'The Truisms' by Louis MacNiece

My Dad was a treasury of truisms (or maxims?) the majority of which he would be very proud  to acknowledge would be banned as being totally unsuitable material for the internet. Mephistopheles by choice but Faust by fate in Goethe's account of the reconciliation of man's divided nature.

The one he lived by though was 'profess only evil, but do only good'. 

Too easy to get that the wrong way round for me. 

Lofty thoughts, noble purpose, universal benevolence, marvellous aspirations, pious hopes, the best of intentions and the grandest of plans are all to be applauded, but what counts, what makes the difference, what makes a man is what he actually does. 

The rules are strict on this, there is no court of appeal.

Sorry it took me so long to work that one out Dad, but thanks for the tip.

Make a mental note of the last line because I have a poem to come shortly from Hermann Hesse that will have relevance.


His father gave him a box of truisms
Shaped like a coffin, then his father died;
The truisms remained on the mantelpiece
As wooden as the playbox they had been packed in
Or that his father skulked inside.

Then he left home, left the truisms behind him
Still on the mantlepiece, met love, met war,
Sordor, disappointment, defeat, betrayal,
Till through disbeliefs he arrived at a house
He could not remember seeing before.

And he walked straight in; it was where he had come from
And something told him the way to behave.
He raised his hand and blessed his home;
And a tall tree sprouted from his father's grave.

At Bardsea, 1985.


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