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Political Poetry
Posted by: joseph torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: September 20, 2003 08:31AM

The discussion of Phil Ochs in the "Speaking of the Writer's Almanac" thread has started me thinking about poems with political messages or biting social commentary. Does anyone have a favorite they'd like to share?


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: September 20, 2003 11:58AM

Here's one from the popular Australian poet Bruce Dawe:

On the Fall from Grace of a Well-Known Politician

Here lies at last the master of nonentity
- the creature of smart lawyers and the Press,
television’s odd misshapen darling,
feeder of chooks and scatterer of largesse …
Here is the battered image of our weakness,
our sad confusion rigged out in a suit,
who never made an error (by his reckoning),
a Christian pointing backwards to the brute,
a strong man whose sole strength was contradiction,
a moral Lilliputian in the House
whom colleagues sneered at safely from around corners,
fed by invective as blood feeds a louse.

The nation’s standing joke, for much forgiven
- a ‘character’, we said, a looney-tune
uniquely representative of our statehood,
a spent Messiah from the planet Dune.

Here let him lie, who lied to all and sundry,
The last worst hope of many midget men
- let it be said (as it was of better fictions)
that we shall not (please God) see his like again.


Notes on Australianisms:
‘chooks’ - domestic hens;
‘feeding the chooks’ - well known political metaphor for giving scraps of information to journalists.

Bruce Dawe lives in the state of Queensland, sometimes referred to by us southerners as ‘the deep north’, where there have been a number of state politicians fitting the poem, but I had better not name names as some of them are still living.



Post Edited (10-24-03 07:05)


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: joseph torelli (---.dyn.optonline.net)
Date: September 20, 2003 01:31PM

It's good to know that America isn't the only land with politicians of dubious moral fiber.

Poems for this thread need not be limited to contemporary political or social issues. Charles Dickens, more noted as Victorian novelist than poet, penned a biting satirical poem mocking the Tory party back in the mid-1800's:

To give you some idea, here is Stanza 1 of "The Fine Old English Gentleman:"

I'll sing you a new ballad, and I'll warrant it first-rate,
Of the days of the old gentleman who had that old-estate;
When they spent the public money at a bountiful old rate
On Ev'ry mistress, pimp, and scamp, at ev'ry noble gate,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: September 21, 2003 06:26PM

And there's a song from the Begger's Opera by John Gay that goes to the tune of Lillibullero. Sorry I don't have the details but it was on radio 3 today and I was driving through town at the time.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: glenda (---.client.comcast.net)
Date: September 21, 2003 08:23PM


Things haven't changed much in 44 years, have they?


The Merry Minuet
The Kingston Trio
Words and Music by Sheldon Harnick

-From their 1959 LP "From the Hungry"


They’re rioting in Africa (whistling)
They’re starving in Spain (whistling)
There’s hurricanes in Flo-ri-da (whistling)
And Texas needs rain
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch
AND I DON’T LIKE ANYBODY VERY MUCH!!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off
AND WE WILL ALL BE BLOWN AWAY!!

They’re rioting in Africa (whistling)
There’s strife in Iran
What nature doesn’t so to us
Will be done by our fellow man---<man is sung off-key>


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: marian2 (---.in-addr.btopenworld.com)
Date: September 22, 2003 10:27AM

I like short, biting ones ones eg 3 by Belloc

On A General Election:

The accursed Power which stands on Privilege
(And goes with Women and Chapmpagne and Bridge)
Broke - and Democracy resumed her reign,
Which goes with Bridge and Women and Champagne.

Epitaph on a Politician:

Here William lies, in truth before he died
For forty mortal years in truth he lied!

Epitaph on the Politician Himself:

Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away,
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.

