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Mitt Romney and Poetry, UFOs and Trash

Mitt_Romney

 

HISTORY MATTERS

Last week a caller told me that what I do for a living is trivial. I tend to agree. I write about obscure historical topics, he pointed out, focused on the smallest seacoast in the nation. What could be less important? That’s exactly my point. Out of the tiny mustard seed, according to the ancient parable, big things grow. (Continued below)

 

 

Trivial Pursuits of a New Hampshire Historian

Over the years I’ve seeded at least a thousand of these trivial articles onto the Internet and into magazines and newspapers, so it’s a rare day when I don’t hear back from someone. Recently, for example, a senior staff reporter for the Washington Post emailed to tell me that Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney continues to quote a poem by Sam Walter Foss. When she googled Foss, a largely forgotten New Hampshire poet, the reporter found my article on Foss linked to Wikipedia.

I may be his biggest fan. Foss was born in Candia, NH in 1858, graduated from Portsmouth High School, and worked his way through Brown University. His five books of poetry are witty, sentimental, optimistic, and entirely out of print. I read them all and extracted 100 of my favorite verses. I hoped to republish them in a small book called Poems for the Common Man: The Best of Foss. So far, no publisher is interested. Maybe I should ask Mitt.

Mitt Romney likes to quote from a poem that, he says, his mother read to him as a child. His favorite passage goes: “Bring me men to match my mountains; bring me men to match my plains. Men with empires in their purpose, and new eras in their brains.”

Romney probably doesn’t know that Sam Walter Foss had an almost pathological distrust of politicians. He found them endlessly disappointing and wrote poem after poem mocking their empty campaign rhetoric and corrupt administrations. Foss was the poet for the “common man,” compassionate to foreign immigrants, the down-trodden, and the poor. Foss was a dove, not a hawk, and more libertarian than capitalist. He was a strong advocate of social programs, and the redistribution of wealth from the haves to the have-nots. Using the vernacular of his era rather than lofty language Foss wrote: “All Nature is sick from her heels to her hair, when a feller is out of a job.”

The richer and more powerful men get, Foss often pointed out, the sillier they become.  If he wrote about a boy “who was dumber than snowbirds in summer,” that boy was likely to grow up to be president – or at least the mayor. Foss called for fresh untried American citizens to “come up from the crowd.”  Unfortunately, Foss points out, the political world is toxic, and even the common man quickly becomes corrupt soon after he is elected to office. Politics, for Foss, was a comic opera and a Catch-22. Even when your candidate wins, you lose.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT Continued

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017 
 
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