There’s a passage in the documentary The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology where dialectic Marxist superstar Slavoj Žižek goes on a tangent about how to properly satirize institutional power. His point, in essence, is that you can’t successfully erode an institution by attacking the person in charge. [I suppose it’s possible that this wasn’t exactly what he was talking about, because sometimes Žižek can be hard to follow. But this was my takeaway, and my interpretation is valid, even if it’s wrong. Misinterpretations can still be accidentally true.] According to Žižek, attempting to satirize the public image of a powerful person inevitably proves impotent; this is because positions of power are designed to manipulate and displace a high degree of criticism. You can mock the president with impunity—nothing will really happen to him or to you. Part of the presidential job description is the absorption of public vitriol. It’s a rubberized target. A comedic assault doesn’t change perception in any meaningful way. [“It’s not the respectful voice that props up the status quo,” Malcolm Gladwell once noted. “It is the mocking one.” Gladwell was subsequently mocked for noting this so respectfully.] Clear, unsubtle political satire on TV shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report can succeed as entertainment, but they unintentionally reinforce the preexisting world: These vehicles frame the specific power holder as the sole object of scorn. This has no impact beyond comforting the enslaved. Power holders—even straight-up dictators—are interchangeable figureheads with limited reach; what matters far more is the institutional system those interchangeable figureheads temporarily represent.
So what does this mean, outside of an academic discussion about power? Well, maybe this: If you want to satirize the condition of a society, going after the apex of the pyramid is a waste of time. You need to attack the bottom. You need to ridicule the alleged ideological foundation an institution claims to be built upon. This is much, much more discomfiting than satirizing an ineffectual prime minister or a crack-smoking mayor. This requires the vilification of innocent, anonymous, working-class people. If you want to damage the political left, you must skewer the left’s bedrock myth—the idea that all people are equal and that people want to be good (which implies enforced fairness would make everyone’s life better). If you want to damage the political right, you must likewise skewer the right’s bedrock myth—the belief that the human spirit is both sacrosanct and irrepressible (which implies unfettered freedom allows all people to prosper equally). To illustrate how either ideology is flawed, you must demonstrate how those central notions are moronic. And this requires the satirist to present the average citizen as a naïve sheep who fails to realize the hopelessness of his or her position. The successful social satirist must show a) how the average liberal is latently selfish and hypocritical, or b) how the average conservative fails to comprehend how trapped he is by the same system he supports. A world-class satirist knows the truth about his audience and does not care how exposing that truth will make audiences feel.
This is a difficult task (and if you need proof, just ask the tortured corpse of Machiavelli). Deep satire is a collision sport. It’s a little cold and a little antihumanist, so most of its potential purveyors don’t go for the jugular. But they went for it on Seinfeld, and they did so relentlessly. And they did it so well that most people barely noticed, no matter how often the writers told them directly.
Seinfeld debuted in July of 1989. Considering the limitations of what network television was (or could be) in ‘89, it has proven to be the most imperative live-action sitcom of the modern era. Nothing else comes close. Like the music of Zeppelin or the teen archetypes of Salinger, its subsistence in the culture scarcely dissipates. Its four principal characters are so engrained in the American consciousness that there’s no need for me to name them or describe who they are. Seinfeld will live in syndication forever, partially because the show exists within its own evergreen reality: a version of New York that’s obviously based in Los Angeles, populated by a collection of impossible personalities who are caricatures of actual people. Like traditional sitcoms, Seinfeld emphasized character over plot; unlike traditional sitcoms, the audience was never supposed to empathize with any of the characters they loved. When describing the program’s brilliance, it became common (in fact, cliché) to say Seinfeld was a farcical “show about nothing.” But that description was lazy. It was not a farce. It was social satire. And to nonchalantly claim it was “a show about nothing” erroneously suggests that its vision was empty. Seinfeld was never a show about nothing, even when nothing happened. Seinfeld simply argued that nothing is all that any rational person can expect out of life. It was hilarious, but profoundly bleak. By consciously stating it had no higher message—the creators referred to this as the “no hugging, no learning” rule—it was able to goof around with concepts that battered the deepest tenets of institutionalized society. It was satire so severe that we pretend it wasn’t satire at all.