Then there's Shelley's very clever 'The Mask of Anarchy', which includes:

'I met Murder on the way -
He had a mask like Castlereagh -
Very smooth he looked, yet grim
Seven blood-hounds followed him'

Byron wasn't keen on Castleragh either and was a lot blunter:

Epitaph

Posterity will ne'er survey
A nobler grave than this:
Here lie the bones of Castlereagh
Stop traveller, and piss.

and finally, a truism about treason:

Epigram by Sir John Garrington

Treason doth never prosper; what the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: September 22, 2003 12:47PM


The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church, Rome,

by Robert Browning

(available here on eMule)

Very "biting" -- on his deathbed, the archbishop preaches spiritual values while dictating the details of his very fancy and expensive burial site.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Marian-NYC (---.nyc1.dsl.speakeasy.net)
Date: September 22, 2003 12:49PM


"Friends, Romans, ..." Antony's speech from JULIUS CAESAR.

It's a political speech, a very strategic "keynote."


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Pam Adams (---)
Date: September 22, 2003 02:45PM

Kipling, of course, has any number of political poems.

The Widow At Windsor
by Rudyard Kipling

'Ave you 'eard o' the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on 'er 'ead?
She 'as ships on the foam -- she 'as millions at 'ome,
An' she pays us poor beggars in red.
(Ow, poor beggars in red!)
There's 'er nick on the cavalry 'orses,
There's 'er mark on the medical stores --
An' 'er troopers you'll find with a fair wind be'ind
That takes us to various wars.
(Poor beggars! -- barbarious wars!)
Then 'ere's to the Widow at Windsor,
An' 'ere's to the stores an' the guns,
The men an' the 'orses what makes up the forces
O' Missis Victorier's sons.
(Poor beggars! Victorier's sons!)

Walk wide o' the Widow at Windsor,
For 'alf o' Creation she owns:
We 'ave bought 'er the same with the sword an' the flame,
An' we've salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! -- it's blue with our bones!)
Hands off o' the sons o' the Widow,
Hands off o' the goods in 'er shop,
For the Kings must come down an' the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says "Stop"!
(Poor beggars! -- we're sent to say "Stop"!)
Then 'ere's to the Lodge o' the Widow,
From the Pole to the Tropics it runs --
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an' the file,
An' open in form with the guns.
(Poor beggars! -- it's always they guns!)

We 'ave 'eard o' the Widow at Windsor,
It's safest to let 'er alone:
For 'er sentries we stand by the sea an' the land
Wherever the bugles are blown.
(Poor beggars! -- an' don't we get blown!)
Take 'old o' the Wings o' the Mornin',
An' flop round the earth till you're dead;
But you won't get away from the tune that they play
To the bloomin' old rag over'ead.
(Poor beggars! -- it's 'ot over'ead!)
Then 'ere's to the sons o' the Widow,
Wherever, 'owever they roam.
'Ere's all they desire, an' if they require
A speedy return to their 'ome.
(Poor beggars! -- they'll never see 'ome!)


pam


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Linda (---.cache.pol.co.uk)
Date: September 22, 2003 06:32PM

Two more by Kipling.

If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.
(Common form)


I could not dig: I dared not rob:
Therefore I lied to please the mob.
Now all my lies are proved untrue
And I must face the men I slew.
What tale shall serve me here among
Mine angry and defrauded young?
(A Dead Statesman)


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: September 22, 2003 06:49PM

And almost all of Siegfried Sassoon's work.

pam

Fight to a Finish

THE boys came back. Bands played and flags were flying,
And Yellow-Pressmen thronged the sunlit street
To cheer the soldiers who’d refrained from dying,
And hear the music of returning feet.
‘Of all the thrills and ardours War has brought,
This moment is the finest.’ (So they thought.)

Snapping their bayonets on to charge the mob,
Grim Fusiliers broke ranks with glint of steel,
At last the boys had found a cushy job.

. . . .
I heard the Yellow-Pressmen grunt and squeal;
And with my trusty bombers turned and went
To clear those Junkers out of Parliament.


