This, then, is to be the way? Freedom’s candle will be
snuffed out by freedom’s sworn defenders, chanting
hourly the praise of freedom. Their praise
will console the free waking in their prisons
when the Bill of Rights has at last
dissolved in the indifference of the great Self
of force. When the strong have perfected their triumph
over the weak, great symphonies will still
be played in the concert halls and on the radio
to console the forgetful and the undisturbed; the doors
will still stand open at the art museus,
rewarding the oppressed for their oppression; poets
will still intone fluently their songs
of themselves, to reward the fearful for their fear. Oh,
the lofty artists of sound, of shape and color,
of words, will still accept proudly their jobs
in universities, their prizes, grants, and awards.
On the day that ugliness is perfected in rubble
and blood, beauty and the love of beauty will
still be praised by those well paid to praise it.
When they cannot speak freely in defiance
of wealthy self-elected to righteousness,
let the arts of pleasure and beauty cease.
Let every poet and singer of joy be dumb.
When those in power by owning all the words
have made them mean nothing, let silence
speak for us. When freedom’s light goes out, let color
drain from all paintings into gray puddles
on the museum floor. When every ear awaits only
the knock on the door in the dark midnight,
let all the orchestras sound just one long note of woe.