The New Compass: A Critical Review



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Turner Cassity


Deferring to the Count


Death is a sort of Schlieffen Plan.*

It pivots on the young and sweeps the outer edges,

Who are we. Outside the span

Of threescore years and ten, do not its stages


Coerce us ever toward the Styx?

How could you, Count, on campaign maps have failed to see

You drew a sickle, with its fix

Increasingly on reapings grimly sure to be?


And though some few of us become

Tight pockets of resistance, we are not the Marne.

The Juggernaut rolls on, a Somme

That never ends, or ends in that putrescent tarn


Senescence is and Flanders was: the Pit, the Poe,

The Pendulum whose fatal pace

Not either discipline or mutiny can slow,

And Time creates of any space.


*Alfred, Count von Schlieffen (1833-1913). Prussian field marshal. He advocated the plan which bears his name (1895), on which German tactics were unsuccessfully based in World War I. He envisaged a German breakthrough in Belgium and the defeat of France within six weeks by a major right-wheel flanking movement, cutting off Paris from the sea, holding off the Russians meanwhile with secondary forces. (Chambers Dictionary of World History)






Gods have the wrong attendants. Why should Mars

Not have the Muses? No one ever called

The Iliad a hymn to peace, or said

Art has no wars. Miscast, Eros attends,

Who most of all should have attendants, first

Among them Mammon. Most of scholarship

Not being in the least original,

The owl whose tenure is beside the ear

Of wisdom any parrot could contest;

And Ceres as a deity of grain

Has ram’s horn as a cornucopia,

A nod to mutton. Javelin, the flash

Upraised in Zeus’s hand is no more apt

In signifying than the triple threat

Of Neptune, or than Hades’ two-prong fork.

A trident gleams in firelight; bidents shine

In water. Each could substitute for each

(As Roman names can substitute for Greek).

And does the Father serve the Holy Ghost,

Or with the Holy Ghost attend the Son?

Jehovah’s service from the earliest

Has held out for the nothing less than all,

Defaulting to the priestesses of Baal.

Mohammed, prophet of, not son of God,

Is outside these assessments. Buddha’s tree

Was in Siddhartha’s servitude as shade;

A lifeless canopy would serve as well.

One god, of course, will never lack for shade.

Has he a name? Yes, many, but is one:

More uniform than any other god.

And all of us, in our variety

So inappropriate as hangers-on,

End facing eastward, supine at his feet.






Cassity, Turner. “Poems. The New Compass: A Critical Review 1 (June 2003) <>