Ode To Our Young Pro-Consuls Of The Air

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To St. John Perse

Once more the country calls
From sleep, as from his doom,
Each citizen to take
His modest stake
Where the sky falls
With a Pacific boom.

Warm winds in even climes
Push southward angry bees
As we, with tank and plane,
Wrest land and main
From yellow mimes,
The puny Japanese.

Boys hide in lunging cubes
Crouching to explode,
Beyond Atlantic skies,
With cheerful cries
Their barking tubes
Upon the German toad.

Marvelling day by day
Upon the human kind
What might I have
(A poet alone)
To balk or slay
These enemies of mind?

I sought by night to foal
Chimeras into men-
Decadence of power
That, at late hour,
Untimed the soul
To live the past again:

Toy sword, three-cornered hat
At York and Lexington-
While Bon-Homme whipped at sea
This enemy
Whose roar went flat
After George made him run;

Toy rifle, leather hat
Above the boyish beard
And in that Blue renown
The Gray went down,
Down like a rat,
And even the rats cheered.

In a much later age
(Europe had been in flames)
Proud Wilson yielded ground
To franc and pound,
Made pilgrimage
In the wake of Henry James.

Where Lou Quatorze held fete
For sixty thousand men,
France took the German sword
But later, bored,
Opened the gate
To Hitler at Compiegne.

In this bad time no part
The poet took, nor chance:
He studied Swift and Donne,
Ignored the Hun,
While with faint heart
Proust caused the fall of France.

Sad day at Oahu
When the Jap beetle hitl
Our Proustian retort
Was Kimmel and Short,
Old women in blue,
And then the beetle bit.

It was defeat, or near itl
Yet all that feeble time
Brave Brooks and lithe MacLeish
Had sworn to thresh
Our flagging spirit
With literature made Prime!

Cow Creek and bright Bear Wallow,
Nursing the blague that dulls
Spirits grown Eliotic,
Now patriotic
Are: we follow
The Irresponsibles!

Young men, Americans!
You go to win the world
With zeal pro-consular
For our whole star
You partisans
Of liberty unfurled!

O animal excellence,
Take pterodactyl flight
Fire-winged into the air
And find your lair
With cunning sense
On some Arabian bight

Or sleep your dreamless sleep
(Reptilian bomber!) by
The Mediterranean
And like a man
Swear you to keep
Faith with imperial eye:

Take off, O gentle youth,
And coasting India
Scale crusty Everest
Whose mythic crest
Resists your truth;
And spying far away

Upon the Tibetan plain
A limping caravan,
Dive, and exterminate
The Lama, late
Survival of old pain.
Go kill the dying swan.

© Allen Tate