Pity the Nation

September 3, 2007

Its been decades since Jack Kerouac’s On the Road bored me into a near-coma, so I really couldn’t care less that this week marks the book’s fiftieth anniversary. The other Beats surrounding Kerouac — Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso — always struck me as far better writers. But the anniversary occasions this interesting interview with Beat generation poet and eminence grise Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who has a new poem to offer that I quite like:

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.

Hope you all had a great Labor Day weekend.

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5 Responses to “Pity the Nation”

  1. geoff Says:

    I read On the Road last year for the first and last time. Easily one of the worst, most pointless novels I’ve ever read.

  2. Bill Bowman Says:

    Yeah, never was a big Beat fan. But I like the poem …

  3. Rix Says:

    My fav Kerouac “novel” is Big Sur, about what happens to a successful novelist stuck with being the “voice” of his generation. He just wants to find somewhere to hide. I’m curious about the original scroll version of On the Road.

  4. Rix Says:

    P.S. Agreeing with a poem’s sentiment doesn’t make it a good poem.

  5. Caveat Says:

    Guess I’m odd man out – I liked On the Road, reminded me of my misspent youth…


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