Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Republic of Yeah

The first four stanzas of this poem - curious but you can't have everything in life - appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of The Salisbury Review, a quarterly magazine of conservative thought. It, the magazine, is well worth reading. Its web site is:


Under studio lights the statesman smiles
Devoting Sunday morning to the glib
Three carded tricks of power: he smoothes the nap
Of his slacks; without a tie, his posture tells
With an unlovely knack                                                
Of nuanced pally salesmanship; his speech
Is negligent, expressed                                                 
With many “sort ofs,” “likes,” “I means” – a botch
Of sound in which the letter “t” has died.
Did Churchill so present himself when bid                              
To action, Clio’s finger at his breast?                                        

Colours and cultures clash in the schoolroom
With shoddy uniform and uncouth hair;
There’s boredom and a vicious background clatter
Of slang and scuffling as the class resume
‘The Winter’s Tale’; what stir
Of grief at Hermione’s plight can there be                                 
When language is brute noise?                                      
For thought and language, complex as the sea,              
Engulf the world and, coarsened, thus degrade             
Their subject animal. Outside the gate                        
Gangs churn, and their syntax is taught with knives.

On weekend nights delinquents foul the High Street,
Screaming-mad on Jack Daniels and drugs;                              
Filthiest cursing, smashed bottles and boots
Cause chaos; girls, wide-legged and rolling, retch.               
An offhand age thus gets
Its quittance for what’s truly human is not,                          
Foolishly given sway,                                       
Edenic hand-holding bliss, but wolf-pack                                  
Savagery. And sanctions done away with                                   
Do not produce kibbutz-like healthful growth                
But bloodied streets, where thugs posture till day.

Father Gerry in nylon vestments sits                         
On a front pew, condoling with his charges;
His brief chat neither purges nor assuages;
His Taizé altar centres a dead tot’s
Cuddly toy; Miss Barge’s                                                        
Threnodical dancing will follow later.
Outside, a slapping wind                                                          
Throws about the gulls’ riotous chatter.                        
Tragic man, brought to the rockface of death,               
Needs marble obsequies to meet that truth                               
Not buttonholed whimsy which binds no wound.

At the town’s edge on an overgrown estate
There’s little sign of the “imago Dei”;
The Tomkins household sleeps; the morning’s grey                   
Young hours are dead since life on benefit
Incited them to lie.                                                                   
God’s right and wrong rolls round with trash of pizza                   
Cartons and trampled cans.                                     
Awake, their hours will wander in a litter                                  
Of rancid clothes and half-pulled curtains. Feeding,
Begetting, fighting – all’s public; their offspring
Prepare their future with a stoat’s whine and claws.                    

In David Allan’s “Sir William Erskine
And Family” all is formal. His sons,
Returned from hunting, race to show a fox’s                 
Brush to their mother’s and sisters’ bright approving
Glance. Buskins and frock-coats,                                                         
Huntsmen and horses, hounds, attest a self-                                        
Respect that’s approbated
By God’s rich sky. Erskine, made grave by his rough                
Commander's duties in the wars, looks on:
Each one has dignity of state, a decorum                                                     
Undone when demos, the serpent, mutated.

© May 2013 Revised July 2016

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