Thursday, August 31, 2006

What's the Matter with Thomas Frank? -- A response by way of pilfered poetry

I've started reading Thomas Frank's "Whazza Mattah Wit Kansas?" and the following poem by George Canning, The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-Grinder, sums up my feelings as of roughly page 60. Our dear Mr. Frank, son of Kansas soil with spirit of liberal toil, plays the part of the friend of humanity. Kansas, soil and spirit, plays the part of the knife-grinder.

-------------------------

FRIEND OF HUMANITY

Needy Knife-grinder! whither are you going?
Rough is the road, your wheel is out of order
Bleak blows the blast; -- your hat has got a hole
in't,
So have your breeches!

"Weary Knife-grinder! little think the proud ones,
Who in their coaches roll along the turnpike-
road, what hard work 'tis crying all day "knives
and
scissors to grind O!"

"Tell me, Knife-grinder, how you came to grind
knives?
Did some rich man tyranically use you?
Was it the squire? or parson of the parish?
Or the attorney?

"Was it the squire, for the killing of his game? or
Covetous parson, for his tithes distraining?
Or roguish lawyer, made you lose your little
All in a lawsuit?

"(Have you not read the Rights of Man, by Tom Paine?)
Drops of compassion tremble on my eyelids,
Ready to fall, as soon as you have told your
Pitiful story."

KNIFE-GRINDER

"Story! God bless you! I have none to tell, sir,
Only last night a-drinking at the Chequers,
This poor old hat and breeches, as you see, were
Torn in a scuffle.

"Constables came up for to take me into
Custody; they took me before the justice;
Justice Oldmixon put me in the parish-
Stocks for a vagrant.

"I should be glad to drink your Honour's health in
A pot of beer, if you will give me sixpence;
But for my part, I never love to meddle
With politics, sir."


FRIEND OF HUMANITY
"I give thee sixpence! I will see thee damn'd
first,--
Wretch! whom no sense of wrongs can rouse to
vengeance --
Sordid, unfeeling, reprobate, degraded,
Spiritless outcast!"

[Kicks the Knife-grinder, overturns his wheel, and exits in a transport of republican enthusiasm and universal philanthropy.]

2 Comments:

Anonymous Lisa said...

Grant, you are so brilliant. I don't know what I'd do without your blog. :)

8:43 PM  
Blogger Grant said...

Gainfully employ your time?

And, to be fair, most of the brilliance exhibited in the post is the work of Canning. His delightful skewering of self-righteous posturing is ...well, delightful.

Reminds me of a quote from the illustrious Mr. Burke. Referring to Rousseau, who fits the part of the Friend of Humanity par excellence, Burke said that Rousseau was "a lover of his kind but a hater of his kindred."

10:01 PM  

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