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Jeremy_Bentham_Auto-Icon

Behold, friends, my Auto Icon,
perennial display of nattiness and wit.
Reluctant to move wholly on,
I chose to leave for you my bones and choicest bits.

While you across this mortal coil
still shuffle debts, post shots of self while text-obsessed,
believing in the power of toil,
I offer you a fresher choice in form of quest.

I sought through life utility,
maximizing happiness, minimizing pain,
measuring length of amity.
In five million pages or less, I laid it plain.

My felicific calculus
proves truer than it ever has, though the software
has some bugs, I am serious.
The utility of you runs smooth, everywhere.

To the furthest cosmic reaches
you perceive with unerring possibility
all the swells and sandy beaches
of the best alternatives and most variety.

Every grand success rose first
in the imagination of a quicker mind
as a solution from the worst.
The path of least resistance is your greatest find.

Mistake me not! The borderlands
of what will take you and what will leave you behind
are clearly marked with solid bands,
electrified. In every way, they’re well defined.

What you must learn to navigate
is absolute intolerance toward feeling bad,
coupled with refusal to state
in word or thought all that diminishes the glad.

As your numbed senses come to life,
thinking dumbed by needless loyalties will sharpen
and the instant path will flash, rife
with the next best step, to which all aid will hearken.

Your perennial self lives now
for there is nowhere else to expect and receive
the best. Relax your furrowed brow
and forget the dusty bones of us when you leave…

to meet your great acclaim
and grow into the beauty of your name.

~~~

The bones of this poem are inspired by Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) whose Auto Icon (his coinage) resides to this day at University College, London. Bentham is remembered, somewhat simplistically, as the father of Utilitarianism, its objective being the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

The form I’ve employed is called “iambe”, a satirical fixed verse that comes down to us from the Greek poet Archilochus (c. 680-645 BCE). Seventeenth-century French satirists established the meter as octosyllables alternating with alexandrines, eight syllables, then twelve, with a rhyme scheme of abab, cdcd, etc. The quatrains’ awkward swing from long to short works well with a theme intended to stir things up.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014