Pendragon Lectures IX

IX

Catching the Zeitgeist

 url

As a never-voter, upon awakening this morning I found myself faced with yet another five years of yet another annoying government & another five years of everybody complaining about them. With my mind tuned to certain frequency at the moment, I thought it would be the perfect occasion to write a second Pindaric Ode of the summer, in which I can direct my thoughts once more into the necessity of social reform. In doing so I will be, as this lecture’s title states, ‘catching the zeitgeist,’ & providing a piece of perfunctory poetry to record the moment for posterity.

Rather like the journalist, one of the poet’s chief functions is to store the living energy of their times in their little word-boxes. Some are set pieces to remember individual moments & events while others are more of a general sweep of the times. Whichever they chose, however, the poet’s task is to surf the zeitgeist & cast the wisest judgement for the illumination of their peers. A classic example is Shelley’s…

 

England in 1819

An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King;
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn,—mud from a muddy spring;
Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow.
A people starved and stabbed in th’ untilled field;
An army, whom liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield;
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godless—a book sealed;
A senate, Time’s worst statute, unrepealed—
Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.

 

Peterloo - the inspiration behind Shelley's poem
Peterloo – the inspiration behind Shelley’s poem

 

& here is one of mine written back in 1998

MODERN LIFE

At this stage of mankind’s evolution,
We live in an age of air pollution,
Fat-cats & taxes, taxi fares, faxes,
Serial killers, silky leg waxes,
Condoms, modems, gimmicks, gadgets, gizmos
Two rubber ducks & comic book heroes,
Football, rock & roll, catwalk, movie stars,
Recession, depression & wonder bras,
Four packs & prozac, pylon countryside,
Anarchist daughter, schoolboy suicide,
Just-add-water, slaughter of Mother Earth
Death of religion & occult rebirth,
Not one inch left of this globe to explore,
The whole world itchin’ for a third world war…

I was 22 years old in ’98, & since then my muse has definitely matured somewhat. This leads me to neatly to this morning’s composition, which is in essence a call to boycott the next general election & instead sign a national petition demanding electoral reform. In this topsy-turvy system, the SNP won less than 5 percent of the national vote, & won over 50 seats, while UKIP won over 12 percent of the national vote, & won 1. That’s all we really need to say about how we people are falsely represented in Westminster.

The population of the UK is 64 million, 13 million of which are under 18. That leaves 50 million possible voters, of whom about 35 million voted in the election. So where are the other 15 million voters? These are too apathetic to be interested in a system which they cite as being sterile & full of automons. But with the Tories coming into power with only 11 million votes, a unified course of action could actually democratically overturn our antique parliamentary system. Add to these the millions of disaffected who begrudgingly put their x in a box only to justify the sacrifices our ancestors made in winning the vote, then surely we have a recipe for social change.

It is with all this in this mind that I present;

 

THE GREAT BRITISH PETITION
A Pindaric Ode

The great basic thought that the world is to be comprehended not as a complex of ready-made things but as a complex of processes, in which apparently stable things no less than the concepts, their mental reflections in our heads, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being & passing away
Friedrich Engels

url

I Strophe

England is silent under the same moon,
From the Clydeside to the gutted pits of Wales.
The innocoent mask conceals that soon
Here, too, our freedom’s swaying in the scales.
John Cornford

This toppling Age, this gypsy caravan
Trundles from fields where Aneirin planted
Elms & Oaks honouring divine agencies

Behind, a nation divided, delayed
By progressive politics, let us instead
Close such squabble-beaks & progress simply

Austerity bites as all temperamentally
Ask ourselves a single existential question;
How can Westminster improve our life’s lot?

Of those who voted yesterday
A quarter undecided to the booths
My fractious & incredulous electorate

While down-trodden graduates buffer the Greens
Walking to vote while their bank-slurped bus-fares
Consumed by several salaries of debt

Comblended voices of the Scottish Question
Exterminate an English mandate to rule
Defying domination by dominant parties

A new Enlightenment rejects Westminster
Britain Aye! But not parliocentric
Maikin a stand, uncertain futures fearless

As morning breaks oer London’s Roman streets
On the Clapham Omnibus an ordinary man
Pushes earphones deeper, drowning the ‘Clear Message.’

