Parliament of Idiots
“[T]hey have no occupation
but sleep, feed, and fart.”
— Thomas Middleton, A Mad World, My Masters.
First we gave ’em equal
then we handed ’em ballots;
now they run the parliament,
that commonwealth of idiots.
It seemed an innovation
and a boon to all mankind
to universalize fair play
and count the chips, howe’er aligned.
The wight without opinions
and the fish-wife scatterbrained
were given protocols of state
to weigh, but not explained.
Everyone who couldn’t read
consulted ikons and tea-leaves;
some were issued dice and cards
to eeny meeny between thieves.
Delegations issued speeches
which baffled the ambivalent;
tropes and slogans chopped logic
’til no one knew what
Numbers got bandied about
and incony fine points were limned;
how the tax code was thusly nimmed.
Debacles, scandals, swindles, all
made us elect new charlatans;
here’s more banners to forget
the happy cheats of also-rans.
First we gave ’em wages,
then we gave ’em votes;
now they run the government,
those scrofulous cut-throats!
An Aristocratic Cavil
Whatever will we do
with the flunkies and the footmen?
They listen in at keyholes
and they memorize our secrets.
Whatever did become
of the service institution?
Yea, that grand tradition
of domestics — servants, maids
and coach-men waiting?
Once upon a time a lord and lady
would be varnished
with the supplicating fingers
of a menial house staff
which did glisten with precision.
‘Tie the laces,’ ‘cook the mutton,’
‘fetch the horses,’ ‘stoke the fire,’
‘polish silver,’ ‘light the tapers’
‘lock the gates up,’ ‘wax the floor’ —
behold battalions for each task!
Every item in its place, every person with a role —
humanity was stratified, uniformed
and set to wages. It would seem
egality, democracy or socialism
made promiscuous a ruin
of this proper social sequence.
It’s gross impertinence!
They steam open our letters
and eavesdrop our assignations —
there’s nothing underhanded
they won’t offer up to auction
when our foes offer ’em bribes.
The problem with this system
is we made ourselves dependent
on a class of spies recruited
from boot-lickers and street-walkers —
woe is us, the besieged gentry!
Whatever will we do
with the governess and butler?
Let’s put ’em all on welfare
then profane their privacy.
Assault & Flattery
Poniards, certes, make their point
and pistols have persuasive charms;
there’s no doubt cudgels contend
in making opposition bend;
often you will find the foil
expedient in solving brawls;
plus, forsooth, there’s fisticuffs
to turn opinions of bête noires;
but of all weapons extant,
flattery’s more provident.
Cannons, history has shown,
prove effective dénouement;
controversies can be quelled
by judicious use of arms;
logic and analysis
capitulate with bayonets;
when detractors cite the facts,
schools of thought flee battle axe;
yet this bloodshed is pointless —
flattery’s more sedulous.
Bombs and missiles rarely miss
when assertions plead justice;
arsenals of munitions
trump, in troth, most scholarship;
then, the stocks, the wheel, the rack
will make all perlustration moot;
ethics and legality concede their claims
at coup de grâce;
nonetheless fighting’s for brutes
’cause flattery prostrates disputes.
“The wicked can have only accomplices, […]
only the virtuous have friends.”
The man is lambent, charmed with wit,
a regent gallant laureate;
holding court, the world is smote
with each bespangled anecdote.
He’s got the craft to seduce you
and can tell you why with a bon mot;
he knows which wine, his clothes have flair,
he’ll teach you what is debonair.
But, best of all, in his smart set
you, too, will show a baronet.
No courtier dare flag devoirs
if they wish to stay pranked with stars;
you don’t neglect deft etiquette
if you would fly a favorite.
There’s humors, danders and intrigues
howe’er clinquant in these ‘big leagues’;
the emperor’s vainglorious
and his fits will shift perilous.
One day, you’re fêted recherché,
the next, your scalp drips from a tray;
his mandate shines as a sovereign
but he rules like a scorpion.
The regal face you sigh to see
is the same one that abhors me.