Friday, June 11, 2010

Playing a bit of ketchup (and hot sauce)!

Spring has sprung and it's my season. It came in like a lion! (Lots of pix here that I took (unless credited). I know they're kinda sucky but I used a phone and I'm not a photographer so lower your expectations!

Ketchup: I guess I'll have to work backward with updates on doings. Right now I'm lamenting not being at the exciting Rethinking Poetics conference at Columbia in collaboration with Penn.I especially feel guilty because I was just in Philly for a hot second taping another installment of Poem talk organized and hosted by the adorable Al Filreis. No uptown hanging out for me: I'm on a deadline for a big project and my birthday's coming up (w/ festivities) and have other obligations this weekend. Ah, well.The conference is right in the city, too. Have fun for me everybody!

But... I did get to see one of the luminaries, Charles Bernstein earlier this week in a reading w/ Kenny Goldsmith at the Sixth Street Community Synagogue. It was a nice reading! I haven't heard Kenny read that much and I really enjoyed the double poetry bill with Charles and he. They were also joined by a musician, Jamie Saft. There was a friendly discussion w/ an editor of the Forward, as well as the curator of the event, after the show. There was also a lovely tour of the synagogue and it's progressive history. Very nice! The Lower East Side hasn't always been the supergentrified spot it is being presented as nowadays. This is a photo of a hilarious traffic light I saw as I walked from the train.

Charles read a poem on Walter Benjamin that I haven't heard since we performed together in Paris years ago (ooh la la) and it was great to hear it again as well as some of his libretti. Jamie Saft has worked w/ lots of folks including John Zorn. (John seems to have worked with everyone I know, I swear, and I recently checked out another friend of his, visual artist David Chaim Smith who's illustrations/interpretations of Kabbalah at the Cavin Morris gallery were beautiful and intricate. I wish I could afford to buy one...ah well. I feel that way everytime I walk into a gallery. But DCS's work really was quite gorgeous.)

Speaking of galleries, I don't know if I even want to get into the vortex that was my experience w/ Marina Abramovic! It was intense! Here's the thumbnail: I went at the suggestion of a few people, including one of my colleagues at Pratt and it was like living in another world for a week. Now that the dust has settled and I'm reived from my reverie, I can think on it a bit. Don't want to be too long winded on this post (too late!) but it was very moving and special. I went to MoMa several times: once to check out the retrospective upstairs, once to check out the crowd, once to sit w/ Marina and I had to go to the closing day, for goodness sake. It was star-studded and, in some ways, anti-star b/c the stars, especially at the end, couldn't sit w/ her. The line and all who waited overnight were too formidable to jump just because the person is famous. New Yorkers have been known to be violent when someone cuts the line! I didn't sit w/ her long myself (I think it was a couple minutes). Personally I didn't feel it was necessary to stay that long in order to understand the implications of what she was doing, especially w/ so many people waiting to sit w/ her and I also think I could have stayed sitting w/ her for weeks and weeks and still discovered new things. So what was the point of hogging the time?

(h/t slp: calarts/redcat events)

One of the great added benefits of "meeting" Marina was that I bumped into the affable Suzan Lori-Parks that day and she went old school in appreciation for "not hogging the mic" as it were. It was a fun conversation and I find her work really interesting. Lovely use of language.

(h/t Jacket magazine)

(h/t squaw valley

I am tempted to name drop other folks that I saw there but that's kinda boring. However, I did run into a couple poets and we got to hang out the last day: Evie Shockley and Lee Ann Brown. I love seeing poets in places! Especially my friends. More poets in places! Fan out poets!

Lifestyle changes: well, I've decided to get healthier (a never-ending quest) and am becoming more strict w/ the old diet. Less junk, crap, garbage. More weight-training whole, live foods and water. Since Gemini season has arrived and that means my birthday (yay!) it's time to re-evaluate and move forward. I have some ridiculous precedents for long life in my family (I had an uncle who died at 108), and if I get w/ the program I might be around and healthy for a while. If not, well, there are, unfortunately other precedents for ill health in my family too. I'm at the point now where I'm deciding to tap into the long-living genetic disposition and not to undermine it with bad habits. Weirdly, I'm eating more these days but am not as "fluffy" as before. Consuming better food actually gives me more leeway with how much I can eat. I know this is like "duh, no kidding" but I had to find out w/ trial and error. Whatever. Wish me luck!

