Sunday Pages: "When I Was One-And-Twenty"

A poem by A.E. Housman. Plus: two years of PREVAIL!

Dear Reader,

Two years ago Friday, PREVAIL made its debut. Today, I raise a glass to you, Dear Reader—and you especially, Dear Subscriber!—to say thanks for your generous support these last 24 months. I know too well how many other options clamor for your time and money and attention, and I am beyond grateful to you for choosing PREVAIL. Merci beaucoup. Grazie mille. Спасибо.

A bit of history: On November 17, 2019, I wrote a piece called “Lessons from the Fall of Elise Stefanik,” subtitled: “Never Go Full Devin Nunes.” At the time, the eponymous Republican morphed from obscure member of Congress to pivotal character in the Trump drama, seemingly overnight, by making a very calculated move to install herself front and center in the hoopla. That piece went viral—it remains one of PREVAIL’s most-read dispatches—and in the space of 12 days, my Substack went from not existing to being retweeted by Mark Hamill. (Thanks, Mark!)

The Force, it appeared, was with me.

In hindsight, alas, it’s clear that—to paraphrase another national treasure named Mark—my report of the death of Stefanik’s disgraceful political career had been exaggerated. That mendacious traitor easily won re-election, despite a massive grassroots fundraising effort on behalf of her opponent. To date, there have been zero consequences for her decision to go all-in with MAGA—other than, you know, selling her soul, if you believe in that sort of thing, which she clearly does not.

Stefanik is one in a long line of Trump sycophants and enablers who have not yet paid the price for their full-throated support of a mobbed-up rapist who tried to overthrow the government. There is a through-line from Elise avoiding any repercussions for her MAGA dalliances to Merrick Garland sitting on his well-manicured, blemish-free hands while Rome burns. It is the theme of the entire Trump era: Waiting for justice to come.

I have not given up hope that justice is on the way—stuck in traffic, perhaps, but definitely in the car with the motor running. There are no plans to change the name of this site to DESPAIR or MEH or FUCK IT, DUDE, LET’S GO BOWLING. But I must confess to some disappointment that, this long into Biden’s term, there has been so little movement at the DOJ. Yes, the wheels of justice grind slow. But nine-and-a-half months is a long enough gestation period, surely, for a plan to indict the Former Guy for the obstruction of justice charges laid out so neatly in the Mueller Report:

So for today’s “Sunday Pages,” I present a poem about heartbreak. I remembered the poem this morning upon waking, but could not recall who wrote it—and of course it is Housman, the great Housman.

This one is pretty straightforward; indeed, it is its simplicity that gives it such power:

When I was one-and-twenty,
I heard a wise man say,
“Give crowns and pounds and guineas
But not your heart away;
Give pearls away and rubies
But keep your fancy free.”
But I was one-and-twenty,
No use to talk to me.

When I was one-and-twenty,
I heard him say again,
“The heart out of the bosom
Was never given in vain;
’Tis paid with sighs a-plenty
And sold for endless rue.”
And I am two-and-twenty,
And oh, ’tis true, ’tis true.

Thanks again, Dear Reader, for your support these last two years. I cannot summon words sufficient enough to express my gratitude.


Photo credit: Exchange Associate. Elise Stefanik visits the Fort Drum Exchange, 2016.