Most episodes of Seinfeld circuitously forward two worldviews: The first is that most people are bad (and not very smart). The second is that caring about other people is absurd (and not very practical). It is the most villainous sitcom ever made, particularly since its massive audience never seemed to fully grasp what it was literally seeing. This was true from its inception. There’s an episode from the first season (“Male Unbonding”) in which Jerry reconsiders his lifelong friendship with a self-absorbed man he hates. The relationship is based on nostalgia; as a child, the despised man’s family owned a Ping-Pong table. Jerry longs to sever this relationship and resents that the man still desires his company. “I would have been friends with Stalin if he had a Ping-Pong table,” he tells George (a different self-absorbed friend Jerry actually likes). All of this is funny, because Jerry Seinfeld is funny; it’s also relatable, because adolescent familiarity sometimes lasts longer than it should. But consider what this premise is really doing: It is satirizing the notion that relationships matter. It suggests that healthy friendships are disposable, and that the commitments we make to nonessential acquaintances are absurd extensions of social politeness. And this is not the subtext. This is the text. Like The Prince, the collected Seinfeld teleplays generate an ironic instruction manual for not caring about other people. Kramer expresses a few altruistic feelings, but Jerry, Elaine, and George do not. They sometimes exhibit qualities of loyalty, but mainly to “the vault.” What they call “the vault” is the tacit agreement that they can tell each other anything, without fear that the information will be leaked to other involved parties (they stick the information “in the vault”). Their deepest loyalty is to the art of keeping secrets.
Certainly, most of the retrospective credit for this weltanschauung is directed toward Larry David, the bald misanthrope who created Seinfeld in orchestra with its namesake star. As noted by virtually everyone who has ever written about this program in any context, Jerry’s fictional friendship with George is a simulation of Seinfeld’s real friendship with David. But that connection is only a fraction of the influence. David’s deeper contribution was the injection of his solipsistic morality (which ended up becoming the whole enchilada). Smarter critics had suspected this throughout the nineties, but it became undeniable once David’s improv exhibition Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered on HBO in the fall of 2000. Curb Your Enthusiasm was everything understated about Seinfeld, amplified into aesthetic totality. David will even use random episodes of Curb to directly point out incidents from Seinfeld that were based on his life, almost as if he wants to make sure everyone knows he was the wizard behind the curtain. At times, this preoccupation can almost seem petty. But it’s never invasive, because that pettiness is just about the only emotion we see from anyone in this universe.
Most of the time, television depends on emotion. Emotion is the intangible drug that passive audiences crave; we immerse ourselves in fictional drama to feel something we want (or miss) from real life. But not in the faux reality of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and not in the pseudo-reality of Seinfeld. On Seinfeld, the characters express contempt for emotion. It is the weakest quality a human can possess. This could be demonstrated in roughly half of the show’s 180 episodes, but one does so overtly: In an episode titled “The Serenity Now,” Jerry’s thirty-minute girlfriend (ex–Full House star Lori Loughlin) pushes him to get angry, simply to see if he has the ability to express any kind of emotion in any given scenario. This is both a commentary on Seinfeld’s fictional character (who doesn’t empathize with anyone) and a meta-commentary on Seinfeld’s technical ability as an actor (which borders on nonexistent). When the girlfriend’s plan succeeds, the floodgates open. Jerry becomes an emotional wreck who cries constantly, much to his own confusion (“What is this salty discharge?” he wonders aloud). His emotional instability makes him creepy and annoying, ultimately prompting him to propose marriage to Elaine for no rational reason. By the end of the episode, his hysteria has passed. Jerry returns to his former uncaring self, and everyone (including the audience) is relieved.
Now—before you get the wrong idea—let me note that the bleakness of Seinfeld was not the lone explanation for the program’s success. There were many, many other factors. One was the unadulterated weirdness of so many of its subplots (Kramer’s desire to cover his body in butter, the enigmatic involvement of Keith Hernandez, et cetera). Another was the accidental profundity of its absurdity (most notably, George’s realization that his life would be more successful if he simply did the opposite of whatever his natural instinct suggested). Still another was its conversational singularity (if I’m flipping through channels and catch just five seconds of dialogue from any Seinfeld scene, I can inevitably recall everything else about the entire episode, almost instantaneously). Because it was filmed like a play and did not emphasize realism, it ages better than any comparable three-camera sitcom; because its narratives were so often built around absurd problems that symbolized basic problems, the ideas continue to feel more relevant than logic would dictate. It was an unusually adult TV comedy, produced in an era when that was still rare. But the darkness did matter. It played a massive role. By the end of the show’s tenure, it was so self-consciously dark that it started to resemble shtick; if interpreted as satire, the final season (and especially its finale) was too obvious and much less effective. But that does not negate all the previous antihumanism that was slipped into conversations and congenially consumed as playful.
