Here it is:
Pity the Nation
“Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”
This poem was written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, an American poet and painter (now aged 99; the owner of the ‘City of Light’ bookstore in San Francisco.
On researching these words, I discovered that not only was that this poem written, not this year, but 11 years ago. What I had imagined to be a comment on the US Trump ‘situation’, was written well before Donald Trump was even on the political radar. (In fact it was when George W. Bush was in office)
But how about this?
‘Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves…’
The other interesting fact (and I should have recognised and known this) was that this Ferlinghetti poem, entitled ‘Pity the Nation’ was an updated (borrowed) version of the like-titled poem, ‘Pity the Nation’ written by the Lebanese/American poet and artist, Kahlil Gibran in his book ‘The Garden of The Prophet’.
It was written sometime in the early 20th century, when a more mild mannered (& behaved!) president was in charge (Calvin Coolidge) so maybe not written about that particular political climate or situation, but aimed more at civilisation in general.
It is well worth reading – and thinking about.
Here it is:
“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave
and eats a bread it does not harvest.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream,
yet submits in its awakening.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
save when it walks in a funeral,
boasts not except among its ruins,
and will rebel not save when its neck is laid
between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox,
whose philosopher is a juggler,
and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting,
and farewells him with hooting,
only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years
and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.
Pity the nation divided into fragments,
each fragment deeming itself a nation.”
( Kahlil Gibran, ( 1883-1931) The Garden of The Prophet)
Have any words been better suited to NOW?
And…How true is this part?
“Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero,
and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful...”
And was it ever thus? We can only sigh!