“Why should one write poems when one is old?
Not, to be sure, in hope of reputation
Which has either come, or else will escape one.
In hope of love perhaps? But what is told
Now, will not strengthen anybody’s hold
On me or mine on them: the time of truth has come,
And yet I lie as I have always done
And leave myself and others unappalled.
Poets are liars, yet no more than others,
Those who are not their sisters are their brothers,
All of the same lying family,
Children of Adam, fond of all evasions,
Blaming, beguiling on the least occasions
And to the last, and so it is with me.”
No room here for sweet, mincing words, telling the reader what he wants to hear, flattering him with pre-digested, pre-approved sentiments. Sisson wants truth – “the time of truth has come” -- and is sufficiently grown up to know he probably won’t get it. Plato’s indictment: “Poets are liars.” The laughable, self-regarding presumption of poets who claim to speak “truth to power.” The London Review of Books keeps an archive of Sisson’s work for that publication. Of John Bayley on A.E. Housman, Sisson writes:
“Many people – probably most – do not distinguish between the living word and the dead, just as an alarming number do not distinguish between pictures and buildings which are compellingly beautiful and those of which the aesthetic pretensions are a lie.”