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poetry History Repeats Itself

A poet sensitive to injustice, W.D. Ehrhart projects a “broken-hearted world without end.”

History Repeats Itself

By W. D. Ehrhart


But sooth is seyd, go sithen many yeres,

That “feeld hath eyen and the wode hath eres.”

                    Geoffrey Chaucer, “The Knight’s Tale”

An old saying goes that fields have eyes

and forests ears; no secrets could be kept

for long in olden times: not murders,

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robberies, infidelities, what have you.

All came to light eventually, justice

finally for the guilty, balance restored.

Would that it were so in Chaucer’s day

or in our own.  Where should I begin?

Injustice is a fact of life.  Ask

George Floyd, Emmett Till, Joe Hill,

Little Turtle, or Rebecca Nurse.

The list is endless, and keeps growing.

What to do?  Give up?  Play dead?  I wish

I had a good answer.  Whenever

students used to say, “That’s not fair,” I’d

ask them just what planet they imagined

they were living on.  But that’s not fair.

I owe them something more than cynicism.

Still, they’ll find out soon enough that privilege

will, like dukes and earls, rape peasant girls

and get away with it, the poor man hanged

for stealing bread to feed his starving kids.

Ever was it so, and ever shall be.  Broken-

hearted world without end.  Amen.

W. D. Ehrhart is a retired high school Master Teacher of English & History.  His most recent book is What We Can and Can't Afford: Essays on Vietnam, Patriotism, and American Life (McFarland & Co., Inc. 2023).