Friday, January 2, 2015

A Song: Lying is an occupation - Laetitia Pilkington

Lying is an occupation,
   Used by all who mean to rise;
Politicians owe their station,
   But to well concerted lies.

These to lovers give assistance,
   To ensnare the fair-one's heart;
And the virgin's best resistance
   Yields to this commanding art.

Study this superior science,
   Would you rise in Church or State;
Bid to Truth a bold defiance,
   'Tis the practice of the great.

In her little song, Pilkington offers a rather scathing account of how those who are in power got to where they are; they lied, and lied well!  Lying is a job, as the title claims, and those who are employed in such fashion rise in both Church and State.  Even "the virgin's best resistance yields" in the face of a well constructed lie.  One must wonder if that's related to her own marriage, though I generally try to separate non-biographical poems from the author's life.

I think it's fairly clear that this poem does not glorify lying, but rather is criticizing those who lie to further their ambitions.  The last two lines basically say, "Screw truth, if you want to be successful, lie your ass off, that's what the greats do."  This poem was written sometime between 1730 or 1750, most likely.  Are things much different today?  I think that this poem will resonate with anyone whose scruples have kept them from lying in situations which might have benefited them, or have seen others rise unjustly.  If we can still identify with this poem, I think it means that the world is not very different than it was when this poem was penned.

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