Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Horace and the preparation for war


Horace:  "Of the following two, which one has the better chance

Of remaining self-assured in vicissitude:

The man who has accustomed his mind and magnificent body

To all the luxuries or the man who, content with little,

Fearing the future, provides in time of peace,

As a wise man should, the equipment required for war?"


Lefty:  Come off it Lawrence,

Horace died in Eight B.C.

At fifty-seven.  You must

Know we have advanced

Since then  -- the Romans

And the Greeks were primitives.

What are you, seventy-seven?


Lawrence: Almost.  In medicine perhaps

But Horace here was

Writing of avarice

And war.  We are

At least as avaricious

As they

In the world of his day.


Lefty:  But surely we are

Wiser in regard to war --

That self-destructive

Folly has surely plagued

Us for the last time.

We have subdued our warlike

Madness and mastered peace.


Lawrence:  If you look only in Europe

And on our own east coast,

But how do you subdue war

While there is an enemy in the field

Who wields the bomb and gun

And propaganda as well as anyone,

And who vows our death?


Lefty:  Lawrence, fie!  They were only

Having a some fun.  You take

Them way too seriously.

What's a few burned cars

Or roadside bombs or severed

Heads when the stake is peace.  Shall we

Break the bonds of peace for irrelevancies?


Lawrence:  And the twin-tower destruction?

How can you forget that,

Or their ideology, their

Firm resolve to see us all

Destroyed, their seeking WMDs

And swearing to destroy

Our ally Israel?


Lefty:  Don't speak of WMDs.

I'm surprised at your audacity,

And the destruction of the towers

Was not an act of war.

You are being bizarre.  Consider

Who it was that flew those planes:

Some college kids on a prank or lark?


Lawrence:   A prank or lark that killed

Three thousand souls?

That was no lark or prank

But the inspiration

Of Bin Laden and his base,

And they continue planning

And carrying out their plans.


Lefty:  Lighten up, Lawrence, or I

Will leave.  What are a few

Misfortunes in the broader scheme?

You can see now, I hope

The folly of your invasion

Of Iraq and Afghanistan,

Those bastions of tranquility,


Bush surely represented

A national wish for death

And very nearly managed.

There is hardly an Arab

Nation that trusts us now,

And Europe's disgust is palpable.

And will you spend our money on more vain war?


Lawrence:  Horace would

Say we were imprudently

Unprepared for these,

And are spending more

On quibbles than

On learning from

Our mistakes.


Lefty:  We didn't leave the world

Alone.  That was our mistake.

We could have let Saddam

Deal with Iran's nuclear

Ambitions.  Did you ever think

Of that?  And where's the threat

From the harmless Taliban?


Lawrence:  I did, actually, and when I

Played it out like chess

It always ended in

Nuclear conflagration, and

The end of fossil fuel

Before we'd developed

Something in its stead.


Lefty:  Did you ever think

You should have lived

In Horace's day --

With all those simple-

Minded poets and philosophers?

Did you master the use of the sword

In your Marine Corps time?


Lawrence:  I see no progress in these

Times, neither in common

Sense nor in preparation

For war, for the next

One will come as the last

In every age since Horace lived,

This is our nature and how we survive.


Lefty:  I'm leaving you.

You are far too pessimistic

For my sunny soul.

How can you live

With such gloomy thoughts --

Of an enemy at every gate

And in every doorway?


Lawrence:  Adieu, then, Lefty.

May your wish for peace be true,

But may we find enough wise

Souls in case it's not.

May they prudently prepare for war.

And may the Islamists be no more

Unified than we.



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