“Yes, I have come to see them, even I,
Sifting through these pits of lime and bone
To find that utmost evil I deny:
This is the Old World’s doing, not my own.
“Original sin transcended was such bliss
(Brave Nature's healthy language my true bond!)
That even now I hear, through some faint hiss,
Clean showers fall on Concord and the pond.
“`Evil the Unreal,’ my German masters said.
(See the blossomed wire, each daisy in the sun!)
So if they died en masse and what is said
Was done, I say the All received them, one by one.”
Middleton takes his epigraph, “Our word is our bond,” from Geoffrey Hill’s essay of that title in The Lords of Limit (1984). It seems a direct comment on the poem’s sixth line. Hill notes that bond denotes both restraint and communion, and observes, “`Our word is our bond’ (shackle, arbitrary constraint, closure of possibility) is correlative to `our word is our bond’ (reciprocity, covenant, fiduciary symbol). `Mastery’ is as much as is not servitude.” In We Are Doomed (2009), John Derbyshire characterizes Emerson as “a key progenitor of modern smiley-face liberalism.”