Augustus Young       light verse, poetry and prose
a webzine of new and unpublished work


The Last Testament of Mister Misanthrope (from Mister Misanthrope Abroad)

‘I am, as a pure, and thoughtful man, not in a state of rapture at the spectacle afforded by my fellow man.’  Marcus Aurelius
 
1.
 
I regret not making the usual mistakes,
like having children and a social life,
but not riding a bike without brakes
(speeding out of danger is how to survive).
Caution has been my byword otherwise.
My shell seems a safe place to hear the sea
without leaving the room. The tide is me -
the real thing would take me by surprise.
A low tolerance threshold needs its redoubt
from people who make me angry with myself
for despising their fancy’s ‘deceiving elf’. 
‘Dark nights of the soul’ are my evenings out.
Doubting yourself is a form of self-defence
against judgment. It’s certitude drives you insane,
says Nietzsche. And he should know. The brain
is blinkered by self-belief. Since luck and me aren’t friends
I hedged my bets, and didn’t cheat or neglect
to sign the card. Small stakes when the roulette turns
have a better chance. But I chose not to collect
the winnings. I was a loser on my own terms.  
Of this I am not proud, and talk myself to sleep
with stories of another life. One I dream I am a guest in
and love my fellow man. Now it’s just a question
of cutting one’s losses and being buried deep. 
 
2.
 
I did what I think I do best which doesn’t mean
it’s any good. Second best, perhaps, was all I could.
Prematurely ripped from the womb, I didn’t fit.
A pattern set. Too big for my boots. There wasn’t room.  
How well it suited me. I eluded all audit.
By playing the class fool in school, I got thrown out,
and escaped the punishment of education.
My place in the world was forever in doubt. 
 
I cannot blame my parents. I went with the job
of having children and entertaining hope
that the inchoate blobs would grow from model dotes
through to revolting youths, and wild oats, to become
good citizens, fathers, grey eminents, dotards,
and so on.
I couldn’t fault them. What had to be done
was done. But they hadn’t reckoned on a misanthrope.
 
I unravelled what was expected of a son.
And lived on the dark side of my parents’ life,
revelling in my one-remove from what’s normal.
The angry drone astray from the family hive.
I cut the filial knot with my permanent teeth,
wishing they’d been more selfish with me and formal.
The constant attention made me play hide and seek. 
  
My presence behind the bars of human endeavour
was as a sparrow in a zoo. I came and went
unnoticed by the prize exhibits who were never
allowed out without a circus. Independent,
and unrecognised, I dined on crocodiles’ yawns
and flitted between right and wrong, and, whatever
no one wanted, the life and soul of dirty dawns.
I don’t think I was particularly clever.
 
 
3.
 
The droppings of life cling to the heels of those who
spurn set paths and walk on the grass. I went straight to
the answers at the back. Assertion gains you assent
(‘I put in an envelope the seeds of destruction.
And send them in the hope you’ll follow the instructions’).
I am not without sympathy for lives like shop-
windows boarded up; burdened by big dogs and cars,
and barely animate children, whose hearts will stop
once the bowels cease to function.
They rattle the bars
of a consumer prison, and buy into what will extol
a fixed existence in an eternal equinox
with a static sun. It can’t be good for the soul.
 
He who claims his fellow man is no better or worse
than himself has turned his back on the good, and force
of habit will make you accept anything that’s sent
by those who only believe in the arsenal
(that’s, shame is in the face, and in the arse as well).
 
Buy a gun and change your life. A Superette Spar.   
This is no way to live, but as a death it’s promising.
The more you build up arms the less you see the star
that guides you to the target, a fellow human being.
He is far too near to focus. Distance yourself,
and target the bullseye. It could be your best friend.
 
Perspective is lost when the horizon becomes
a mirror that reflects a wild beast in a freak show.
That’s me. Allow me to efface all human traits
(except the vice of the virtuous, righteous hates).
I’ll be a machine that works to keep itself clean,
and doesn’t need human intervention. Acid rain
will erode my rust’s notional gold down the drain.
 
 
Mister Misanthrope’s Manifesto
 
I'm always astonished what a high opinion of themselves most people have. It's nothing to do with evidence of achievement, or other's acclaim. I think it is a left-handed form of insanity (‘It's certitude not doubt that drives men mad’, says Nietzsche, again).  
 
The human race is a selfish, stupid, species that thinks it’s superior to all others. And it’s going to its well-earned extinction, full of hypocrisy and petty satisfactions like watching its mirror image on little plastic screens and eating and drinking without any taste except for bulk. At least it doesn’t lack confidence in itself.
 
Meanwhile, on the margins of this lemming rush, the cracks are showing, and the weeds grow through the potholes, and the slime is finding its own cesspool.
 
 
M. Misanthrope’s Exit Strategy
 
A slave to the nervous gods who don’t know what they crave,
I’ve never mastered myself.  But, free to take the air,
 
I won’t say my step is light. I’m not going anywhere,
save three inches short of my height down into a grave.
 
Immortal bard that I’m not, my tombstone I will adorn
with an epitaph in a dubiously scanned verse form:
 
Here lies a laughing Democritus who never votes
whose lightning strikes the high-minded stuff of poets.
 
Let him rot with gangrene so noxious to the worms
that they turn vegan, and the world in reverse turns.   
 
 
Credibility Credo
 
‘Impotence is all. We come helpless into the world, and can’t help ourselves leaving it. In between we have our illusions. I would like to be a philosopher without ideas and a poet with them’, EM Cioran.
 
People, bravely, foolishly, no doubt, persist against the windmill of reality, powering their enfeeblement towards the grave. That most don't give up, but totter on as though nothing is going to happen is heroic. At the same time, it's futile. Perhaps. Me, I prefer to think old thoughts and sleep five hours a night. The mill only works, I say, when there’s a wind up. Stay indoors. Although I make a sporting effort at twiddling my thumbs to keep my hands limber enough to type what is after all always my second last will and testament, I never stop lingering for a stop to be put to it.   I’m no better or worse than the next. Stop that.  
 
Sometimes I forget myself and laugh without thinking. I don’t fear being locked up. Through the bars I see that patch of blue which prisoners call the sky. It is without a cloud. At the best of times it’s difficult to make ends meet.  But meeting your end is easy. You just wait and it arrives.