Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Prince of Pompadoodle

For a change of pace, here’s a poem from the late great Walt Kelly, the creator of Pogo. I’ve included one of the accompanying illustrations.

Unlike some of the later political satires presented in his comic strip, this little parable wasn’t directed at any particular political figure.

It is simply a meditation on the inherent isolation faced by powerful people. It’s also a reminder that an over-preoccupation with one’s own security is a self-defeating strategy.

The Prince of Pompadoodle The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Lived behind a castle wall,
Behind a moat, behind a guard
     Of twenty soldiers tall.

The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Was the safest man alive.
Each day he wrote how long he’d lived
     And multiplied by five.

The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Would survive, he did decide,
Five times as long as he had been
     Alive before he died.

The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Called in the castle sage
For his advice in this pursuit
     Of long and fulsome age.

The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Heard in horror from this friend
That somewhere in the palace
     Was a cur who’d seek his end!

The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Scarce could credit a belief
His years might soon be sneaked away
     By some ungrateful thief.
- - - - - - - - -
The Prince of Pompadoodle
     Sent his every friend away
And sat alone, safe, locked alive,
     To count another day.

The Prince of Pompadoodle
     May hoard each empty hour,
But none can know; no word comes from
     The silent, stony tower.

           — Walt Kelly, from Pogo’s Sunday Punch


Anonymous said...

I'll just take exception to part of the preamble, namely:

It’s also a reminder that an over-preoccupation with one’s own security is a self-defeating strategy.

I disagree with this because it leaves the impression that being secure necessarily involves an 'over-preoccupation.' I think real security involves making security a routine activity rather than one requiring constant attention. Take automobile security. You get into a car that has 1) crush zones, 2) an internal roll cage, 3) safety glass, 4) anti-burst door locks, 5) a collapsible steering wheel, 6) many advanced handling features including anti-skid brakes, 7) split diagonal braking system (no one realizes that), 8) automatic fuel pump shutoff, 9) crushable dash, 10) seat belts and, oh yes, 11) air bags. There are other items as well. Do you constantly think about them on the way to the corner store to get some milk? No. Are they there if you have a head-on turning into the milk store parking lot? Yes.

The same goes for home security (see this site), aviation safety and no doubt safety in many other venues.

It should be the same for a nation's air space, frontier space and seashore. The force shouldn't be something requiring much (or any) conscious thought. It should simply be there: robust, implacable, immovable.

Our big problem is that we don't take security seriously. We basically cross our fingers and hope we'll be saved by statistics. And now, with the coming Islamic threat, the numbers are working against us.

See, I did get around to those medieval thugs eventually.

Baron Bodissey said...

Frank --

I think this parable illustrates perfectly well what I mean by an "over-preoccupation" with one's personal security.

To be completely, absolutely safe means to be frozen, cut off, and unable to act.

All action requires some sort of risk, and reducing risk to zero is thus not possible.

That's the meaning I take from this poem.

cadgbd said...

Who said "No man is an island?". THe prince could not live alone, he must rely on and interact with others to run the kingdom. This is reminiscent of another book... "The Prince"

Solitary confinement is dreaded because people do not like it.

There was an old Kung-Fu episode (I never watch TV anymore) where the master asked one disciple what lesson he had learned after being betrayed. When the disciple responded that the lesson was to never trust anyone, he was immediately banished from the temple. There was supposedly a lesson there.

Anonymous said...

Actually... what I read out of it was more of a message that applies to someone like Charles Johnson... perhaps. :-P

You should send him an email & ask why he's sending all of his friends away!