A Man of 1794 Poem by Donald Justice

A Man of 1794 Poem by Donald Justice

And like a discarded statue, propped up in a cart,
He is borne along toward the page allotted to him
in history.
To open his heavy-lidded eyes now would be merely
To familiarize himself with the banal and destined
route.
He is aware of the mockery of the streets,
But does not understand it. It hardly occurs to him
That what they fear is that he might yet address
them
And call them back to their inflamed duty.
But this he cannot do; the broken jaw prevents
speech.
Today he will not accuse the accusers; it is perhaps
all that saves them.
Meanwhile his head rocks back and forth loosely
on his chest
With each new jolt and lurch of the endlessseeming street:
Impossible to resist this idiot shaking.
—But it is hard after all to sympathize
With a man formerly so immaculate,
Who, after a single night of ambiguous confinement,
Lets go all pride of appearance. Nevertheless,
Under the soiled jabot, beneath the stained blue
coat,
Are the principles nothing has shaken. Rousseau
was right,
Of that he is still convinced: Man is naturally good!
And in the moment before the blade eases his pain
He thinks perhaps of his dog or of the woods at
Choissy,
Some thought in any case of a perfectly trivial
nature,
As though already he were possessed of a sweet,
indefinite leisure.

Donald Justice
from New and Selected Poems

A Man of 1794 Poem by Donald Justice

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