An Epitaph

“Epitaph on a Tyrant,” by W. H. Auden

Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
And when he cried the little children died in the streets.


With a new year approaching, it’s worth asking: just what are we accustomed to now?

  • Yet another story full of the strange and childish grammar of a Twitter feed?
  • Some more martial bluster that the last remaining self-proclaimed adults still proclaim “isn’t normal”?
  • A Christmas headline that another child has died in custody of U.S. agents?

And it might also be worth asking:

  • Is it really news (or newsworthy)? Are we still so eager to pay attention?
  • How many times do we believe it’s possible to cast those dice without consequence?
  • Are we unmoved even by the death of children at our hands?

And finally, we might have to ask: what, in these days, would it take to truly shock us?