Thursday, December 29, 2005

"He blunted us."

I'm not a great reader of poetry, but I came across this 1954 gem by F.R. Scott while searching The New Oxford Book of Canadian Verse. It's so true it hurts.


How shall we speak of Canada,
Mackenzie King dead?
The Mother’s boy in the lonely room
With his dog, his medium and his ruins?

He blunted us.

We had no shape
Because he never took sides,
And no sides
Because he never allowed them to take shape.

He skilfully avoided what was wrong
Without saying what was right,
And never let his on the one hand
Know what his on the other hand was doing.

The height of his ambition
Was to pile a Parliamentary Committee on a Royal Commission,
To have ‘conscription if necessary
But not necessarily conscription’,
To let Parliament decide—

Postpone, postpone, abstain.

Only one thread was certain:
After World War I
Business as usual,
After World War II
Orderly decontrol.
Always he led us back to where we were before.

He seemed to be in the centre
Because we had no centre,
No vision
To pierce the smoke-screen of his politics.

Truly he will be remembered
Wherever men honour ingenuity,
Ambiguity, inactivity, and political longevity.

Let us raise up a temple
To the cult of mediocrity,
Do nothing by halves
Which can be done by quarters.


Patrick said...

Wow. What an apt description of our current Prime Minister.

Joan Tintor said...

I wouldn't go that far.

Martin strikes me as a guy who had grand schemes prior to becoming PM (remember "the democratic deficit," "transformative change," "the politics of achievement" and his cries of "Let's make history!" at the leadership convention?), and may still have them, but in office his actions couldn't match his rhetoric.

I suspect that would be the case even if he had a majority. The kind of changes he talks of don't usually happen in one term or even under one administration.

The bloated rhetoric still comes out occasionally. I remember something like "Canada will set the standards by which the rest of world will measure itself" and then there was the audacious "global conscience" shot at the Montreal conference on global warming.

I think King would have shied away from the kind of grand pronouncements Martin made and continues to make.