Curtis Dahlgren
Of micely men and civil serpents: Forgotten words from our forgotten Past
By Curtis Dahlgren
February 15, 2021

(Note: Republished from November 13, 2009 and October 10, 2020)

". . that eternal want of pence, which vexes public men . . "
This is truth the poet sings,

That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things . . .
Ah God, for a man with heart, head, hand,
Like some of the simple great ones gone
For ever and ever by,
One still strong man in a blatant land,
Whatever they call him, what care I,
Aristocrat, democrat, autocrat -
One who can rule and dare not lie.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

"Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country." — George Washington, Newburgh (1783)

Earth! render back from out thy breast
A remnant of our Spartan dead!
Of the three hundred grant but three,
To make a new Thermopylae! . .

A doubtful throne is ice on summer seas . .
Seek roses in December — ice in June;
Hope . . in wind, or corn in chaff;
Believe . . an epitaph,
Or any . . thing that's false, before
You trust in critics, who themselves are sore.

— Lord Byron (1788-1824)

"It . . astonishes me, Sir, to find this [Constitution] approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils are confounded like those of the Builders of Babel; and that our States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting one another's throats." — Ben Franklin, 1787 (at age 81)

The smyler with the knyf under the cloke . . .
The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne . . .

Forth pilgrim, forth! Forth, beast, out of thy stall
Know thy contree, look up, thank God of al!

— Chaucer (1340-1400)

"I do not remember when I could not read." — Franklin

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

— William Cowper (1731-1800)

"I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." — President Kennedy (to 49 Nobel Prize winners)

"Public schools 'tis public folly feeds." — Cowper

"There is but one law, namely, that law which governs all, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity [not equality] — the law of nature, and of nations." — Edmund Burke (1729-1797)

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are . . endowed BY THEIR CREATOR with inherent and unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."— Jefferson, Declaration of Independence (edited for a reason)

THERE'S A METHOD TO MY MADNESS; I "HOPE" I HAVE MADE A "POINT" (by mixing the words of our Founders with the "thinkers of olde" who went before them):

Modern public figures tell us that "we have NEW fathers now" (as opposed to those Founding Fathers of so long ago), but that's not really so long ago! America is too young to die. Here are some "trivial" factoids to think about:

One of the "great simple" men of the 20th century was Winston Churchill, but he was born in 1874 (so if Abraham Lincoln had lived 10 more years, they would have been contemporaries).

Abraham Lincoln was born in 1809, the year James Madison was inaugurated as our fourth President, three years before our last war with England.

In fact, my own grandfathers — who were born around 1880 or before — could have been contemporaries of Lincoln had he not been assassinated! And if you went back in time to one man's lifespan to 1799, you could theoretically have been a contemporary of George Washington!

If you traveled back 80 years or so from my brother's birth, you would be a contemporary of John Quincy Adams, who was old enough at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence to remember it!

Did you get the point yet?

I am writing today's column at a time of extreme distress, confusion, and divisions caused by Political Correctness. These are times of great moral relativism and non-judgmentalism — in other words, "CHANGE." Non-judgmentalism led to the Ft. Hood massacre.

This was one of the worst one-day tragedies in American history because it was so preventable. The lowliest of the lowliest man-on-the-street knows this — but to say so out loud leads to accusations of "jumping to conclusions."

The powers-that-be are in CYA mode. They are counting on apathy and ignorance among the people to overcome the facts. In other words, they are hoping that the dumbing down of our public schools (and the media) will sufficiently cover their behinds.

"Despotism is the only form of government which may, with safety to itself, neglect the education of its infant poor." — Samuel Horsley

"Equality, rightly understood as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences; wrongly understood, as it has been so tragically in our time, it leads first to conformity and then to despotism."— Barry Goldwater

This is not about winning political points, or a "blame game," because our survival isn't a GAME. And the right to our own private thoughts must survive, or we're ALL in trouble!

AS FOR "HOMELAND SECURITY," when all is said and done, a lot more has been SAID than DONE. Or am I "jumping to conclusions"?

George Washington said, "Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark called conscience." To thine own self be true, even if that's not Politically Correct?


As I said, America is "too young to die" (or should be, at least), but if Political Correctness continues unchallenged, all bets are off.

Ah God, for a man with heart, head, hand,
Like some of the simple great ones gone
For ever and ever by,
One still strong man in a blatant land . . .
Who never sold the truth to serve the hour,
Nor palter'd with Eternal God for power.

Our current President (temporarily, I hope), says that he has a Gift. The Gift he was referring to when he said that was his ability to read "articulately" from a teleprompter. But his sing-songy voice and superior demeanor, some people say, is beginning to grate on us like a car burglar alarm that just can't be shut off.

