Ode to a Canceled Gay Nightingale

I recently gave a speech in London in front of a sophisticated audience of wine drinkers, and already under the influence of the grape, I began as follows:

Today London is at a standstill because of the rail strike, and we Greeks are responsible for having invented the strike very long ago. We invented it, but you Brits perfected it.

I was, needless to say, referring to Lysistrata, Aristophanes’ comedic play in which Greek women refused to have sex with their men unless the boys stopped having endless wars. This was some 400 years before the birth of our Lord; hence I assume it was the first recorded—however mythical—strike.

My audience, also well-oiled, seemed to like the idea that the Greeks were to blame for their discomfort, so I went on: “Just like the strike, we Greeks invented homosexuality, and you Brits perfected it.”

This got an even bigger laugh, because unlike dumb woke mobs in America, the British are sophisticated and have a marvelous sense of humor. Following the speech, some busybody journalist began to quiz me about homosexuality among the British upper classes. I told him to get lost. Hacks, as journalists are known in Britain, are rated one level above child molesters; people get wary when hacks are around.

The truth, of course, is that the upper crust sends their boys at a very early age to private all-boys schools, and boys are known to do things with other boys. Once out and about, most of them outgrow any crush they might have had—although many of England’s greatest modern poets were homosexuals as adults.

Wilfred Owen, who died in the trenches in 1918, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, and Rupert Brooke were all gay or bisexual, not to mention W. H. Auden, E. M. Forster, and A. E. Housman. There are those who say Shakespeare was bisexual despite marrying Anne Hathaway and siring children.

Mind you, as far as I’m concerned, the three greatest English poets—Keats, Byron, and Shelley—were all heterosexuals (the best of them, Keats, died a virgin). But why am I banging on about homosexuality and poetry at this time? That’s an easy one to answer. Because if one dies for one’s country, like so many have in Britain and America—not to mention France, Germany, Italy, and Russia—a grateful nation remembers you for one day each year. But if you happen to be homosexual, you get applauded for one whole month. Why should homosexuality be celebrated for one long month when patriotism only gets 24 hours?

Philip Larkin, another very good modern Brit poet, was conservative—a very rare condition among poets—and known for being girl crazy. Larkin had the advantage of being partly deaf, which helped him ignore idle female chatter while he pursued the gentler sex. But then someone discovered that Larkin had a homosexual encounter while at Oxford, so his brownie points shot up with the gay community overnight.

I have always suspected Byron—who is the greatest hero to the Greeks because he gave his life in Messolonghi during the Greek War of Independence—of having indulged in homosexuality, perhaps even with Shelley, his closest friend. But I keep this awfully quiet while in the company of fellow Greeks.

Oh yes, and now for the real reason I’m writing this. All of the above poets will sooner or later be dropped from the English literature syllabus—if they haven’t been chucked already—in order for places of higher education to demonstrate greater diversity. Instead of cherishing these towering figures of the literary canon, woke busybodies will insist on lesser talents like Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks because they are minorities.

Cultural vandalism is nothing new in the United States, and as I write, Abe Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address have been removed from Cornell University after a complaint was voiced. Walt Whitman, our greatest bard, was gay but also an old dead white man, so throw him out, and while you’re at it, throw out all of Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams, to say nothing of the real heteros like Papa Hemingway and Norman Mailer. Soon the woke mobsters will exclude everyone with talent and replace them with transsexuals who think iambic pentameter is a device to measure sexual organs.

Diversity freaks will be forced to give in once the gay community sniffs that their favorite sons are being excluded, so in my way of thinking, it’s safer if we just assume everyone in the Western canon is gay. What I’d like to see, where literature is concerned, is woke freaks versus gay militants. Being a betting man, I’m offering odds that the gays make mincemeat of the wokesters. And that is only fair. The former have been around since before the Greeks. The latter are as recent as AIDS, and ten times as lethal.

Image: crop from a Western-canon collage (Barjimoa / via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

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