Vile Invention

Vile Invention

W.H. Auden (1907-1973), A Curse:

Dark was that day when Diesel
conceived his grim engine that
begot you, vile invention,
more vicious, more criminal
than the camera even,
metallic monstrosity,
bale and bane of our Culture,
chief woe of our Commonweal.

How dare the Law prohibit
hashish and heroin yet
license your use, who inflate
all weak inferior egos?
Their addicts only do harm
to their own lives: you poison
the lungs of the innocent,
your din dithers the peaceful,
and on choked roads hundreds must
daily die by chance-medley.

Nimble technicians, surely
you should hang your heads in shame.
Your wit works mighty wonders,
has landed men on the Moon,
replaced brains by computers,
and can smithy a “smart” bomb.
It is a crying scandal
that you cannot take the time
or be bothered to build us,
what sanity knows we need,
an odorless and noiseless
staid little electric brougham.


When I first started teaching at a boys’ school I carpooled with an older teacher, a wise man who taught me much about teaching young people, life, and temperance of fiery outbursts. It was he who dubbed my fanatical rants about what I consider the single greatest cause of evil in the world I know, the automobile, the defining characteristic of an “ism” that bears my surname.

Hat tip: Michael Gilleland

Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for hating automobiles.


About philokalos

Philologist, historian, and lover of great books, I started this blog to keep myself alert to the beauty of what I see amid the demands of my work.
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