Long-haired preachers come out every night,
An Spailpin Fanach
(Phrases in italics are James Connolly's)
Young nightsoil man who shovels human shit
Left in the streets for such as you to lift,
Mark Sandell honours Benjamin Zephaniah
Christmas is coming so it is appropriate that Her Majesty the Queen will be dishing out feudal baubles in the honors list. Of course most of these gongs go to the ageing segment of the British ruling class for services to... the rich and powerful.
Dictator by Ruthven Todd
From a strange land among the hills, the tall man
Came; who was a cobbler and a rebel at the start
Till he saw power ahead and keenly fought
To seize it; crushed out his comrades then.
His brittle eyes could well outstare the eagle
And the young followed him with cheers and praise
Until, at last, all that they knew - his nights, his days,
His deeds and face were parcel of a fable.
During the recent war on Iraq one of the components of the anti-war movement was "poets against the war". Groups sprung up in many countries. The website is still going and people are still submitting poems, some of these are better than others. Find it at www.poetsagainstthewar.org.
The UK website features one by Paul Marsden MP. Fortunately there are more interesting ones than his. It includes, for instance, the following 8th century Chinese poem.
This song was written by Malvina Reynolds - a member of the American CP in the 30s - and Barbara Dane. They wrote it after the 1966 "Freedom Summer" campaign against desegregation in the American south. Megdar, referred to in the song, is Medgar Evan, who was one of a number of people involved in the campaign to be murdered by the police.
It isn't nice to block the doorway, it isn't nice to go to jail,
Fantasy of an African boy
by James Berry
Such a peculiar lot
we are, we people
without money, in daylong
yearlong sunlight, knowing
money is somewhere, somewhere.
Everybody says it’s a big
bigger brain bother now,
money. Such millions and millions
of us don’t manage at all
without it, like war going on.
And we can’t eat it. Yet
without it our heads alone
By Robert Coster
You noble Diggers all, stand up now, stand up now,
You noble Diggers all, stand up now,
The waste land to maintain, seeing Cavaliers by name
Your digging does disdain, and persons all defame
Stand up now, Stand up now.
Your houses they pulldown, stand up now, stand up now,
Your houses they pull down, stand up now.
Your houses they pull down to fight poor men in town,
Notes for my son by Alex Comfort
Remember when you hear them beginning to say Freedom
Look carefully - see who it is that they want you to butcher.
Remember, when you say that the old trick would not have fooled you for a moment
That every time it is the trick which seems new.
Remember that you will have to put in irons
Your better nature, if it will desert to them.
edited by Matthew Hollis and Paul Keegan, with an afterword by Andrew Motion (Faber)
There is a lot of poetry about war and against unjust war. Often highlighting the human suffering involved, much of it provokes a revulsion against all war. I'm not a pacifist but I reserve my right to feel this horror too. Certainly, even if the most powerful nation on earth were not about to bomb the Iraqis (in order to save the Iraqis), then these poems would stir up the hardest heart.