The Watering Hole; Thursday January 16 2014; “The Things That Are More Excellent”

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve long enjoyed a fondness for poetry, particularly poetry written by those of brilliant mind. There are numerous familiar names, of course, a few of which are Aeschylus, Omar Khayyam, Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley, Emily Dickinson — the list is long and incredibly accomplished. There are, also and of course, many more accomplished poets of less familiar name, but whose work stands as tall as any.

In that latter vein, it was while rummaging through some old poetry files just the other day that I happened across this little ‘masterpiece’ by the British poet Sir William Watson (1858-1935). Watson probably wrote it somewhere around 100 years ago, give or take a decade, but curiously enough the ideas expressed in it seem to be so amazingly up to date as to suggest he wrote it just last week! I suppose the embedded message in that little factoid is that most likely throughout the vast bulk of human existence, if ideas and concepts are to change at all, said change invariably proceeds only with unimaginable lethargy.

Watson’s poem, quoted below, contains nine verses of eight lines each, and in which the final line of each verse is a repeat of the Poem’s title, “The things that are more excellent.” In the first seven verses he speaks of, resp., things that are NOT ‘more excellent,’ including (1) material possessions, (2) politics, (3) social issues subject to a prejudiced agenda of one or another sort, (4) the burdens of fetishes (“fetich”), (5) a demanding God and the religious practices therein implicit, (6) the conflict of the ‘social ramble’ with the natural world, and (7) the accumulation of wealth and power. Those aren’t quite the Seven Deadly Sins, but it’s probably safe to assume all of ‘SALIGIA’ is embedded in there somewhere!

In verses 8 and 9, Watson lays out with reasonable precision that which he sees as defining of “The Things That Are More Excellent” including friendships and understanding, science, art, knowledge, a liberal mindset, the sprawl of Nature, and life itself. I can find no argument with any of his conclusions.

So, without further ado, here it is, complete and unfettered. Enjoy!

THE THINGS THAT ARE MORE EXCELLENT
by William Watson

As we wax older on this earth,
Till many a toy that charmed us seems
Emptied of beauty, stripped of worth,
And mean as dust and dead as dreams,–
For gauds that perished, shows that passed,
Some recompense the Fates have sent:
Thrice lovelier shine the things that last,
The things that are more excellent.

Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl,
An hour with silence we prefer,
Where statelier rise the woods than all
Yon towers of talk at Westminster.
Let this man prate and that man plot,
On fame or place or title bent:
The votes of veering crowds are not
The things that are more excellent.

Shall we perturb and vex our soul
For “wrongs” which no true freedom mar,
Which no man’s upright walk control,
And from no guiltless deed debar?
What odds though tonguesters heal, or leave
Unhealed, the grievance they invent?
To things, not phantoms, let us cleave–
The things that are more excellent.

Nought nobler is, than to be free:
The stars of heaven are free because
In amplitude of liberty
Their joy is to obey the laws.
From servitude to freedom’s name
Free thou thy mind in bondage pent;
Depose the fetich, and proclaim
The things that are more excellent.

And in appropriate dust be hurled
That dull, punctilious god, whom they
That call their tiny clan the world,
Serve and obsequiously obey:
Who con their ritual of Routine,
With minds to one dead likeness blent,
And never ev’n in dreams have seen
The things that are more excellent.

To dress, to call, to dine, to break
No canon of the social code,
The little laws that lacqueys make,
The futile decalogue of Mode,–
How many a soul for these things lives,
With pious passion, grave intent!
While Nature careless-handed gives
The things that are more excellent.

To hug the wealth ye cannot use,
And lack the riches all may gain,–
O blind and wanting wit to choose,
Who house the chaff and burn the grain!
And still doth life with starry towers
Lure to the bright, divine ascent!–
Be yours the things ye would: be ours
The things that are more excellent.