Projects: Writing and re-evaluating my writing. It's quite the meditation going over past words. I can almost feel the context of why I needed to write them at the time, coming back. Not exactly a trip down memory lane more like some Star Trek space-time continuum collapse! Disconcerting, unnerving. But good! Doing some recording soon too and that is always lovely.

My trip to Uganda was life-changing. I love going to Africa and have always enjoyed my experiences there. Every place is, of course, very different. In Uganda I got to hang out at schools. I met quite a few students and they are smart, smart, smart. The scholastic resources are terrible though. I saw the vestiges of colonialism (even now) in the depleated libraries and dated books. One thing I did note however, was how much more well-read the students are regarding African literature. I got exposed to many of the books they read as schoolchildren in grad school. That's a sad commentary on the US education system in relation to the second-largest continent on earth. And the students are well-read about very different African authors from throughout the continent.

On a goofy tip, I criss-crossed the equator and that was super fun! I've been south of the equator quite a few times but stopping and taking pictures was cool! Also went to the source of the Nile. That was supercool because I've visited Egypt and went to the end of the Nile so it's like: yay! End to end! The falls around Uganda are gorgeous.

Politcally, because of the controvery anti-gay/queer legislation in the country, the place is flooded w/ southern White evangelicals. Whatever floats your boat on the religious tip, but these folks bring their bad habits, intolerance and awkwardness whereever they go. It seemed to me (after run-in with a couple of these yahoos) that racism and prejudice trumps religion. Just tacky behavior (and aesthetically, just straight up tacky!) I can't agree w/ the intolerance of queer people there (or here for that matter) and I find it interesting that some Africans are very critical of European/Euro-American imperialism when it comes to some things but not other things. If the news reports coming out of the States about who's funding the anti-Gay measures in Uganda (conservative White Christian fundamentalists here in the States) are correct, then this intolerance is just as much an aspect of imperialism as the bad textbooks in the schools that privileges Europe and America over Africa, even for Africans.

LIke I said, it was a deep trip! I look forward to visiting Uganda again. I met some beautiful, smart people there.

Hot Sauce on the table: I've got a few projects heating up (as I've mentioned) and will hopefully be revamping this website over the summer. So if you tune in and things are different, it's on purpose! I'm glad for this nuts-and-bolts website version but hope to step up my game a teeny bit now that I've got other irons in the fire. Stay tuned and enjoy the decent weather!


PS: An early Happy Pops day for you Pops!

My Father's Geography
by Afaa M. Weaver

I was parading the Côte d'Azur,
hopping the short trains from Nice to Cannes,
following the maze of streets in Monte Carlo
to the hill that overlooks the ville.
A woman fed me pâté in the afternoon,
calling from her stall to offer me more.
At breakfast I talked in French with an old man
about what he loved about America--the Kennedys.

On the beaches I walked and watched
topless women sunbathe and swim,
loving both home and being so far from it.

At a phone looking to Africa over the Mediterranean,
I called my father, and, missing me, he said,
"You almost home boy. Go on cross that sea!"


Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's been a long time....

to quote Rakim!

Lissen, I have been b-u-s-y! I'll fill you in w/ more details soon.

What do I have to tell you about? Latest musings, my trip to Uganda, sitting w/ Marina Abramovic, new projects, lifestyle changes, summer coming, the Gemini season starting, revamping ye olde website.

My next post is probably gonna be loooong! Maybe even in two parts!

So look out this week and I'll catch y'all up. This is what *professional* blogger and entertainment types call "a teaser".

Thanks for checking in,

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oops! Almost forgot...


Special Yay if you're a cat person!
(Year of the Tiger)


(h/t to for the pic)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

another day in the cities

Well today was one of those good days. The kind I like -- full of different things intersecting and a little surprise. As a preface to the cities/spaces I experienced today was a talk I attended on Thursday presented by the British architect David Adjaye. It was an interesting talk and he raised some provocative points about cultural intersections during a Q and A with Thelma Golden and the other presenters of the "Blacks in Architecture" conference.


Cityscapes upon cities...

