And Now the New Millennium Poet Speaks Out

(after Horace, Epode XVI, Altera iam teritur)

Here we are again, ground down by a suicidal war,
watching while Britain cracks under its own greatness.
What the French failed to crush at Waterloo,
nor even the Romans conquered forever,
nor James and the Scots at Flodden, nor the fireworks
of Cromwell, nor the ambivalent Italians,
nor Aryan promises of sharing power,
nor Viking, nor Saxon, though carried in our blood,
this country; all of us, have come to reap the fruits of Labour,
have destroyed ourselves to be Right.
Crisis will follow crisis, we’ll quarrel over a barrel.
The East has risen; the sun has set on our Empire;
yet still we have war-mongerers hiding behind the Bushes
with bulldog determination.

Some of you might be wondering what we can do,
how we can stop the inevitable.

There’s only one thing to be done,
follow Wedgwood Benn’s advice,
stop honouring war as if it were a god,
talk to the wolves at the door,
let’s go where negotiation takes us,
where the words of elders are written in the sand.
Unless you have any better ideas;
let’s get to it while there’s time on our side.

And we should not stop listening until there are sharks
raising their heads in the English Channel.
Nor should we turn aggressor until Cumbria grows palms,
and bananas are harvested in Wales,
until Hyde Park trees are heaving with coconuts,
till Paisley and Adams sit together,
until America stops seeing red
and we’re not first to jump into their bed;
till there is absolutely no left choice open to us,
till we see weapons of mass destruction.

Let’s make our voices heard and threaten with the ballot box.
If there’s any more talk of war, let every one of us
with a modicum of intelligence do that. Weak people
will get the government they deserve.
But you, who have some fight left in you; don’t give up,
don’t throw up your hands and sigh or waste your vote.
There is an opportunity waiting for us,
let’s try to compromise and find a lasting peace,
so we don’t always have to watch our backs,
be tagged, numbered, scanned, finger-printed, filed.
We must nurture our people on understanding
so that they choose the olive branch over the gun.
This is the kind of land we should be handing on;
a place where education sprouts free as grass,
where opportunities for all grow on trees
and choices are there for the harvesting.
Once we have discovered how to be even-handed
we can let our guard down again.

If only we’d courage to do this, we wouldn’t believe our eyes.
There’d be no threats from suicide bombers.
Lakenheath could have the long-term vision of a small, peaceful Suffolk village.
Feltwell could give up its deep-space tracking.
We’d no longer be seen as a target
by those in pursuit of a dirty war.
We could rub out our Sixties image as ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’.
To give up Cruise Missiles,
be ready for peace in one hour;
that would be the really Smart move.
Our island set apart and free of bases; we would be riders of the waves;
see no glory in ruling them
by conquest, bullying or being first to strike.
The righteous can escape by listening to their poets.

Notes: Before the war with Iraq, his Holiness Pope John Paul implored the leaders of all nations, to have a long-term vision and search for peace.

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