Friday, January 30, 2009


Samuel Johnson famously described a (financial) patron as one who ignores a drowning man but then, when the man has already fought his way to shore, encumbers him with assistance. I believe he was directing his lack of amusement at a person who had promised to help him pay for the great dictionary on which Johnson was working. That dictionary remains one of the quasi-miraculous achievements in scholarship. The man wrote a dictionary of the English language mostly by himself--he had a few of what we might call research-assistants--and he pulled many of the explanatory examples of definitions from his memory.

Patronizers are a different sort of creatyres, One doesn't expect money or anything else for them. One simply expects false, duplicitous "praise" or politeness that's been on the shelf way past the sell-date.

The Patronizers

I've grown to appreciate the patronizers,
who stand on an invisible wee step-ladder
and speak down. Theirs is a subtle art.
They upholster ill will with civility. They
dismiss by squeezing out an anemic compliment.

Relentlessly, they try to shrink the world
as they assume they expand. At least
the old patrons used to hand over cash
once in a while. The patronizers pilfer
superiority. They buy arrogance on credit,
spend it mincingly. They're as bold

as a spectator at a bullfight, as generous
as a dead snake, as well meaning as a rabid
skunk. They're clever and deft, though,
like old troupers. They please themselves.

Patronizers make themselves at home
in your forebearance. They're really
something. They've honed a hapless
social skill. Well done, Bravo.
Copyright 2009 Hans Ostrom
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