PITY THE NATION – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

This poem was writen in 2007 by the renowned poet of the people and key figure in the San Francisco ‘beat’ movement of the 1950s, Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He celebrated his 100th birthday in March, 2019. Its themes resonate down the years and reach out beyond the shores of the United States. In accord with a term used to describe his poetry it is ‘wide open’ to interpretation in these complex and contradictory times. Are we ‘absolutely’ sure who the shepherds, the leaders, the liars, the sages and the bigots are? And which collectives, which people refusing to be sheep are resisting the erosion of their rights and freedoms?

Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ta to npr.org

“Pity The Nation”

Pity the nation whose people are sheep,
and whose shepherds mislead them.
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars, whose sages are silenced,
and whose bigots haunt the airwaves.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice,
except to praise conquerors and acclaim the bully as hero
and aims to rule the world with force and by torture.
Pity the nation that knows no other language but its own
and no other culture but its own.
Pity the nation whose breath is money
and sleeps the sleep of the too well fed.
Pity the nation — oh, pity the people who allow their rights to erode
and their freedoms to be washed away.
My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty.”

2 thoughts on “PITY THE NATION – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  1. Lawrence Ferlinghetti is speaking to all the oppressed nations, including the silent majority, to wake up and resist being a herd of sheep guarded by wolfish shepherds. By the way, this idea goes back to the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh (2700 B.C.) when Enkidu addresses King Gilgamesh saying
    Is this how you want your king to rule?
    Should a shepherd savage his own flock?
    (The Epic of Gilgamesh, Book 1)
    Ibrahim A. El-Hussari, PhD
    Professor of Comparative Literature


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