It’s easy in elegant diction
To call it an innocent fiction
But it comes in the same category
As telling a regular terrible story.
~W. S. Gilbert, Pirates of Penzance

It was known
to the Victorians:
the elegant diction,
called innocent fiction.
But even bitter satire of duty
carried the implication
of honor and shame.
The silly Major General,
sleepless in the ruined chapel,
bemoaned the blot
on his newly purchased escutcheon,
and everyone knew the difference.

It seems now
for the diction
to be elegant:
any manly rhetoric
will be believed.
It seems necessary
to believe it.

Meanwhile the mendacious tale unfolds.
Meanwhile the modern majors
give new shape to  topsy turveydom.
Meanwhile the bodies
are covered with oil and sand.


January, 2004

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