The grace of friendship–mind and heart
Linked with their fellow heart and mind;
The gains of science, gifts of art;
The sense of oneness with our kind;
The thirst to know and understand–
A large and liberal discontent:
These are the goods in life’s rich hand,
The things that are more excellent.

In faultless rhythm the ocean rolls,
A rapturous silence thrills the skies;
And on this earth are lovely souls,
That softly look with aidful eyes.
Though dark, O God, Thy course and track,
I think Thou must at least have meant
That nought which lives should wholly lack
The things that are more excellent.

Note that if, in the second verse, the word ‘Westminster’ is changed to ‘Washington’ the entire context pretty much automatically vaults ahead a century to the present moment, and at that point defines the hell-hole in which resides our “government” — a contrivance that most certainly does not even approach  much less begin to comprehend ANY of those “Things That Are More Excellent.” As Watson put it, Tired of the Senate’s barren brawl, / An hour with silence we prefer / . . . / Let this man prate and that man plot, / On fame or place or title bent: /

The votes of veering crowds are not
The things that are more excellent.

Amen.

If I were to make a wild guess it would be that, were he around today, William Watson would NOT be one of the myriad who never ev’n in dreams have seen / The things that are more excellent.”  In other words, he would not be Republican, nor a wingnut, nor a teabagger, nor a politician of any description. Watson, in fact, ‘saw himself as a lifelong enemy of tyranny’ so there can be no doubt that he would still, today, continue to be precisely that which first and foremost he always was: a Poet capable of penning Universal Truth.

OPEN THREAD

102 thoughts on “The Watering Hole; Thursday January 16 2014; “The Things That Are More Excellent”

  1. A San Jose woman was conned out of more than $500,000 by a Nigerian scammer who wooed her on a dating website while posing as a British citizen stuck at sea on a Scottish oil rig, prosecutors said Wednesday as they sounded a warning about an increase in such online rip-offs.

    The 66-year-old victim, whose name wasn’t released, was targeted on ChristianMingle dot com by a man who called her, texted her and sent her flowers before asking her to loan him money to run a business.

    (read on…you may be surprised)

      • …most recently wiring $200,000 to a Turkish bank account at his request late last year, authorities said. But she soon realized she had been conned and called Santa Clara County prosecutors, who contacted the bank, said Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourlard.

        A friend of the con-artist went to pick up the money and was arrested.

        The purported suitor’s name wasn’t released. Investigators said that man’s Skype account and e-mail addresses were later traced to Nigeria.

        • I guess I’m surprised she had already loaned $300k, and was gullible to add another $200k to that, before she suspected anything.

          • Often wonder how these gullible people manage to save such large sums of money.

            Do you suppose she figured that since Mr. Wonderful was on god’s dating site there was nothing to worry about…after all god wouldn’t want to trick her, would he?

        • In a word, the answer is y’betcha. What remains eternally baffling is that so many are always so willing to believe such nonsense . . . and participate. The scam would fall flat in a minute were it not for the population’s deeply embedded foolishness, its susceptibility to blatant and obvious chicanery.

          “Praise JeeSuss!” are the words religious grifters most often use to celebrate their success as ripoff artists.

        • Yes. An American tradition that goes back to the revival tents that littered the country back in the 19th century. Hellfire, brimstone, guilt, guile and larceny.

  2. I’m re-watching Rachel Maddow, and she is doing a good job of tying David Samson to the plot to disrupt Fort Lee traffic. It’s going to be hard to claim Chris Christie didn’t know about the lane closing when every single fuckwit that worked for him was neck-deep in the conspiracy.

    • Christie was well aware, unfortunately being a Repugnant party favorite will suffer no consequences.

      Why hasn’t Issa formed a hearing or four to ‘look into it’?

  3. More about the story I posted yesterday.

    Leaders Of Closed Milwaukee Voucher School Are Now In Florida

    A husband and wife running a private Milwaukee voucher school that abruptly closed last month — after accepting a total of more than $2.3 million in taxpayer money — now live in a gated community in Florida by the beach, records show.

