Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LABORS OF HERCULES, by MARIANNE MOORE



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THE LABORS OF HERCULES, by         Recitation by Author     Poet's Biography
First Line: To popularize the mule, its neat exterior
Last Line: "that the german is not a hun."
Subject(s): Racism; Racial Prejudice; Bigotry


TO popularize the mule, its neat exterior
expressing the principle of accommodation reduced to a minimum:
to persuade one of austere taste, proud in the possession of home, and a
musician—
that the piano is a free field for etching; that his "charming tadpole notes"
belong to the past when one had time to play them:
to persuade those self-wrought Midases of brains
whose fourteen-karat ignorance aspires to rise in value
"till the sky is the limit,"
that excessive conduct augurs disappointment,
that one must not borrow a long white beard and tie it on
and threaten with the scythe of time, the casually curious:
to teach the bard with too elastic a selectiveness
that one detects creative power by its capacity to conquer one's detachment;
that while it may have more elasticity than logic,
it knows where it is going;
it flies along in a straight line like electricity
depopulating areas that boast of their remoteness:
to prove to the high priests of caste
that snobbishness is a stupidity,
the best side out, of age-old toadyism,
kissing the feet of the man above,
kicking the face of the man below:
to teach the patron-saints-to-atheists, the Coliseum
meet-me-alone-by-moonlight maudlin troubadour
that kickups for catstrings are not life
nor yet appropriate to death—that we are sick of the earth,
sick of the pig-stye, wild geese and wild men:
to convince snake-charming controversialists
that it is one thing to change one's mind,
another to eradicate it—that one keeps on knowing
"that the negro is not brutal,
that the Jew is not greedy,
that the Oriental is not immoral,
that the German is not a Hun."





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