Out of such a lack of Collegiate respect
Changes come as slight as yellow flames
Genetically spread amidst strawberries

Clouds carry kirk-bells south from Perth
Antique nuraghes surrounding Big Ben
Creak & sway to their giddying clamour.

Hammersmith boatmen recognize the mood
A lady’s bonnet slobbers past the wharf
The factum of thrasonical Suffragettes

At Runnymead the Barons equaled King
At Whitehall the common Man slew him
Between these days seigniors-in-stone upsprung

II Antistrophe

Quale allor ci apparia
La vita umana e il fato!
Quando sovviemmi di cotanta speme
Un affetto mi preme
Acerbo e sconslato
E tornami a doler di mia sventura.
Giacomo Leopardi

While first-past-the-post re-applies for re-election
Our Manifest Destiny mills & grooves
Worn to the bone, the old stone must break

Entrenched in the rudders of our national fibre
The Queen whittles fresh dresses for her speech
While blood-swollen-tick-like the Lords look on

Busy readying new pay-for view expenses
Downing Street’s players prepare for pass-the-parcel
Its prizes; felt demenes for unqualified cuckoos

No Doctor shall dictate to the National Health
No General shall generate sound soldier’s strategies
No Brickie shall build fine, affordable housing

No immigrant shall grant his family asylum
No thespian shall fund the wonders of our stage
No pensioner shall offer hope to old folk

No teenager shall understand his young peers
No traveler shall tend foreign affairs
No reformed convict proudly curtail crime

& worst of all, no Green, duly elected
Shall be allowed into these grave discussions
Of which our childrens’ futures may resent

This is the flaw of of our hoary Star Chamber
& so, in the face of such imminent danger
Of civic rebelliousness, let us all arise!

Yes, let us transcend the chains of our ancestors
&, forging reform, build up our hope’s hub
In the heart of the country, at Dunsop Bridge

Where the disenchanted, disaffected, disenfranchis’d
Turn not to london & its diminishing turn-out
But this sweet glade of epicentral green

If an apathetic country unifies
It can turn all its problems to solutions
& trust its best & honest shepheard-minds

Let us elect an Athenian demaverse
To feel the decisions that really matter
Like making bread & butter free for all
III Epode

 

Then the wastour wrothly castes up his eyen
And said, ‘Thou Winner, thou wricche, me wonders in herte.
What have oure clothes cost thee, caitif, to bye,
That thou shall birdes upbraid of their bright wedes,
Sithen that we vouche safe that silver payen?
Winner & Waster (anon.)

According to these ancyent regulations
In five years time our sword-knot loops renew
Oppressed, as we are, by British History

But yet the future lies a grand unwritten
& if we were to move our signatories
Beside the booths upon Election Day

We’ll place our names upon that perfect page
& tell our Majesties we vote for change
Not those next-door, whose race none wish to run

& if, by then, young William is reigning
Supported by his calm & noble Queen
This country must be landslide-unified

Our Prince bears the wide breadths of humanity
His dynasty secured, his wisening voice
Will apply its regal resonance for all

As one,let us put our pens to paper,
Or type our say through Social Media
Designing lands all manners glad to share

Where civil-servants cry from country-wide billboards,
‘Influence deliverables, the final frontier!
Your voice can change the way we work!’

Empowering people to fend for themselves
Let us devise a better agenda, ‘The New Outreach’
& command every community’s confidence

When signing this petition in all peacefulness,
Let us enter those Gold Ages once again
To ravish life & all its sweet contentment

Wherein the watchers of World shall learn
Once more of Britain’s perfect prediliction
For social evolution, & what’s more

These prosperous, never-happier islands
Shall prove again the inventions of divinity
Lie somewhere in the psyches of her sons

& if this petition doesn’t work…
The next one will…
& if not that, the next…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>