Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Death by Artistic Aspiration

Here's a canny perspective on that egoistic, muddle-headed thinking that is too often mislabeled, "Progress." It is written by Stephen Vincent Benét, who died of a heart attack in New York City on this date (March 13) in 1943. Benét, a perceptive, talented poet and short story writer, was a two time Pulitzer Prize winner. He published The Innovator early in his career: 1918.

The Innovator (A Pharaoh Speaks)
by: Stephen Vincent Benét

I said, "Why should a pyramid

Stand always dully on its base?

I'll change it! Let the top by hid,

The bottom take the apex-place!"

And as I bade they did.

The people flocked in, scores on scores,
To see it balance on its tip.

They praised me with the praise that bores,

My godlike mind on every lip.

-- Until it fell, of course.

And then they took my body out
From my crushed palace, mad with rage,

-- Well, half the town was wrecked, no doubt--

Their crazy anger to assuage

By dragging it about.

The end? Foul birds defile my skull.
The new king's praises fill the land.

He clings to precepts, simple, dull;

His pyramids on bases stand.

But -- Lord, how usual!