This is a compliment.
Take “The Raincoats” from season five, a two-part episode that primarily revolves around the doomed possibility of Kramer going into the vintage-clothing business with Jerry’s father (who was visiting from Florida). A secondary plot involved Elaine dating a character played by Judge Reinhold. Initially, Reinhold’s alleged flaw is that he is a “close talker,” who invades people’s personal space during conversation. However, this pales in comparison to his greater transgression: He becomes obsessed with spending time with Jerry’s visiting parents. He takes them all over Manhattan, invites them to dinner, and loves their company.
“Don’t you think it’s odd,” Elaine asks Jerry over coffee, “that a thirty-five-year-old man is going to these lengths to see that someone else’s parents are having a good time? And I can’t even say anything, because he’s just being nice. But no one’s this nice. This is certifiably nice.”
“You’re right,” responds Jerry. “He’s insane.”
Now, do I agree with those sentiments? Yes. I do. I would absolutely think a person who wants to spend all his free time with the parents of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend should be classified as insane. I assume most rational people would feel the same way. But here’s the thing: Every single aspect of this episode is insane. The whole idea of Kramer going into business with Jerry’s dad is insane. Another “Raincoats” subplot requires George to take a little boy he barely knows to France; still another examines the ethics of making out while watching Schindler’s List. Every element of “The Raincoats” is nuts. But only Reinhold’s insane niceness is a problem. It’s the only thing that prompts Jerry and Elaine to have a straightforward conversation about how such behavior is unacceptable. It’s the one action they can’t accept. The idea of someone being nice for no reason is enough to make Judge Reinhold “undatable,” which places him in the same category (according to Jerry) as 95 percent of the planet. In another episode, Jerry specifically breaks up with a woman because she’s “too good.” Here, again, he says this directly: “She’s giving and caring and genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. I can’t be with someone like that.” Because he’s so candid about this distaste, it feels like a traditional joke. But it’s not a traditional joke. It’s an omnipresent worldview that informs everything else, and it’s what made audiences feel like they were watching the most sinister (and the most authentic) versions of themselves.
The acridness of Seinfeld was never hidden. It was certainly not something no one else realized, even as it was happening. “Meanness is celebrated,” wrote Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Examiner in the run-up to Seinfeld’s 1998 finale. “Nobody is living an examined life. Getting yours is the goal. Anger and bitterness supplant happiness. Emotionless sex wins out over love, and the mundane is king.” There were periodic complaints about the show throughout its existence, always for this approximate reason (it made fun of the disabled, it played the death of a minor character for laughs, it made casual racism hilarious, et al). I’m not breaking new ground here. But I’ve noticed something peculiar in the years that have passed since it went into syndication. I’ve noticed that the living memory of Seinfeld has changed. It’s now consumed like a conventional situation comedy; the emphasis has shifted toward the memorable catchphrases it spawned and the low-stakes comfort of its nonserialized storytelling. It’s become more akin to I Love Lucy or Night Court: an amusing distraction from a bygone age. But that perception underrates its significance. It feels weird to classify one of the most popular TV shows of all time as “underrated,” but the program’s raw popularity latently misdirected its more significant directive. Seinfeld mainstreamed day-to-day villainy. It made America a different place. A meaner, funnier place.
I love the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, mostly because it’s a straight-up hybrid of Seinfeld and Cheers (vulcanized by PEDs and the Internet). The humor on It’s Always Sunny is—technically—crueler than anything Jerry or George would have ever said to anyone. Its antagonism is less nuanced. But there’s another key difference that matters way more: Everyone involved with It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is hyper-conscious of the cruelty (including the audience). None of the characters talk like real people; we always know they’re supposed to be understood as sociopaths. You need to know they’re crazy in order to appreciate what they do. And that’s not how it was on Seinfeld. On Seinfeld, the psychopathy felt normal—almost bor- ing. The people just talked like people. They sat in a coffee shop and casually discussed how civilization was awful and existence is meaningless, and twenty-two million people watched it every week. It opened a window while pulling down the shades, and we can’t go back. This is the world now. This is the world.
