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One of the first poems from the 17th Century I loved in college and often taught in the early years of my career is John Dryden's "Mac Flecknoe." Typically, anthologies excerpt the poem as I've done here.
The T.S. referenced in the poem's epithet is Thomas Shadwell. The poem mocks Shadwell and helped create the mock heroic epic.
Notably, Dryden announces his intent to poke fun at Shadwell in the poem's epithet. Dryden proceeds to skewer Flecknoe and Shadwell by referring to his "epic" subject as adept at "Non-sense, absolute" (ln 6), as being "of a large increase" (ln 8), and as one "at war with wit" (ln 12).
Even as a child, the speaker announces, Shadwell was dull and "confirmed in full stupidity" (lns 16, 18). And while others may occasionally meander into illogic, Shadwell "never deviates into sense" (ln 20).
The poem continues mercilessly in this vein for many more lines, and we must work to recover some of it's more archaic references. Still, the poem offers a timely reminder that as writers did hundreds of years ago, we live in an age of satire, and at no other time is satire more relevant than when commenting on politics and politicians.
From The Onion, to The Borowitz Report, to Saturday Night Live, to political cartoons, satire speaks truth to power through humor. I find Mac Flecknoe an apt description of Donald Trump, whom I view as rarely deviating into sense, whose rhetoric and shifting policy positions one can describe as "rising fogs" that "prevail upon the day."
As does Mac Flecknoe in Dryden's poem, Trump seems to have proclaimed his children heirs to the executive branch:
Cry'd, 'tis resolv'd; for nature pleads that he
Should only rule, who most resembles me:
Social and political critics alike argue that Trump's twitter wars intentionally divert attention away from the pressing issues of the day, but I'm not convinced. Trump bears the marks of a social media addict, particularly in his inability to understand SNL's satire and parody.
True, "Mac Flecknoe" criticizes Shadwell's bad writing, but I suspect the ghost of Dryden will forgive me for taking a few liberties with his tightly-woven masterpiece given I'm applying it to one whose tangled syntax has given us bigly and the overuse of very in 140 characters.
"Mac Flecknoe" by John Dryden