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September 23, 2022

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What a wonderful case you make for Frost as scariest, David. Though I never met him, I find him a scary person, as well.

In light of current and past events, one might consider this poem with its martial tone one of the scariest poems ever written. This anthem to total domination clothed in sweet aspirations is truly frightening given the probable annihilation it portends for us all.

O say, can you see
By the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hail'd
At the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars
Through the perilous fight
O'er the ramparts we watch'd
Were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare
The bombs bursting in air
Gave proof through the night
That our flag was still there
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free
And the home of the brave?

With regard to the comment above, there is no denying that it is about a military engagement,but it is far from reveling in a martial tone or expressing a desire for domination. It arose, in fact, out of a desperate defensive action, against a British naval attack on a fort protecting Baltimore, shortly after the British had sacked Washington and burned the White House down in the War of 1812. If the Americans had then lost Baltimore, they would have been in a desperate state. However, the bombarded Fort McHenry held out, thereby forcing the British to retreat. The "bombs bursting in air" were from British naval fire, and the flag was a symbol of successful defense, ending the engagement. So, this anthem cannot properly be advanced as a scary paean to violence and military domination. In fact, its emotional appeal is rather to a defense against aggression leading to a cessation of military action. The response it should inspire is akin perhaps to that of Ukrainians after their bravery saved Kyiv from being taken....

"Out, Out," for sure. Always a chilling, heartbreaking, sobering read. And indeed, the scariest places are our own. I'll go reread "Desert Places."

I completely agree with Mark Minton's rebuttal of Kyril Calsoyas's facile comment. Not all national anthems glorify violence; one that does is "La Marseillaise," but when we hear it -- in the famous scene in "Casablanca," for example -- it is an expression not of bloodthirstiness but of a love of liberty and a "Free France."

By the way, for me the poem that never fails to produce a pang of fear( and even more so in these times) is Yeats' "The Second Coming," especially its famous and unforgettable last two lines. These are especially horrifying to diplomats.

I rank it higher on the " scare meter" because it foresees human failure leading to social chaos and violence-- a prediction that never goes out of date unfortunately.

Not to debate other candidates, but " Design" seems to me to state simply a natural fact-- we all die-- but increasingly transcending fear with acceptance seems to be growing, as Godard's recent assisted chosen death seemed to highlight. The wonderful " Out..Out" is very sad, a life taken from an innocent pointlessly by chance. But again, the herd naturally has to go on living even while losing one of its kind. That's survival.
In sum, nothing seems scarier to me than the collapse of society through human venality or error. Think this is classic horror, as the Greek dramatist long ago perceived.

Before reading Kyril Calsoyas's comment, the strains of the "Star Spangled Banner" always made me think that the ballgame is about to begin. After reading his comment, I still feel the same way.

Kyril Calsoyas's comments are ridiculous and insulting to any American.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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