And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Nothing to Worry About...
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Inter-Textual American Moments...
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
What's Nerd-speak for 'Allusion"?
Does America Need Trump's "Anti-Bologna" Reforms to Abolish PC?
The state of permanent economic emergency does not mean that the left should abandon patient intellectual work, with no immediate ‘practical use’. On the contrary: today, more than ever, one should bear in mind that communism begins with what Kant, in the famous passage of his essay, ‘What is Enlightenment?’, called the ‘public use of reason’: with the egalitarian universality of thought. Our struggle should thus highlight those aspects of the current ‘re-structuring’ that pose a threat to trans-national open space. One example would be the EU’s ongoing ‘Bologna Process’, which aims to ‘harmonize the architecture of the European higher education system’, and which is in fact a concerted attack on the public use of reason.- Slavoj Zizek, "A Permanent Economic Emergency"
Underlying these reforms is the urge to subordinate higher education to the task of solving society’s concrete problems through the production of expert opinions. What disappears here is the true task of thinking: not only to offer solutions to problems posed by ‘society’—in reality, state and capital—but to reflect on the very form of these problems; to discern a problem in the very way we perceive a problem. The reduction of higher education to the task of producing socially useful expert knowledge is the paradigmatic form of Kant’s ‘private use of reason’—that is, constrained by contingent, dogmatic presuppositions—within today’s global capitalism. In Kantian terms, it involves our acting as ‘immature’ individuals, not as free human beings who dwell in the dimension of the universality of reason.
It is crucial to link the push towards streamlining higher education—not only in the guise of direct privatization or links with business, but also in this more general sense of orienting education towards the production of expert knowledge—to the process of enclosing the commons of intellectual products, of privatizing general intellect. This process is itself part of a global transformation in the mode of ideological interpellation. It may be useful here to recall Althusser’s notion of ‘ideological state apparatuses’. If, in the Middle Ages, the key ISA was the Church, in the sense of religion as institution, the dawn of capitalist modernity imposed the twin hegemony of the school system and legal ideology. Individuals were formed into legal subjects through compulsory universal education, while subjects were interpellated as patriotic free citizens under the legal order. The gap was thus maintained between bourgeois and citizen, between the egotist-utilitarian individual concerned with his private interests and the citoyen dedicated to the universal domain of the state. Insofar as, in spontaneous ideological perception, ideology is limited to the universal sphere of citizenship, while the private sphere of egotistical interests is considered ‘pre-ideological’, the very gap between ideology and non-ideology is thus transposed into ideology.
What has happened in the latest stage of post-68 capitalism is that the economy itself—the logic of market and competition—has progressively imposed itself as the hegemonic ideology. In education, we are witnessing the gradual dismantling of the classical-bourgeois school ISA: the school system is less and less the compulsory network, elevated above the market and organized directly by the state, bearer of enlightened values—liberty, equality, fraternity. On behalf of the sacred formula of ‘lower costs, higher efficiency’, it is progressively penetrated by different forms of PPP, or public–private partnership. In the organization and legitimization of power, too, the electoral system is increasingly conceived on the model of market competition: elections are like a commercial exchange where voters ‘buy’ the option that offers to do the job of maintaining social order, prosecuting crime, and so on, most efficiently.
On behalf of the same formula of ‘lower costs, higher efficiency’, functions once exclusive to the domain of state power, like running prisons, can be privatized; the military is no longer based on universal conscription, but composed of hired mercenaries. Even the state bureaucracy is no longer perceived as the Hegelian universal class, as is becoming evident in the case of Berlusconi. In today’s Italy, state power is directly exerted by the base bourgeois who ruthlessly and openly exploits it as a means to protect his personal interests.
