The Nonconformist

By Donald Davie 1922–1995 Donald Davie
X, whom society’s most mild command,
For instance evening dress, infuriates,
In art is seen confusingly to stand
For disciplined conformity, with Yeats.
 
Taxed to explain what this resentment is
He feels for small proprieties, it comes,
He likes to think, from old enormities
And keeps the faith with famous martyrdoms.
 
Yet it is likely, if indeed the crimes
His fathers suffered rankle in his blood,
That he find least excusable the times
When they acceded, not when they withstood.
 
How else explain this bloody-minded bent
To kick against the prickings of the norm;
When to conform is easy, to dissent;
And when it is most difficult, conform?

Donald Davie, "The Nonconformist" from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1985 by Donald Davie.  Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press, Ltd.

Source: Selected Poems (Carcanet Press Ltd, 1985)

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Poet Donald Davie 1922–1995

Subjects Living, Life Choices, Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Rhymed Stanza

Biography

Donald Davie was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, to George Clarke and Alice Sugden Davie, received his early education at Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, and spent his boyhood in “the industrially ravaged landscape,” as he called it, of the West Riding. As a Northerner, he has said that in literature he grew to like “the spare and lean.” From his mother, who had a liking for poetry and knew, according to Davie, “the greater part, . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, Arts & Sciences, Humor & Satire, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture

Poetic Terms Quatrain, Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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