Either he will get better like Lincoln, or more dangerous when in trouble, like a badger. Whatever, but "some people say" that the political correctness of his Administration was the direct cause of the Ft. Hood massacre.

This is going to go down in history with Custer's Little Big Horn, and irony of ironies, the President was enjoying a "health" conference at the Dept. of the Interior when he made his "statement" on Ft. Hood (wonder which one of his six speech writers wrote that one?).

The American people are in shock. We don't know what to expect anymore. If the Ft. Hood shooter passes away, ala Lee Harvey Oswald, we wonder if he will be buried next to Ted Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery?

[Note to reader: That's just a little satire, which will soon become illegal under the tyranny of political correctness, or Sharia law, whichever one wins.]

Seriously, when a Palistinian blows up a school bus, the Israelis don't go, "Why did he do it? Did he just snap?"

When a terrorist blows up a market in Baghdad, the Iraqis don't go, "Why did he do it? Did he have a toothache or something?"

When terrorists killed 3,000 people on 9-11, did we go like, "What was that all about — a cry for help?" NOOOOOO.

In the IDEAL WORLD, my preference for a Presidential ticket would include, at least, one woman and one old farmer like George Washington. The woman would understand how to comfort, and the farmer would understand how to PROTECT (another Maggie Thatcher would try to do both).

Why a farmer? Because farmers don't let wolves into the sheep-fold, plus they can recognize the smell of manure when they see it. It's time to call spades spades, and a manure fork a manure fork.

Well, this column was mostly written on Vererans Day, and it's getting a little too long. However, just in case Homeland Security's Janet Reno Napolitano is reading this, I want to make it as educational as possible.

P.S. A few words about "anger" — about which we hear so much these days:

One of my first columns was on that subject, because liberals equate "anger" with hatred (unless it's their OWN anger). Liberals want to dictate what we can be angry about and what we CANNOT be angry about.

But anyway, my column pointed out that our English word "anger" was rooted in the old Norse word ANGR — the Norse word for GRIEF. The word gradually morphed into "rage," but for all practical purposes, "anger" and "grief" still essentially overlap.

The intersection of sorrow and ANGER was never more obvious than in the days since the Ft. Hood massacre. And the more people are told not to "jump to conclusions," the more their "grief/anger" rises! The P1C1 virus is more deadly than the H1N1 virus. SEE: [Joseph Farah, "PC sickness killed our soldiers"]

President Obama in some ways is as slick as President Clinton, but one thing he doesn't have down yet is the quivering lip, the biting of the lips, or the tearing up on cue. His "gift" may be on the wane; it has lost some of its luster, and the chickens are coming home to roost.


By the way, in spite of my quoting of the classic Anglo-Saxon literature, I am not even a pretender to the term Anglophile. I avoided the "college English" class as a high school senior, and I never took Latin either. But since retiring from full-time work, you might say that I have put myself into an "English-immersion" course right here at home in the U.P. of Michigan. Wish I had done that years ago. I'm no authority on Western Lit, and don't have enough years left to read all the Classics, but one gift I do have is the ability to scan, winnow and sift. So here's just a sample of some more of our Heritage:

As swift to scent the sophist as to praise
The honest worker or the well turned phrase.

— Cyril Alington (1872-????)

"The world is full of fools, and he who would not see it, should live alone and smash his mirror." — anonymous

Yet with great toil all that I can attain
By long experience, and in learned schools,
Is for to know my knowledge is but vain,
And those that think them wise, are greatest fools.

— Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling (1567-1640)

The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes — or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two — is gone.

— Edward Fitzgerald (1809-1883)

I dreamt that somehow I had come
To dwell in Topsy-Turveydom!-
Where vice is virtue — virtue, vice:
Where nice is nasty — nasty, nice:
Where right is wrong and wrong is right . . .

— Sir William Gilbert (1836-1911)

When the Hymalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

— Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

PPPS: A few final classics dedicated to those who represent us at Ft. Hood and around the world:

"The woman's cause is man's: they rise or sink together."
Sweet and low, sweet and low,
Wind of the western sea,
Low, low, breathe and blow,
Wind of the western sea!
Over the rolling waters go,
Come from the dying moon, and blow,
Blow him again to me;
While my little one, while my pretty one, sleeps . . .

Dark-brow'd sophist, come not anear:
All the place is holy ground . .
A land of settled government,
A land of just and old renown
Where Freedom slowly broadens down
From precedent to precedent.

— Alfred, Lord Tennyson ("The Poet's Mind," "You ask me, why" etc.)
© Curtis Dahlgren


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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