Poem to Read on the Fifth of July: Howard Nemerov's "Fourth of July"


With a hat tip to Eli Lake for bringing it to my attention.

Here's Howard Nemerov's wonderful poem "Fourth of July":

Because I am drunk, this Independence Night,
I watch the fireworks from far away,
from a high hill, across the moony green
Of lakes and other hills to the town harbor,
Where stately illuminations are flung aloft,
One light shattering in a hundred lights
Minute by minute. The reason I am crying,
Aside from only being country drunk,
That is, may be that I have just remembered
The sparklers, rockets, roman candles and
so on, we used to be allowed to buy
When I was a boy, and set off by ourselves
At some peril to life and property.
Our freedom to abuse our freedom thus
Has since, I understand, been remedied
By legislation. Now the authorities
Arrange a perfectly safe public display
To be watched at a distance; and now also
The contribution of all the taxpayers
Together makes a more spectacular
Result than any could achieve alone
(A few pale pinwheels, or a firecracker
Fused at the dog's tail). It is, indeed, splendid:
Showers of roses in the sky, fountains
Of emeralds, and those profusely scattered zircons
Falling and falling, flowering as they fall
And followed distantly by a noise of thunder.
My eyes are half-afloat in happy tears.
God bless our Nation on a night like this,
And bless the careful and secure officials
Who celebrate our independence now.

The poem appears at various places on the web (here's one and here's another and here it is at Google books in Nemerov's collected poems, which you can buy at Amazon.)

Question for Reason.com regulars: Do you find it at all interesting that the poem originally appeared in the June 30, 1956 edition of… The Nation?