Even the process of engaging in emotional relations is increasingly organized along the lines of a market relationship. Such a procedure relies on self-commodification: for internet dating or marriage agencies, prospective partners present themselves as commodities, listing their qualities and posting their photos. What is missing here is what Freud called der einzige Zug, that singular pull which instantly makes me like or dislike the other. Love is a choice that is experienced as necessity. At a certain point, one is overwhelmed by the feeling that one already is in love, and that one cannot do otherwise. By definition, therefore, comparing qualities of respective candidates, deciding with whom to fall in love, cannot be love. This is the reason why dating agencies are an anti-love device par excellence.
What kind of shift in the functioning of ideology does this imply? When Althusser claims that ideology interpellates individuals into subjects, ‘individuals’ stand here for the living beings upon which ideological state apparatuses work, imposing upon them a network of micro-practices. By contrast, ‘subject’ is not a category of living being, of substance, but the outcome of these living beings being caught in the ISAdispositif, or mechanism; in a symbolic order. Quite logically, insofar as the economy is considered the sphere of non-ideology, this brave new world of global commodification considers itself post-ideological. The ISAs are, of course, still here; more than ever. Yet insofar as, in its self-perception, ideology is located in subjects, in contrast to pre-ideological individuals, this hegemony of the economic sphere cannot but appear as the absence of ideology. What this means is not that ideology simply ‘reflects’ the economy, as superstructure to its base. Rather, the economy functions here as an ideological model itself, so that we are fully justified in saying that it is operative as an ISA—in contrast to ‘real’ economic life, which definitely does not follow the idealized liberal-market model.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
Life Imitates Art
Jacques Lacan reminds us, that in sex, each individual is to a large extent on their own, if I can put it that way. Naturally, the other’s body has to be mediated, but at the end of the day, the pleasure will be always your pleasure. Sex separates, doesn’t unite. The fact you are naked and pressing against the other is an image, an imaginary representation. What is real is that pleasure takes you a long way away, very far from the other. What is real is narcissistic, what binds is imaginary. So there is no such thing as a sexual relationship, concludes Lacan. His proposition shocked people since at the time everybody was talking about nothing else but “sexual relationships”. If there is no sexual relationship in sexuality, love is what fills the absence of a sexual relationship.- Alain Badiou, "In Praise of Love"
Lacan doesn’t say that love is a disguise for sexual relationships; he says that sexual relationships don’t exist, that love is what comes to replace that non-relationship. That’s much more interesting. This idea leads him to say that in love the other tries to approach “the being of the other”. In love the individual goes beyond himself, beyond the narcissistic. In sex, you are really in a relationship with yourself via the mediation of the other. The other helps you to discover the reality of pleasure. In love, on the contrary the mediation of the other is enough in itself. Such is the nature of the amorous encounter: you go to take on the other, to make him or her exist with you, as he or she is. It is a much more profound conception of love than the entirely banal view that love is no more than an imaginary canvas painted over the reality of sex.
Friday, May 20, 2016
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Meet me @ Tiffany's?
Tracey Herd, "Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Holly Golightly haunts the streets of New York.
Look into the distance. The girl is gone,
and each diamond is simply a star in the dark
that she followed far from the well-worn track.
Now the stars are her jewels, the night, her gown.
Holly Golightly haunts the streets of New York.
Her reflection was elegant, slender and stark.
She toasted each dawn by strolling downtown
to the diamonds that spilled like tears from the dark.
Her moon river still leaps like a cat over rocks,
her small voice floating its singular tune.
Holly Golightly haunts the streets of New York
Slipping on shades to mimic the black
for she knew that the party would be over too soon
and that diamonds are lovely tricks of the dark
In each life, that solitary walk
into a distance that is ours alone.
Holly Golightly haunts the streets of New York,
And each diamond? Just a diamond, lost in the dark.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Relishing the Obama-Trump Interregnum...
- Weldon Kees, "Interregnum"
Butcher the evil millionaire, peasant,
And leave him stinking in the square.
Torture the chancellor. Leave the ambassador
Strung by his thumbs from the pleasant
Embassy wall, where the vines were.
Then drill your hogs and sons for another war.
Fire on the screaming crowd, ambassador,
Sick chancellor, brave millionaire,
And name them by the name that is your name.
Give privilege to the wound, and maim
The last resister. Poison the air
And mew for peace, for order, and for war.
View with alarm, participant, observer,
Buried in medals from the time before.
Whisper, then believe and serve and die
And drape fresh bunting on the hemisphere
From here to India. This is the world you buy
When the wind blows fresh for war.