London: I started off reading a bit about my beloved philosopher J.L. Austin after doing some creative writing yesterday. I came across this wonderful little miniseries from 1990 out of London. I'm probably one of the last literary-type people to have actually seen it: the fabulous 4 part "trilogy" House of Cards starring the great Ian Richardson.

(J.L. Austin above. h/t

(Ian Richardson via

It was fun going down memory lane (the early 1990s) and seeing such lovely subtle "face work" from Mr. Richardson. Everyone in the series was really great -- and intense! -- in their work. Totally in the moment. I was impressed. Like the other Ian I always mention, it was a fourth-wall breaking performance based on Richard III.

Lagos: I ran off to see the Broadway show Fela! as part a family outing and was blown away. It was magnificent! I saw Kevin Mambo as Fela and he turned it out! I had a chance to see the original great many, many years ago and I have to say, although there were many people on stage in the play, it was a fraction of the amout of people I rememeber seeing in Fela's actual show! The actors (at the Eugene O'Neil Theatre) took it to the hoop! Bill T and his collaborators wore it out! Dealt with the politics, Afrocentricity, the astounding music and dance, the spirituality, everything. I refused to read any reviews before seeing it -- and don't rely on them anyway. I recently saw a play with my good friend Sarah and we really didn't care for it. The mainstream reviews gave it a *rave*. Different strokes.

(Fela to the left. h/t

(Kevin Mambo h/t

I recently told a poetry colleague of mine that I like stuff that's really old and I like stuff that's really new, not as much stuff that's in the middle. (Early onset of curmudgeon, I suspect). I guess I like Mr. Richardson and Fela because they are *re* - newels of something(s) old. Of course, we're talking apples and oranges here in other respects...but one could argue that both presentations are critiques about corruptive residues of the British Empire, so there's that.

New York: When we were leaving the theater and getting into the train station, we ran into the great actor Tony Shalhoub (confirmed dork, I have seen *all* the eoisodes of "Monk" just to watch him work out as an actor) and his lovely wife, the wonderful actor Brooke Adams. Truth be told, I did not recognize her because she looks so much younger than she does on film. Tony Shalhoub looks better in real life, too. (I'm not saying they looked the opposite, of course, it's just that with all the lighting and makeup you'd think film would do them justice but it doesn't). I love New York: you just never know who you'll run into -- and to a large extent nobody cares. That's why famous people like to live here, too.

(via imdb/golden globes)

I hope seeeing Mr. Shalhoub in the streets of the city means he's going to be staying back on stage where he belongs. I mean, I like TV and film but if you've got the chops for the stage, whole other level.

Hmmm. I guess it's worthwhile going to Manhattan occassionally. Nice place to visit...



Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (excerpt)
by Walt Whitman
Flood-tide below me! I watch you face to face;
Clouds of the west! sun there half an hour high! I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you
are to me!
On the ferry-boats, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home,
are more curious to me than you suppose;
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more to me,
and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things, at all hours of the day;
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme—myself disintegrated,
every one disintegrated, yet part of the scheme:
The similitudes of the past, and those of the future;
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and hearings—
on the walk in the street, and the passage over the river;
The current rushing so swiftly, and swimming with me far away;
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them;
The certainty of others—the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

Others will enter the gates of the ferry, and cross from shore to shore;
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide;
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west, and the heights
of Brooklyn to the south and east;
Others will see the islands large and small;
Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun half an
hour high;
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence, others will
see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring in of the flood-tide, the falling back
to the sea of the ebb-tide.

It avails not, neither time or place—distance avails not;
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever so
many generations hence;
I project myself—also I return—I am with you, and know how
it is.

Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt;
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd;
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the bright flow,
I was refresh'd;
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift current,
I stood, yet was hurried;
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships, and the thick-stem'd
pipes of steamboats, I look'd.

PS! Thanks for all the well-wishes re: the Brooklyn Poet Laureate position. I was one of the three finalists. It was super, duper cool to be considered and share a bit of the limelight with Jess Greenbaum and our borough's new poetic representation, Tina Chang!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Week of Contrasts


Last week had to go down as one of the most striking weeks I've seen. It started off with an acknowledgement of MLK Jr.'s legacy and bringing the country together. The next day we saw another country ripped apart before our disbelieving eyes.

