Toast for a Golden Age

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Ebrius haec fecit terris, puto, monstra Prometheus:
Saturnalicio lusit et ipse luto.
MARTIAL

Here’s to you, all of you, objects of fun or resentment,
Hail-fellow gentlemen, friends, wherever you are!
Sitting at ease with your arm round ten stone of contentment,
Or treating your favourite ulcer with gin at the bar;

Leading the story-book life of the fabulous biped,
The Male Cinderella, the fairy godmother’s chum;
When Father Bear growled: “There is somebody lying in my bed!”
You laughed in his face or gave him a kick in the bum.

And here you are living happily ever after
And buying a round of drinks to prove that you are,
Or holding the blonde in the moonlight helpless with laughter
At your line of talk in the parked expensive car.

You were born with hair on your chest and a voice like thunder,
You said: Bang, Bang, Bang! and everyone fell down dead:
All of your life you found, and little wonder,
The girls kept climbing in and out of your bed;

All of your life it was you who were asked to the party;
When the ship went down, it was you were saved from the wreck;
You slept like a top, you were fit and cheerful and hearty
And most of your troubles were solved by writing a cheque.

Your trousers were pressed, your well-bred, civilized features
Appeared in the press and everyone knew that face—
And that is why the committee of living creatures
Toasts you tonight as type of the human race.

For tonight is an anniversary celebration
By all the beasts of modest intelligence
For the pensive ape who invented civilization
And lived on his wits at the rest of the world’s expense.

Tonight we celebrate the triumphs of reason
And the rational animal’s most remarkable feat:
The way he contrives, in season and out of season,
To solve the problem of getting too much to eat.

For the Earth, our mother, at last has found a master:
She was slow and kindly, she laughed and lay in the sun—
Time strapped to his wrist, he made the old girl work faster,
Stripping her naked and shouting to make her run.

He chopped the mantle of pines from her beautiful shoulders,
He ripped her breasts for his vines, her belly for corn;
And she smiled and grew green again and did as he told her,
And trebled the bounty of her plenteous horn.

Till the soil grew parched and thin, and the famine followed;
So he broke new ground—but he bred as the locust bred—
The acres he sowed by day were always swallowed
By the rivers he sowed at night in his double-bed.

He cracked his stockwhip: that characteristic gesture
Made dust of the plains and the hurricane bore it away.
A thousand years had gone to making the pasture
Which the wind or the flood destroyed in a single day.

And that is why, though we understand tonight you
Are otherwise engaged, and we do not mind,
Your fellow creatures had chosen to invite you
As a representative specimen of your kind:

Not one of the masters of the human spirit,
But the common denominator of the mass;
Not the giver of grace or wisdom all inherit,
But a middle-aged, middle-brow male of the middle-class.

We would not like you to think your friends are jealous;
Their turn may come; they have waited since time began
But if man is the measure of all things, as you tell us,
All things from you may take the measure of man.

So we wait and watch you, and feel the planet grow colder,
The deserts get larger—it’s no use making a fuss—
We wait for the day when Time, speaking over your shoulder,
Remarks that the dog-in-the-manger has missed the bus;

When the heir to the silver spoons and the winning tickets
Has a pain inside him and suddenly loses his hair;
And he gropes in his heart, in his hat, in his fourteen pockets,
But the ticket is missing—the ticket has never been there.

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