Thursday, June 09, 2005
Ferocious Goat, or the Decline of Political Invective
Ayjay worries about the declining quality of web calumny and asks us to study the masters. Just came across this passage today, Eugene Debs on Teddy Roosevelt, January 1918:
This political pet of the plutocrats, this bogus reformer, this shreiking charlatan, this raving mountebank, this crazy-horse of Oyster Bay ranch, this blood and thunder prophet, this opera bouffe ghostdancer, this blatant quack hero, this freak of froth and foam and buncombe, this nauseating moralizer, this dysenteric scold, this chattering midwife and meddler and all-around nuisance has buncoed the people long enough and they at last know him for what he is, at least those of them who have mentality above a shell-fish, and who can tell a jibbering fraud after he has exhibited himself to them daily for a score of years.
I particularly liked crazy-horse of Oyster Bay ranch. O, for a Debs now.
"Thou droning tardy-gaited wagtail!” --Shakespeare
I have no idea what it means—something about a slow-moving dog, I think. But I like thinking that a “wagtail” could be a politician who wags the dog, while simultaneously being a dog.
Another one: “If you spend word for word with me, I shall make your wit bankrupt.” (Two Gentlemen of Verona)
Courtesy of the Shakespearean Insulter.
Australian parliamentarians are renowned in this arena; to paraphrase my favorite such instance:
“Let us observe a moment of silence to honour the loss suffered by our esteemed colleague XXXX, his library having burnt to the ground this past week. Unfortunately he lost both his books ... and one of them wasn’t even coloured in yet.”
Of course Steve Spurrier used that line more effectively about Auburn.
I am so pleased that my concern is shared. I personally find religious insult-fests more interesting than political ones: think, for instance, of Thomas More’s abuse of Luther: Pestilentissimum scurram! Pediculosus fraterculus! Asinus! Potista! Improbe mendax! He complains that he tries to clean out Luther’s filthy mouth and all he gets for it is fingers covered in shit. I love stuff like that.
Oh, and my favorite Shakespearean insults come when Prince Hal pretends to be his father and castigates Falstaff as a “stuffed cloak-bag of guts” and a “swollen parcel of dropsies.” Among other things.
Luther called someone, probably not More, “Merdipoeta”.
The early modern era was the Golden Age of erudite toilet jokes. Rabelais’ humor, for example, tended heavily toward the scatalogical rather than the pornographic.
is a trollop