The relationship is not that far apart. Haiti's human rights victory in 1804 had a direct affect on the anti-slavery movement in the United States and around the world. One silver lining in that rubble-constructed cloud is that some information about the pivotal role that Haiti has played in world history (and the way it's been punished for it's freedom ever since) is being uttered frankly in American main stream circles. Unless you were well educated in the history of people who have been historically marginalized, you may not have been aware of how important Haiti has been to the world. The Haitian Ambassador to the US, Raymond Joseph, and writer Edwidge Dandicat have spoken movingly and clearly about this topic as well as the disaster. It is terrible that it took such a catastrophe for many of us to know more about our neighbor. I hope these important historical points don't get swept away by, what is oftentimes the deluge of catastrophic images that replace actual news and context.

Another unexpected event, that isn't a disaster but could affect many, many lives here and around the world, is the declaration of Scott Brown as Senator-elect in Massachusetts. His place in the Senate might very well determine whether or not healthcare gets passed. As Alan Grayson, the rabble-rousing congressman from Florida has explained, over 45,000 people die every year for lack of healthcare in the US. Since Brown's in a blue state, we'll have to see how he works with his colleagues but this is really going to be a challenge to move the agenda for the progressives among us -- or anyone who wants better healthcare irrespective of political opinion on how it gets done. Brown's vote may determine if anything gets done at all.


As the week progressed it continued to get weird: the Supreme Court ruling that legal constructs are people too (and can talk!) was bizarre and distressing for democracy. I hope the legislative bodies move swiftly and quickly to ameliorate the court's decision.

(h/t choices campus blog)

Then Air America went down the tubes. I'm not surprised by this -- at all -- having listened to the network at its inception. They had great programming and the management just kept messing it up until they ruined the franchise. The one good thing that emerged from that self-sabotaging scenario was some of the talent it brought to the fore (who had enough sense to jump ship and/or supplement their distribution outside of Air America). Some of the notables I became familiar with because of the network (not the ones I knew of before its inception) include: the super smart Sam Seder, Marc Maron and the exemplary Morning Sedition show, Rachel Maddow, the Ring of Fire broadcasters. In fact, the attention that Air America drew to progressive affiliates gave me exposure to: Nancy Skinner, the Young Turks, and the very funny Stephanie Miller show. Needless to say, I don't agree w/ everyone 200% and they would certainly say the same thing about my musings but it's so great to have a few determined voices out there in commercial radio to counter the bombardment of intolerant, extreme right wing voices that are all over the AM dial. The cool thing is, I find most of the broadcasters that I hear to be pretty good comedians too and a little levity helps during tumultuous change.


As a side note, the Coco/Leno debacle did grab a moment of my interest too, truth be told. Not that I'm crying for any of those multimillionaires but I do recall Conan O'Brien's show when it first started and found him funny -- and very tall. The controversy between he, Leno and Letterman, from the little I know, was intense and ascerbic and funny at times. I guess I paid a bit of attention to it because *relatively speaking* the little guy (a.k.a. O'Brien) seemed to be cheated out of his chance. He's also closer to my age-peer so that probably has something to do with it, too. Having been at the very, very edge of the margin of entertainment culture, I have a sense of that world (just a bit) so I have a little corner of empathy. Not that he needs *my* support, for goodness sake.

(h/t Us

I certainly *got* my share of support this week though. I finally dragged myself out of the house to have dinner w/ some friends (despite my hermit tendencies) and also saw one of those once in a lifetime events: a collaboration between the late, extraordinary Max Roach's percussion group and the World Saxophone Quartet. They haven't played together in a few decades. I ran into folks I haven't seen in dogs' years! I'll say more about that in my next post, I think. It's been quite a week to process and I need some room in my head first to give that performance some space on my little blog.


Hang in there peeps,

Sunday, January 10, 2010

HNY 2010

Dag. What a big number! 2010!

Well, not quite as futuristic as the movie 2001 and the (underrated) tv show Space 1999 projected. (Remember that show? With the wonderful -- and formally married --acting pair Martin Landau and Barbara Bain?)