Hide in the dark alone, objector;
Ask a grenade what you are living for,
Or drink this knowledge from the mud.
To an abyss more terrible than war
Descend and tunnel toward a barrier
Away from anything that moves with blood.
- Langston Hughes, "Juke Box Love Song"
I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem's heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day--
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
“A tyrant institutionalises stupidity, but he is the first servant of his own system and the first to be installed within it.”― Gilles Deleuze, "Difference and Repetition"
Saturday, May 7, 2016
Night Fishing at Antibes
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Monday, May 2, 2016
Reality in the Mirror
- Sylvia Plath, "Mirror"
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
May 1st 2016
SONG FOR ST. TAMMANY'S DAY
Of Andrew, of Patrick, of David, and George,
What mighty achievements we hear!
While no one relates great Tammany's feats,
Although more heroic by far, my brave boys,
Although more heroic by far.
These heroes fought only as fancy inspired,
As by their own stories we find;
Whilst Tammany, he fought only to free
From cruel oppression mankind, my brave boys,
From cruel oppression mankind.
When our country was young and our numbers were few
To our fathers his friendship was shown,
(For he e'er would oppose whom he took for his foes,)
And he made our misfortunes his own, my brave boys,
And he made our misfortunes his own.
At length, growing old and quite worn out with years,
As history doth truly proclaim,
His wigwam was fired, he nobly expired,
And flew to the skies in a flame, my brave boys,
And flew to the skies in a flame.
Kawanio che Keeteru!
-Nicholas Scull*, "A War of Kings"
THERE lived a man not long ago,
And yet may live for ought I know,
A patriot bold of honest fame,
A Briton true, and “George” his name.
His generous breast contained a heart
That dared to act an honest part;
He loved the cause of liberty,
And scorned a life that was not free;
His country’s cause he would defend,
And venture all to serve a friend;
No man more bold in time of danger,
To fear, as well as vice, a stranger.
Thus, long our hero lived at ease
With all the world, in love and peace,
Till Lewis, whose ambitious mind,
Nor law, nor justice, e’er could bind,
Seized on a part of George’s land,
And held possession, sword in hand.
Our hero, though averse to war,
Could not this daring insult bear,
But soon resolved his foe to fight,
And by the sword regain his right.
* * * * *
No sooner had the king of day
Bedecked the Eastern sky with gray,
When both the champions, well prepared,
In the decisive field appeared.
Quoth George, “I joy to meet you here;
Now to defend yourself prepare!”
Lewis returned, “Yourself defend,
Your life or mine the strife must end!”
This said, they instantly engage
With manly strength and martial rage;
A bloody combat long they held,
Each side unknowing how to yield.
They fought as brave, some authors tell us,
As did famed Hector and Achilles:
And asking both these heroes’ pardon,
They laid each other full as hard on.
At length our warrior, filled with shame,
Unto a close engagement came,
And soon let Lewis understand
What ’twas to fight him hand to hand.
For, now, alas! the crimson tide
Flowed freely from the aggressor’s side;
And, though he scarce his sword could wield,
His pride forbade his heart to yield.
When George, perceiving his distress,
His haughty foe did thus address:
“Lewis,” quoth he, “let ’s end the strife;
Restore my land, and take thy life.”
Quoth Lewis: “Know, that still I live,
And scorn the life that thou can’st give.
No; one of us must die this day,
For death alone shall end the fray.”
Thus he, when at our warrior’s head
With both his hands a blow he made;
But George, who kept a watchful eye,
Perceived the stroke, and put it by,
And at this usage quite enraged,
His fee with double force engaged.
Now, Lewis, when it was too late,
Saw plainly his approaching fate;
Yet, dauntless, bravely played his part
’Till George’s sword had pierced his heart:
At which he fell; and, falling, cried,
“My punishment is just;” and died.
Now from the multitude around,
Loud acclamations shake the ground;
Crying, “Now all our fears are fled,
For, lo! the lawless tyrant ’s dead;
May heaven its choicest gifts bestow
Upon the man that gave the blow.”
*Born near Philadelphia, Penn. Died in Philadelphia. From "Kawanio Che Keeteru: A true Relation of a Bloody Battle Fought between George and Lewis." 1756.]
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