A Diatribe Against Judgment

Don’t stand there with your sword drawn —
Or in your case, the pen — as if
You see the fires of hell in my tongue
And the corruption of corpses long dead
To the ravenous lusts of the flesh —
Warning of eternal judgment.

I am as innocent as the next man or woman,
Perhaps more so: respectability, valor in good sport,
The high moral ground of good society
Have driven me to the pinnacle of approbation,
Save from you, whose eyes condemn,
Tying me to the gibbet of my own conscience.

Did I speak so ill of a hapless stranger —
But it was unthinking, a fitful passion! —
Or misjudge by apparel or manner or circumstance?
Did I scorn an unfavored one, promising more
And rendering less through fear of losing
The favor of the better sort?

I speak of the world, you speak of wisdom.
I speak of the pragmatic, you speak of faith, perseverance.
I speak of luxury, you speak of true riches, patient suffering.
I speak duty, you speak freedom wrought in perfect law.
I speak of honor and merit, you speak of love and mercy.
Do we not speak two languages?

Yet your accusation still stands – how laughable! –
That I — dear Inspector, sir! — “have condemned and murdered
The innocent One” — but show me the blood on my hands!
Dear sir, why liken me “fattened in the day of slaughter”?
Is the Judge indeed at the door? Let him in! — Alas, is it so? —
No, carry on! After all, sir, are we not all sinners?

*quotation from James 5: 5-6

The inspiration for this poem is the 2015 BBC adaptation of J. B. Priestley’s powerful three-act drama “An Inspector Calls,” currently available on Amazon’s Prime Video. Played by the actor David Thewlis, the mysterious Inspector Goole is absolutely riveting, evoking the sublimity of an avenging archangel and the laconic writer of  the Epistle of James in the New Testament. 

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