(from Space 1999 wikipedia entry)

I don't know about you all but this year feels different for me. Last year was a little "dramatic" toward the end so I figure this one will "come in like a lamb" to borrow from the expression. I love the New Year and we get to commemorate the Lunar New Year in about a month -- going from Ox to Tiger.

So I felt the itch to starting writing for January (and usually feel compelled to write) because I love my life and the riches of the world. (Saccarine, much?) Really though! Life's just amazing. I'm a (notorious) Gemini, as everyone who knows me knows and we twin folks are famous for loving contrasts, especially when it comes to communication. (Hey, star-gazing is entertaining! The poet Sekou Sundiata used to say he'd look at the daily astrological forecasts and whichever he liked the best, that's the one he'd believe. I go for that system!)

Over the years that I've written for this lil blog, I usually demonstrate my affection for contrasts. I love so many things and when they crash into each other in my comings and goings, I feel so happy! The world is amazing, funny, sad, infuriating and wonderful.

Even in New York in January. Cold, filthy and did I mention cold?

(from website. Yeah, go already.)

Started off the year with some fun: The New Year's Reading at St. Mark's. I dragged Elliott Sharp into my scheme (like Lucy did poor Ricky) and we enjoyed ourselves. We did a cover! Sorry you had to be there...I've performed w/ Elliott a bunch so it wasn't horrible and surprisingly stress-free. I like going to the Project and trying out new stuff on New Year's. Keeps me on my toes!


Now that the year is really, really here, I found other pleasures before classes start: I was geeking out to hours and hours of a wonderful podcast called "Philosophy Bites" out of London ( It's all about European philosophical traditions/ethical questions/notable theorists. As an adoring fan of J.L. Austin and a newcomer to this world (I didn't seriously start exploring philosophy until my last go-round in grad school except for the required basics for my PoliSci undergrad degree). it's nice to get the overview/review. (Descartes, It's been ages! Rousseau, what's up? Isaiah Berlin! Derrida, you codger!)

What I'm interested in contributing to the field, I hope, is a consideration of the ways that non-Eurocentric (and the implicit cultural baggage of top-dog status) can inform and be informed by seemingly oppositional cultural/political philosophical viewpoints. In other words, how can we converse with the goal of everybody learning something. Know why? Because we're all influenced by each other (sometimes for better, sometimes not). I like to look at the surprising ways in which ideas are linked. I guess John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" got to me as a kid when the show was re-run on PBS for a while...

(via Ways of Seeing wikipedia page)

I like Philosophy Bites (and its sibling "Ethics Bites") because it has a great deal of affection for "the western" half of the equation. I like going over this stuff! (To be fair, they did have a podcast on Eastern -- i.e. Indian -- philosophy w/ Keith Ward but that was out of 111 episodes. That's their thing and it's cool. They're upfront w/ the perspective). Of course I'm not making a point about the backgrounds of the commentators but the subject matter being discussed. As y'all know, I like Shakespeare plays so it's not my first time at this western (love-fest) rodeo! (corny pun. get it?)


Now if doing cover tunes in an experimental way and listening to Classical Philosophy isn't enough of a contrast, I've got another one for ya: A friend of mine started circulating some clips of the great Paul Mooney opining, acerbically and hilariously, on Pres. Obama, Tiger Woods, Richard Pryor, etc. O.M.G. Mr. Mooney is always deep! I had the pleasure of interviewing him many, many years ago when I was doing some freelance writing for the Amsterdam News and I also have to say that in person, he is one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen. What comes out of his mouth is really caustic! But: gorgeous skin, cheekbones somewhere around his temples, just beautific. I think he looks good bald, too. Even in his late 60s, he's stunning. I mention this because it's one of the things that really stands out about him and one that's not discussed that much. (There are plenty of other things to talk about!) I'm also reminded that he could have easily gone the Hollywood way. He's tall enough, too (even though most famous actors are pretty short.). I'm sure he coulda gotten "the gig" and played the docile, adorable "Black Guy" (either leading role or buddy) but he decided to walk the road less traveled -- and will not change! He's an old-school, thugged out in-your-face bro who's still justifiably angry!

