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Le bal de têtes: A Postmodern Proustatectomy


Proust, who was born in 1871,

lit up the Welt the clever Prussians won,

collapsing the belle époque in a bal de têtes*

on which we, its distant heirs, yet bet.

Ezra Pound, a babe born 1885,

il miglior fabro of much modern jive,

chose, however, to be a Blackshirt pet.

“Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,”*

 

odd though it is, not to survive,

but to grow elderly, then perish,

find happiness, or just accept one's fate

with a soupçon of sardonic relish.

Styles and fashions soon go out of date;

to change one's ways it never is too late.

 

Notes:

In Le Temps retrouvé, the final volume of Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, the characters’ senescent selves are portrayed attending a so-called bal de têtes, a masquerade ball in which only the head is disguised.

   In 1900, after Marcel’s brother, the pioneering surgeon Robert Proust, published a paper on perineal prostatectomy, “De la prostatectomie périnéale totale,” witty Parisians dubbed the novel operation a proustatectomie.

*William Wordsworth, “The French Revolution as It Appeared to Enthusiasts at Its Commencement.”



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