Demos is Done

Listen to the poem in English

Demos is Done — Read by Greg Nedved

Samuel HoffensteinOriginal Text

Demos is done, the brute that ruled too long,

Spewed tyrants, tended them and made them strong,

Crushed God and good, blocked wisdom’s gentle ways,

Spat at the sunrise of evolving days,

Clubbed Truth, made compact with the ancient dust,

That he be safely chained and poorly fed.

Aristos comes to take him by the hand

And weeping Demos waits the mild command,

The roomier collar, bigger bone, clean floor,

The window’d kennel and the sky-blue door.

Notes

Demos: a Greek word meaning “the people.” Aristos: a Greek word meaning “the best.” Hoffenstein uses it here to mean “the aristocracy, the upper class.” Hoffenstein is suggesting that the ordinary people of any given human society have allowed the upper class of their society to take command of them and treat them like pet dogs.

Author Notes

Samuel Hoffenstein (Oct. 8, 1890 – Oct. 6, 1947) was born in Lithuania; his family emigrated to the US in 1894. He graduated from Lafayette College, PA, then worked as a reporter for a local paper. By 1913, he had become the drama critic for the New York Sun. He also wrote articles for the magazine Vanity Fair and the New York Tribune newspaper. He married Edith Morgan in 1927. His first book of poetry, Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing, came out in 1928. In 1931, Hoffenstein settled in Los Angeles, working as a screenwriter for Paramount Studios until 1936, then for 20th Century Fox from 1941-1947. During that time, he was employed as a scriptwriter for over 30 movies. He was twice a co-nominee for an Oscar: for “Best Adaptation” for the 1931 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and for “Best Screenplay” for the 1944 film Laura. Hoffenstein’s revision of the screenplay for Laura – in which he turned the novel’s narrator, Waldo Lydecker, into the screen character portrayed by Clifton Webb – caused 20th Century Fox to upgrade the movie from its original B status to an A picture. Other notable film credits for Hoffenstein include The Miracle Man (1932), Phantom of the Opera (1943), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Tales of Manhattan (1942). He also collaborated with Cole Porter and Kenneth Webb in composing the musical score for The Gay Divorce (1933), which in 1934 was turned into the film The Gay Divorcee, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Hoffenstein died in Los Angeles. His second book of verse, Pencil in the Air, was published to critical acclaim three days after his death.

Sources

Hoffenstein, Samuel. Pencil in the Air. Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1947.
“Samuel Hoffenstein.” Wikipedia, 14 Sept. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Samuel_Hoffenstein&oldid=1044269250.

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