Base Details


IF I were fierce, and bald, and short of breath,
I’d live with scarlet Majors at the Base,
And speed glum heroes up the line to death.
You’d see me with my puffy petulant face,
Guzzling and gulping in the best hotel,
Reading the Roll of Honour. ‘Poor young chap,’
I’d say—‘I used to know his father well;
Yes, we’ve lost heavily in this last scrap.’
And when the war is done and youth stone dead,
I’d toddle safely home and die—in bed.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Marian-NYC (12.154.236.---)
Date: September 22, 2003 06:50PM

J. Edgar Hoover Enters Heaven
by Robin Pallant

Your power had men frightened
and your knowledge had them awed.
Now let's see what you've got
in your dossier on God.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-04rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: September 22, 2003 08:09PM


Swinburne's cheap shot at Oscar Wilde:

When Oscar came to join his God,
Not earth to earth, but sod to sod,
It was for sinners such as this
Hell was created bottomless.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: -Les- (---.trlck.ca.charter.com)
Date: September 22, 2003 08:28PM

And Wilde's take on evil:

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man
Of moral evil and of good
Than all the sages can

Les


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-05rh15rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: September 23, 2003 10:41AM


I think that is Wordsworth's, but I don't understand it anyway. What is an "impulse" from a vernal (springtime?) wood(s)?

Sure, if it were Wilde, I would get his drift.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Marian-NYC (12.154.236.---)
Date: September 23, 2003 11:45AM

Yes, "vernal" means "of the spring... fresh or new like the spring; youthful"

Yes, it's Wordsworth. Context may help. The ellipses (....) are IN THE POEM - I'm not leaving anything out.

==================

William Wordsworth: "The Tables Turned"

Up! up! my friend, and quit your books,
Or surely you'll grow double.
Up! up! my friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble. . . .

Books! 'tis a dull and endless trifle:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it. . . .

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Misshapes the beauteous forms of things--
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art,
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Pam Adams (---.bus.csupomona.edu)
Date: September 23, 2003 03:15PM

I would guess that the 'impulse' would be the satyrs and nymphs calling.

pam


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: IanB (---.tnt11.mel1.da.uu.net)
Date: September 24, 2003 09:02AM

As you are not limiting this thread to contemporary poems, here's a light hearted one from nearly 50 years ago, which might still strike a chord with English readers:

Rhyming Prophecy for a New Year
by Leonard Cooper
(written for 1956 but still all too serviceable)

Fog and snow for New Year’s greeting, ban on all domestic heating,
Russia leaves a UNO meeting, threat of war in Middle East.
Feb. Australian Test team chosen, everything but wages frozen,
Eggs at two pounds ten a dozen, all war criminals released.

March––a scream for science teachers, eighteen horses fall at Beechers,
Oxford sink in Chiswick Reach as Cambridge win in record time.
April budget, banks stop lending, Chancellor remains unbending,
"Money is not made for spending", hire purchase made a crime.

Summer––one long string of crises, catastrophic rise in prices,
Thousands die from poisoned ices, crops destroyed by storm and pests.
Bread and meat go back on ration, fearful smash at Croydon station,
Living up to expectation, England lose the first four Tests.

Autumn Budget doubles taxes, U.S.A. and Soviet Axis,
Export wanes and Import waxes, Oval triumph––Rain. No Play.
Cabinet re-shuffle places, strictly on an Old Boy basis,
Same old names and same old faces; M.P.s strike for higher pay.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Tandy (---.networkrichmond.com)
Date: October 21, 2003 05:41PM

And then, of course, there are political speeches:

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beautiful
than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think theh died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

- e. e. cummings


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Dr. Arnold T. Schwab (---.its.csulb.edu)
Date: May 22, 2005 03:40PM

Dear Mr. Clary,

In connection with an article I am writing about Swinburne and Wilde, I would be grateful if you could indicate the source for your ascription of the squib on Wilde to Swinburne. I have been unable, despite a long search, to find anything in Swinburne's published or unpublished work, that proves that Swinburne wrote it.

Thank you.

Dr. Arnold T. Schwab


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-05rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: May 23, 2005 10:50AM

Possibly apocryphal, but here are some links:

[tinyurl.com] />
[tinyurl.com] />
Searching the quote without Swinburne's name attached yields zip:

[tinyurl.com] />
I am not entirely sure where I first heard/read it though, so I will check around my home light verse library and get back later today.


