Three Poems (R6)

the soul

can either build of itself
a work of art
or sit and watch the Barbarian
inversion of old certitudes—
mask of Evil that entices
into the wilderness of the future;
or it rides out of the Wasteland
tramples the vineyards
demolishes the shrines
giving over soil to sand
and the mind to this awful simplicity
of box & buttons
of fad & fashion—
mere mechanisms of personality
invented by the age

the Barbarian cannot make;
it can only befog and destroy—
but even that it cannot sustain
(as soul would sustain)
lacking limit and boundary
which are essential to all making

and we are victims offered daily
to the cruelties of the moment
with no tradition
to incarnate the gestures of
daily living in song and stone

only wayward mythologies—
an ever-shifting empty hagiography
of temporary heroes
of slogans and the gleanings
of mass culture


the doctrine

of inevitable progress—
the present the highpoint
of cultural and personal development—
the ancestors treated with condescension
the thinkers ignored unread
(those who told it how it really is)—

the present (so they say—the powerful ones
in their powerful ignorance) is
the threshold to a Golden Age—
provided you accept our (mendacious)
version of events…  tissues of imagery
& abstraction

progress is the ghost
of a big black dog
cocking its leg against the lamp-posts
of infinite dark streets—
a convenient construct;
an unsubtle trick of the imagination;
a laying of eggs
in a basket that does not exist


I’m with Hilaire Belloc

who sprayed the English
complacents with corrosive words
to eat away the rust of centuries
of smug: parliamentary democracy
represents not the country of hills
and valleys    not the cottages
and the city streets
but capitalism & wealth;
its supposed incorruptibility is a lie—
bodies bought & sold to slavery
titles bartered for privilege—
we are not all in this together

liberal capitalism will never deliver
the Golden Age—it leads inexorably
towards the Servile State
in which the majority labour
for the good of a small minority
of wealthy owners in their gated domains
or for a government of technical experts
imposing technical solutions—
their expertise in spiritual bankruptcy

the future becomes a refuge for those
who cannot bear to face
the grandeur of the past
in the contingent tyranny of the present

5 thoughts on “Three Poems (R6)

  1. These three poems work to remind us how little true ceremony there is left. How much time is spent these days giving uplifting notice to the dawn? How many children begin their school day walking through a dew filled field? As the “Barbarian’s” chip away at our soul, the future becomes a “Wasteland” of “spiritual bankruptcy” But what is this past the poem is speaking about? “To incarnate the gestures of living in song and stone? “The thinkers ignored, unread” The poem does not leave us with these musings. It offers us Hilaire Belloc, as a source where we can continue the discussion – the poem offers us nourishment. The last four lines seem to juxtapose two realities into a modern contradictory sense of being. Just look at the state of education as it races blindly into a future that doesn’t exist. We continue to prepare children for the future. Can anyone explain this absurd crystal ball logic? Maybe a crystal ball would work more efficiently?


    1. Some leisure today to reread more slowly and comment more thoughtfully. It’s so true that we have been sold a bill of goods, the soul has been taken out of life by the partnership of government and business and crony capitalism, and our minds have been preempted by popular media telling us what to think, do, and be – creating wants where only needs should stand. Well done, dear Colin. Thank you!

      I take a little hope: I was just reading that the sales of Ayn Rands books have increased in recent years. Thought that interesting. Some folks must be reevaluating their assumptions, trying to find answers.


      1. Hi Jamie

        There’s so much to keep up with isn’t there. The internet is great because such as we can easily make contact and sustain it but the overload is crazy. What they call the communications revolution seems to me to be nothing other than an e-tower-of-babel.

        For the most part I do what Eliot advised – nothing to do but put one’s own house in order which includes those with whom I seem to have real relationships.

        Thanks Jamie for your comments!



      2. Ah yes. The Italians have a saying about cleaning up your own back yard before you venture into another’s.

        Actually, don’t know why I mentioned Rand. It’s good that people read and question, but there are more credible, kind, and sensible resources … Anyway, long day.

        Blog on … 😉


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