A Little Poetry for California’s Crisis

William Wordsworth; via Flickr

Paul Solman: Questions keep coming in about the likelihood and consequences of a California default on its bonds. One unexpected result might be anger for the ages. Here’s Lake Poet William Wordsworth on the 1842 bond default of Pennsylvania, which still hadn’t paid off bondholders (like Wordsworth, presumably) when he wrote “To the Pennsylvanians” (“Sonnet from a Surly Creditor,” perhaps?) in 1845.

The state borrowed money for infrastructure, BTW, mainly canals. It defaulted because it refused to raise property taxes. As was famously said about history repeating itself: First as tragedy; the second time, as farce.

To the Pennsylvanians
by William Wordsworth

Days undefiled by luxury or sloth,
Firm self-denial, manners grave and staid,
Rights equal, laws with cheerfulness obeyed,
Words that require no sanction from an oath,
And simple honesty a common growth—
This high repute, with bounteous Nature’s aid,
Won confidence, now ruthlessly betrayed
At will, your power the measure of your troth!—
All who revere the memory of Penn
Grieve for the land on whose wild woods his name
Was fondly grafted with a virtuous aim,
Renounced, abandoned by degenerate Men
For state-dishonour black as ever came
To upper air from Mammon’s loathsome den.

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