    Records show Taron and Rodney Monroe started a new private Christian school this year in Daytona Beach. While the school in Milwaukee was running on fumes, they were telling Florida friends they had experience getting government grants for religious schools.

    Now the Monroes, who lost their five-bedroom house in West Bend (Wisconsin) to foreclosure, have disappeared.

    (snip)

    The home’s ownership was shifted in 2011 from Lifestyle Ministries — the religious group affiliated with the Monroes — to Taron Monroe’s name, according to real estate records.

    See, LifeSkills Academy was a religiously affiliated school, a fact not included in yesterday’s article. And naming your organization Lifestyle Ministries should be a tip-off that something besides education is the main goal here.

    John Johnson, DPI spokesman, said Wednesday that the department’s authority over voucher schools, which are all private and predominantly religious, is limited.

    A little too limited, if you ask me.

    • Grifters start a new private religous school in Florida.
      Hmm, how surprising.
      Daytona has an equal ratio of ministry run pre schools, middle schools and high schools as it does strip clubs, dive bars and seedy hotels.
      They don’t like to bring this up.
      You got to remember: This is the land of the burning Quran.

    • You’ve got to admire the honesty in their name choice, Lifestyle Ministries, as they were ministering to their own lifestyle.

        • Prosperity gospel is big here.
          Yeah, they say they minister to the poor etc.
          They live in BIG houses, drive several very nice cars and take lavish vacations under the pretense of missionary work.

    • Separation of church and state for a very good reason…
      keep public money out of religious schools.

      Perhaps, some day soon, these people will be behind another gated community known as prison.

    • ¡Exactamente!

      In pressing for the execution to go ahead, Assistant Ohio Attorney General Thomas Madden had argued that while the U.S. Constitution bans cruel and unusual punishment, “you’re not entitled to a pain-free execution.”

      a compassionate asshole

  4. Nancy Grace on proposal to bring back firing squads: ‘There’s no pretty way to die’

    “There’s also fear that at some point, lethal injection may be declared cruel and inhuman, and that would make it unconstitutional,” she said.

    Nancy Grace is afraid if the alleged killers she sensationalizes aren’t eligible for the death penalty, then her ratings might suffer. She only gets good ratings when a high-profile murder trial is ongoing.

  5. Sheesh! They get crazier with each passing moment. There are just too many stories of right-wing extremism to even try and call them all out (The “Gish Gallop” on full display.) so I think I’ll just say that every story seems to be about a whole new level of extremism. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that they are punishing our country for electing a Black Democrat as our president.

    • They would have tried some of the same if Hillary had been elected. Of course, some of them might have been found in the wreckage of small planes…

      • Yeah. Their bigotry is the large economy size of general bigotry and xenophobia. If Hillary was our president they would simply switch the racism for misogyny without missing a beat.

  6. “smoke ’em if ya got ’em”…

    After Lengthy Floor Debate, New Hampshire House Approves Marijuana Legalization
    The historic vote makes the New Hampshire House the first state legislative chamber to ever vote in favor of regulating cannabis.

  7. Senate Passes Omnibus Budget

    There’s seems to be only one thing that can spur the United States Senate into taking quick and decisive bipartisan action; a long weekend.

    Not even an attempt by Ted Cruz to defund Obamacare yet again kept the Senate from wrapping up a vote on the omnibus budget deal Thursday night by a vote of 72-26 in order to get out of town for a scheduled recess.

    (snip)

    The House passed the omnibus budget bill Wednesday, which will fund the government through September by a vote of 359-67 over opposition from some outside conservative groups. With the Senate vote, the 1,582 page bill now goes to the White House for the president’s signature.

    Just in time for Tweety to have it as breaking news too.

    • “Right now in North Dakota McDonald’s is paying workers $15 an hour plus a signing bonus!”

