"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A Child’s Garden Of Verses–Fairy Tales And Sweet Dreams In The Biden White House

“Read it again, Jill”, the President said as he snuggled close to her one night; and so she did, taking up a first edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and turning to her husband’s favorite, ‘The Land of Counterpane’.

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;
And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Image result for images a child's garden of verses

The President smiled, dreaming as he always did of the toy soldiers of his childhood arrayed before him on his bedclothes battlefield, caparisoned, in rank and file, moving forward to victory and glory; or his fleet of tall sailing ships, outfitted with cannon and bristling with the muskets of sailors at the ready.  He was indeed ‘the giant great and still that sits on the pillow-hill’.

“Read it again, Jill”, said the President.  He turned off his light, burrowed down beneath his counterpane, and listened to Stevenson’s quiet, lovely verse, and fell asleep.

It would be a stretch to contend that the Garden of Verses was the President’s only briefing book, but there was no doubt that it was from these happy poems that he took his inspiration.  No matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how loud the caterwauling of his critics, and no more stern and unforgiving the appeals of his advisors, the President, filled with Stevenson’s happy verses, met the day with a smile.

Jill became worried about her husband, for everything but A Child’s Garden went in one ear and out the other.  He began to see the affairs of state only through the poetry of the counterpane. When listening to the admonitions of his Special Council of Foreign Affairs – the increasing nuclear threats of Russia, Iran, and North Korea and the destabilizing tribal conflicts on the Horn of Africa – he heard only Stevenson:

Up into the cherry tree
Who should climb but little me?
I held the trunk with both my hands
And looked abroad in foreign lands.

I saw the next door garden lie,
Adorned with flowers, before my eye,
And many pleasant places more
That I had never seen before.

I saw the dimpling river pass
And be the sky’s blue looking-glass;
The dusty roads go up and down
With people tramping in to town.

If I could find a higher tree
Farther and farther I should see,
To where the grown-up river slips
Into the sea among the ships,
To where the roads on either hand
Lead onward into fairy land,
Where all the children dine at five,
And all the playthings come alive.

Image result for images cherry trees in blossom victorian painting

“Let’s face it”, said his Deputy Chief of Staff who had overheard him reciting verse in the washroom, “the boss is becoming a bit wobbly”; but because of his loyalty and political perseverance, the Deputy Chief of Staff looked for meaning in what had become a metaphorical presidency.  

Why dismiss the President’s inspiration, no matter how simple.  Why should he recite ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, Tennyson’s heroic poem about courage, valor, and victory?  Joe Biden was  different, more sensitive, more feminine in his sentiments; and Stevenson reflected his idealism and beautiful vision of the future.

Nothing in Washington is private, and leaks from within the White House confirmed what was already presumed outside – the President was indeed becoming ‘a bit wobbly’.  His most perceptive critic saw no wobbliness at all, but a consistent pattern of fairy tale fabulism in his policies. 

At a recent press conference at which he was to introduce a new Cabinet Secretary, he went off message, ignored the teleprompter and the ‘cut’ signals from his staff, and in a ten minute interlude, wove all the storybook notions of his presidency into one seamless poem of verse.  

He spoke of cherry blossoms, fields of clover, scents of rose and orange, milking and lambing, sunrise and sunset - a vision of white, mid-century, rural America, a combination of Thornton Wilder, Norman Rockwell, and Robert Louis Stevenson, a friendly, compassionate place of carols and First Communion, picnics and Sunday drives.  “This is the America I see”, he said.  “Our America, beautiful, bright, and glorious.

Image result for images 19th century lambing

Although he had been schooled in ‘diversity’, ‘inclusivity’, and multiculturalism, he could never see beyond the  demands of loud women, black incendiaries, and insistent gay men.  If this was the ‘diverse’ America his Congressional shills and White House claques saw, he wanted no part of it.  The country had not evolved from the happily settled America of the 50s but had regressed into a land of of squalling babies.  

His supporters called his speech a progressive ‘Shining City on a Hill’, an invocation of the foundational principles of the nation and a celebration of its greatness.  “Metaphor”, they insisted, not the vision of a retrograde, elitist, privileged white America that radical Democrats saw; but one of rural values.  The farm and rural life was symbolic of environmental sanity, a peaceful coexistence with the natural world, a country in touch with its roots and the principles of harmony and cooperation.

“Tell it to the cherry trees”, shouted progressive critics who saw nothing inspiring about his treacly vision of America that ignored the reality of predatory capitalists bulldozing forests, plowing under fields of barley and corn for malls and big box stores.

The  President’s closest allies persisted in their deconstruction of his text.  ‘Bedrock values…Jeffersonian populism…enterprise…Judeo-Christian spirit…’, they explained. ‘To where the roads on either hand/Lead onward into fairy land/Where all the children dine at five/And all the playthings come alive’ was not a hearkening back to an idyll of suspect origin and doubtful meaning, but a call to order, progress, and the delicate vision of optimism.

His harshest conservative critics had a field day.  They knew all along that the President was tottering off the rails, that this 80-year old former altar boy could never really believe in the Left’s ideas of radical social transformation, and that he said what he meant and gave the lie to the hysteria of the inclusivity field day. Sentiments he shared that night with Jill under the counterpane – life was indeed better then.  

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far away,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you.  He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear, he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, the truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

Victory would soon be theirs.  

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