This is the curse. Write.

Ye shall watch while strong men draw
The nets of feudal law
    To strangle the weak:
And, counting the sin for for a sin,
Your soul will be sadder within
    Than the word he shall speak.
        This is the curse. Write.

When good men are praying erect
That Christ may avenge his elect,
    And deliver the earth,
The prayer in your ears, said low,
Shall sound like the trump of a foe
    That's driving you forth.
        This is the curse. Write.

When wise men give you their praise,
They shall pause in the heat of the phrase,
    As if carried too far.
When ye boast your own charters kept true,
Ye shall blush; for the thing which ye do.
    Derides what ye are.
        This is the curse. Write.

When fools cast taunts at your gate,
Your scorn ye shall somewhat abate
    As ye look o'er the wall:
For your  conscience, tradition, and name
Explode with a deadlier blame
    Then the worst of them all.
        This is the curse. Write.

Go, wherever ill deeds shall be done,
Go, plant your flag in the sun
    Besider the ill-doers!
And recoil from clenching the curse
Of God's witnessing Universe
    With a curse of yours.
        This is the curse. Write.

This poem hardly needs annotation to fit today as well
as ante-Bellum u.s.

And from popular song, "The genocide basic to this nation's birth" (St.

Or (look it up if you do not know it) Frederick Douglas's great Fourth
of July oration, which has lost not a syllable of relevance.

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