Decline of the West

January 14, 2016 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Ulalume | 1 Comment |

The Course of Empire series - "Desolation" by Thomas Cole

I’ve been dipping into Oswald Spengler’s big bad book,

So very high -Teutonic and yet, somehow, worth a look;

He gets bogged down, of course, with gonzo hierarchies –

And, sending blood to war with money, confuses, as a tease.


If we stuck to Kings (theocracy); and types like Kim (autocracy),

And what was left ran not on god, here or above (plutocracy),

But dough and stuff, you’d have your map of the whole world:

Shaped into a cocktail ball, and twirled.


But Mr. Spengler did not do that – instead he tabled

(Naturally!) eight empires of the past and present, fabled

As great Cultures; Atrophied civilisation,

All doomed to boundless desolation.

Not with a bang, but a whimper..."Entry of Alexander into Babylon" by Charles Le Brun (Louvre)

Not with a bang, but a whimper…”Entry of Alexander into Babylon” by Charles Le Brun (Louvre)

Four empires were dead as mutton when he wrote,

Babylonian, Egyptiac, Greco-Roman (all time-smote);

The Aztecs and the Mayans by VD were sorted-out.

Which four remain to grasp the Future’s moist, snotty snout?


India, Middle Kingdom, Islamic World and Faustian West*,

Are left to vie for spoils that lie on gilded platters, dressed

In a marinade of deft design and a purloined chemical.

With no common coin to toss they’ll wax polemical.





Perhaps from four just three lean towards plutocracy

And the fourth sheds blood in buckets near the sea.

Though in essence theocratic, it sees where that goes:

To the abyss – with universal flows.








Who’d dare place a bet on the end of this dark course

(Though Spengler clearly doubts the Faustian force)?

The prevailing culture may take antique love, not modern gold

Or spurning both, choose hate and the glory of the bold.

[*Did Oswald forget Russia?  At the time he wrote, he might be forgiven for underestimating the capacity, and conscienceless-ness, of the Empire of the Bear.  He’s probably not the last person of intelligence to do so…FDR, Gerald Ford and Barack Obama come to mind, and they have less of an excuse.] [“‘The West’, Spengler argued, has come to its end, as every culture must. We have now entered the period of mere ‘civilization’, when administration and technology take over from the flowering of the spirit in its summer forms…Our culture rose to its self-conscious height in the time of Goethe, who captured its spirit in Faust. Thereafter, Spengler believed, it rapidly died, to be replaced by the cold routines of a civilization destined, at last, to crumble to nothingness, as its structure rots away.” – Roger Scruton, p. 135.]

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1 Comment

  1. Reply

    Ethan Moore

    April 20, 2018

    You should spend more time actually reading Spengler and less time trying to be cute -- you look (and sound) stupid.

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