Lynette Abel  / Aesthetic Realism & Life

Continuation of the Aesthetic Realism class
"It Is, As It's Elsewhere" 

      The name Billy Sunday, Mr. Siegel observed, has a rhythm like the present day evangelist, Billy Graham--and the similarities do not end there.   At the time of this lecture, 1970, our country was engaged in a massive, brutal war in Vietnam for the purpose of forcing an economic system--the profit system--on people who wanted the freedom to choose something else for their country.   Billy Graham, the Presidential minister, supported this horribly unjust war which took the lives of more than a million people.   Graham, Mr. Siegel commented, "serves the highest interests of General Motors better than he serves the highest interests of the only son of God." 

    Later in the poem, Sandburg is passionately critical of an aspect of "secular injustice,"-- economic injustice--that Billy Sunday wasn't interested in: 

You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need is 
     Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without having 
     lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of age, and you 
     tell him to look at Jesus on the cross and he'll be all right. 
You tell poor people they don't need any more money on 
     payday and even if it's fierce to be out of a job, 
     Jesus'll fix that up all right, all right--all they
     gotta do is take Jesus the way you say. 
I'm telling you Jesus wouldn't stand for the stuff you're 
     handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers 
     and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and 
     murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn't 
     play their game. He didn't sit in with the big thieves.
     "Sandburg knows how to use a long sentence followed by a short one," said Mr. Siegel, pointing to the relation of depth and speed in these lines. And with deep compassion and respect for the art and life of Carl Sandburg, he said: 
This is not the Sandburg who later had an estate in North Carolina, but it is the Sandburg whom the poetry of America will cherish. When you wrote "To a Contemporary Bunkshooter," [Carl Sandburg] you didn't sit in with congressmen, senators. Your friends were mighty strange, like the anarchists now in Chicago. That's when you wrote poetry, Sandburg, not when the Chief Executive called you pal!
     "The greatest line" in this poem, Mr. Siegel said, "is the last": 
I've been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha, 
     where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is 
     straight, it was real blood ran from His hands and the 
     nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red drops 
     where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed in between 
     the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth.
"It is the staccato independency of these words," Mr. Siegel said, "that make it poetry" And he said it would be even better if this was put in short lines. But it's powerful even as a long line.   I think the poem should be studied," he said, "and people should be sincere: Do they think poetry is there?" 

     Then, to have us see the Sandburg music in relation to poetic music "as it is elsewhere," he read from Book II, Chapter 1 of Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution.   "Some of the best prose" is in this book, he said, and he read sentences of Carlyle that he saw as having the music of poetry.  They tell of how the forces that made for the French Revolution were at work, although quiet and unseen, for many years before--which I feel is related to the tremendous protest [of the WTO] in Seattle, Washington showing something has been growing in power and consciousness: a beautiful anger at the injustice of profit economics. 

Conclusion on next page

by Lynette Abel

  To Aesthetic Realism Foundation online 
Logo Lynette Abel, Aesthetic Realism Associate
Articles about current issues explained by Aesthetic Realism
Aesthetic Realism Seminars
Reports of Aesthetic Realism classes taught by Eli Siegel
Art and Life
Links about Aesthetic Realism and related resources

Lynette Abel