In his editorial column from today’s New York Times, “I Yield to the Gentleman from Stratford-upon-Avon,” Bill Keller recommends that Congress add regular poetry readings to its extra-curricular activities. He argues for the humanizing effects of reading poetry, as well as the skills it develops in “open-ended thinking.” To all of this, I had a hearty “Yea,” although I have as much confidence in something like this as I do in the newly commissioned Gang of 12.
A poem that has come to mind repeatedly this summer as I have observed the embarrassment in Washington is Ben Jonson’s wonderful epigram from the early seventeenth century:
On Something, That Walks Somewhere.
At Court I met it, in clothes brave enough,
To be a courtier; and looks grave enough,
To seem a statesman: as I near it came,
It made me a great face; I asked the name.
A Lord, it cried, buried in flesh and blood,
And such from whom let no man hope least good,
For I will do none; and as little ill,
For I will dare none: Good Lord, walk dead still.