In Distrust of Merits

by Marianne Moore

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"Beauty Is Everlasting And Dust Is For A Time"

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Context: "In Distrust of Merits" is a study of war wherein an external and internal struggle is going on at the same time. Until the right war is waged and won inwardly, the actual, physical war is futile and fatal. The poem is concerned with the beauty of the inward victory, the war of man's efforts to realize his basic nature and to attain happiness. Man's faulty attitudes and low values enslave and afflict him. His concerted efforts will avail only in so much as he is committed to noble ideals and values. "There is hate's crown beneath which all is/death; there's love's without which none/is king. . . ." Furthermore, "when a man is prey to anger/he is moved by outside things; when he holds/his ground in patience patience/patience, that is action or/ beauty. . . ." The poet expresses hope that men will learn to live together peaceably. Then reaching her illuminating conclusion, she writes:

There never was a war that wasnot inward; I mustfight till I have conquered in myself whatcauses war, but I would not believe it.I inwardly did nothing.O Iscariotlike crime!Beauty is everlastingAnd dust is for a time.

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