      Although this is probably true, what he fails to acknowledge is what rent costs there now.

      When the jobseekers came, available housing quickly filled up and landlords hiked their rents, realizing they could still fill properties after doubling and tripling the price. In a matter of months, a modest two-bedroom apartment went from about $500 to $2,500 a month, forcing long-time residents out and preventing anyone with a lower income or blemished credit history from renting.

      Yeah, you can make $15 an hour, if you can live in your car. Doesn’t it get rather cold in North Dakota about six months of the year? 😀

      Stupid git Republican!

  8. I think I just heard a shoe drop. I occasionally listen to a few minutes of a local right-wing Catholic station just to hear what the crazies are up to. Well? They had on a “scholar” who claims that the “librul media” has been distorting Pope Frank’s message in order to make it seem like he’s talking about acceptance and tolerance. I think Stephanie Miller sums up my thoughts quite well when she says “fight! fight!! fight!!”. I like Pope Frank more than any other Pope in my lifetime but I would still be overjoyed if the whole damned Catholic church collapsed in an orgy of mutual recrimination.

    • Owen Newitt, of the Dibley Parish Council, perennially late to meetings due to a recurring, worrying feeling in his colon! 🙂
      Or something to do with one of his sheep.
      Not a bad singing voice, as in the episode where he auditioned for the church choir.

        • That would be ‘Dithering Jim Trott’, also of the Dibley Parish Council.

          We got the biggest laughs out of him in the first episodes we saw. In the one where the Vicar has to eat Christmas dinner with almost everyone in the village, Jim’s wife turms out to be his opposite. She begins every negative response with “Yes yes yes yes yes,…no. 😀

  9. Pope Removes Cardinals in Shake-up of Vatican Bank

    Pope Francis shook up the scandal-plagued Vatican bank on Wednesday, removing four of five cardinals from an oversight body in a break with the clerical financial establishment he inherited from his predecessor.
    It was his latest move to get to grips with an institution that has often been an embarrassment for the Holy See and which he has vowed to either reform or close.
    The four cardinals were removed just 11 months into their five-year terms as commissioners, which began under former Pope Benedict, who resigned last February.

    Did the Cardinals that elected him really know what they were getting?

    • Those X-tians can’t get past Leviticus in the OT, can they?

      (I wouldn’t know diddley about the bible if it weren’t for John Fugelsang. I’d even go to church if he was the preacher!)

      • That’s, perhaps, the most frustrating part. I am almost 100% certain that the average atheist, agnostic, or person who has only an academic interest in Christianity knows a whole lot more about what’s in their moldy book than the people who wield the Buybull as a weapon. They sure as Hell don’t understand the golden rule or the parable of the fishes.

  10. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn To Retire At End Of 2014

    The Oklahoma Republican cites his commitment to serve only two terms — not his health — as the reason for his retirement.

    Sen. Tom Coburn announced late Thursday that he will retire from the Senate at the end of 2014 in a statement released by his office.

    In a statement, Coburn emphasized that his recent diagnosis of prostate cancer did not play a role in his decision.

    But evil rots from the inside to the outside.

  11. Helllllllooooooooooooooo, everybody!!!

    I’m home from my apartment hunting trip to Oregon, having found a place in Springfield, OR. I stayed with Cats and nonewhere in their new home, and they are absolutely fabulous people!

    I know none of you are surprised about that. 🙂

    Anyhoo, I’m going to be going crazy getting all this crap packed up for the move, so my appearances here might be even more spotty.

    I hope everyone is doing well!

  12. Good morning! Is June 26, 2020 and I just came upon your wonderful thoughts on William Watson‘s poem “The Things That Are More Excellent” and I read it this morning, for the first time, in the book “101 Famous Poems” by Roy J. Cook. I completely agree with you in light of today’s current political landscape a global pandemic, this poem is as fresh and relevant as ever and truly timeless and Universal. Thank you and I look forward to reading more here.

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