(via STLToday -- St. Louis Today)

Now, before you finish the thought of "But do you agree when he said_________" -- Fill in the blank with anything! I don't think it's a matter of agreeing with him or not. Paul Mooney does two things and he does them quite well: He forces people to confront their racial assumptions and he makes jokes. Those two things are what his comments are in service to. It's like asking if Andy Kaufman really thought he was doing justice to his rendition of the Mighty Mouse cartoon theme song on Saturday Night Live: that's not the point. I'm equivocating a bit because I do think that Paul Mooney means what he says but what he does, in fact, mean by what he is saying is predicated on the two goals I mentioned. He was a nice person to interview, too. A real family guy and very loyal to his friends (which includes quite an array of now-famous celebrities because of his help). He had a bit of an edge but he seemed to be a very caring person to me -- except when it comes to the feelings of his audience: then it's no holds barred. I find that I consistently say whenever I hear a Mooney clip that famous Black accolade for shock: "That's messed up!"

Wrapping up the last ten days, I finished the first drafts of some articles/commentaries I have coming out this year and a few were recently published. The ones that have hit or are hitting the stands are in the current issue of boundary 2 (fall, 2009) and the upcoming Eco-Reader that Brenda Ijima is editing. When the other two are out, I'll let you know. I'm fixing them up over the next week or so as well as writing a blurb for a very prestigious person (that is more intimidating than writing an article) that'll also be out this spring. Trying to get some work done. What I find most challenging about writing articles is finding the balance between what's an interesting way for me to write and sharing my info. with the reader. I'm generally asked to write about poetics and in a sea of "conventional" articles, it is always more interesting for me to write from another tonal perspective and hopefully an engaging, challenging one.


Speaking of which, the meta-themes ideas inspired by my perusal of Philosophy Bites (and my PoliSci reminiscing) made me return to an older article I skimmed but only recently really read: economist Paul Krugman's lovely and clear commentary on the debate between economic schools, the "saltwater" versus "freshwater" analyses in his NYT article from last September "How Did Economists Get it So Wrong?" I liked it not only because I sympathize (I'm on the left side of the divide surprise, surprise) but because he alluded to a notion that's regularly brought up in Humanities circles and that is the need to "scientist-ize" (not a real word!) everything. What I mean is that sometimes I think we over-privilege scientific thought above creative thinking to "prove" we're serious. The artistic/intuitive element of any cultural discourse is central to the way we understand how the world works just as much as the rationalist side (no, I'm not advocating that we start using astrology for analyzing everything!). Krugman doesn't make this point but I do think of it when he says: "As I see it, the economics profession went astray because economists, as a group, mistook beauty, clad in impressive-looking mathematics, for truth." Toward the end of the article he states: "When it comes to the all-too-human problem of recessions and depressions, economists need to abandon the neat but wrong solution of assuming that everyone is rational and markets work perfectly." The "all-too-human" and abandoning "the neat but wrong solution of assuming that everyone is rational" is what the arts, performance and humanities explore all the time. While I'm not suggesting that Paul Krugman be replaced with Eric Bogosian (same birth year), it might not hurt to hear what Bogosian has to say about the microeconomics of art. And I'm sure Mr. Mooney (same first name) has a thing or two to say about the housing bubble...


Didn't know you'd start 2010 at Nerd Central, did ya?

(via Never encountered the website before but hands-down the coolest image evah!)


Essay on Man, Epistle II
by Alexander Pope (excerpt)

I. Know, then, thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a god, or beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!
Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!
Superior beings, when of late they saw
A mortal man unfold all Nature’s law,
Admired such wisdom in an earthly shape
And showed a Newton as we show an ape.
Could he, whose rules the rapid comet bind,
Describe or fix one movement of his mind?
Who saw its fires here rise, and there descend,
Explain his own beginning, or his end?
Alas, what wonder! man’s superior part
Unchecked may rise, and climb from art to art;
But when his own great work is but begun,
What reason weaves, by passion is undone.
Trace Science, then, with Modesty thy guide;
First strip off all her equipage of pride;
Deduct what is but vanity or dress,
Or learning’s luxury, or idleness;
Or tricks to show the stretch of human brain,
Mere curious pleasure, or ingenious pain;
Expunge the whole, or lop th’ excrescent parts
Of all our vices have created arts;
Then see how little the remaining sum,
Which served the past, and must the times to come!