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 schoolroomWith 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 sitsOn 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 estateThere’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 ErskineAnd 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