The Nonconformist

X, whom society’s most mild command,
For instance evening dress, infuriates,
In art is seen confusingly to stand
For disciplined conformity, with Yeats.

Taxed to explain what this resentment is
He feels for small proprieties, it comes,
He likes to think, from old enormities
And keeps the faith with famous martyrdoms.

Yet it is likely, if indeed the crimes
His fathers suffered rankle in his blood,
That he find least excusable the times
When they acceded, not when they withstood.

How else explain this bloody-minded bent
To kick against the prickings of the norm;
When to conform is easy, to dissent;
And when it is most difficult, conform?

By Donald Davie


What a gorgeously quixotic stand… Just the kind of thing I can really get behind.
You can read a long-ish biographical sketch of Donald Davie here, and an article on his poetry here.
Here’s a tangentially related article about Donald Davie’s abhorrence of poetry readings and poets gathering back in the ’60s, which also makes interesting points about poetry being read out vs read.

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