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: Hugh Clary (---.denver-05rh15-16rt.co.dial-access.att.net)
Date: May 23, 2005 05:07PM

Ah, I found where I first read it: The Silver Treasury of Light Verse edited by Oscar Williams. Still, he does note that is is 'attributed' to Swinburne, which suggests he also had his doubts. Hope this helps.


Allen Ginsberg: HUM BOM!
Posted by: HYPNOGOGPRESS (71.186.50.---)
Date: November 03, 2007 10:09PM

HUM BOM!
by Allen Ginsberg
I

Whom bomb?
We bomb'd them!
Whom bomb?
We bomb'd them!
Whom bomb?
We bomb'd them!
Whom bomb?
We bomb'd them!

Whom bomb?
We bomb you!
Whom bomb?
We bomb you!
Whom bomb?
You bomb you!
Whom bomb?
You bomb you!

What do we do?
Who do we bomb?
What do we do?
Who do we bomb?
What do we do?
Who do we bomb?
What do we do?
Who do we bomb?

What do we do?
You bomb! You bomb them!
What do we do?
You bomb! You bomb them!
What do we do?
We bomb! We bomb you!
What do we do?
You bomb! You bomb you!

Whom bomb?
We bomb you!
Whom bomb?
We bomb you!
Whom bomb? You bomb you!
Whom bomb?
You bomb you!

May 1971

II

For Don Cherry

Whydja bomb?
We didn't wanna bomb!
Whydja bomb?
We didn't wanna bomb!
Whydja bomb?
You didn't wanna bomb!
Whydja bomb?
You didn't wanna bomb!

Who said bomb?
Who said we hadda bomb?
Who said bomb?
Who said we hadda bomb?
Who said bomb?
Who said you hadda bomb?
Who said bomb?
Who said you hadda bomb?

Who wantsa bomb?
We don't wanna bomb!
Who wantsa bomb?
We don't wanna bomb!
Who wantsa bomb?
We don't wanna bomb!
We don't wanna
we don't wanna
we don't wanna bomb!

Who wanteda bomb?
Somebody musta wanteda bomb!
Who wanteda bomb?
Somebody musta wanteda bomb!
Who wanteda bomb?
Somebody musta wanteda bomb!
Who wanteda bomb?
Somebody musta wanteda bomb!

They wanteda bomb!
They neededa bomb!
They wanteda bomb!
They neededa bomb!
They wanteda bomb!
They neededa bomb!
They wanteda bomb!
They neededa bomb!

They thought they hadda bomb!
They thought they hadda bomb!
They thought they hadda bomb!
They thought they hadda bomb!

Saddam said he hadda bomb!
Bush said he better bomb!
Saddam said he hadda bomb!
Bush said he better bomb!
Saddam said he hadda bomb!
Bush said he better bomb!
Saddam said he hadda bomb!
Bush said he better bomb!

Whatdid he say he better bomb for?
Whatdid he say he better bomb for?
Whatdid he say he better bomb for?
Whatdid he say he better bomb for?

Hadda get ridda Saddam with a bomb!
Hadda get ridda Saddam with a bomb!
Hadda get ridda Saddam with a bomb!
Hadda get ridda Saddam with a bomb!

Saddam's still there building a bomb!
Saddam's still there building a bomb!
Saddam's still there building a bomb!
Saddam's still there building a bomb!

III

Armageddon did the job
Gog & Magog Gog & Magog
Armageddon did the job
Gog & Magog Gog & Magog

Gog & Magog Gog & Magog
Armageddon does the job
Gog & Magog Gog & Magog
Armageddon does the job

Armageddon for the mob
Gog & Magog Gog & Magog
Armageddon for the mob
Gog & Magog Gog & Magog

Gog & Magog Gog & Magog
Gog Magog Gog Magog
Gog & Magog Gog & Magog
Gog Magog Gog Magog

Gog Magog Gog Magog
Gog Magog Gog Magog
Gog Magog Gog Magog
Gog Magog Gog Magog


Re: Political Poetry
Posted by: hpesoj (69.116.247.---)
Date: November 07, 2007 05:06PM

Good to see this one back in the rotation more than four years after I first posted it, especially in light of some of the political discussions going on over in the USP. Any more contributions?

Joe




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