17 September 2010

Brittania's Lament

I watch you drag and drone and bluster,
Light the candles, flap and fluster,
Silken robes and cups of gold,
Ancient when the world was old,
Cloaked in culture’s faded glory,
Heaven, Hell and Purgatory,
Saints and spirits through the ages,
Silver crosses, gilded cages,
All the trappings man can render
Asking faith in faith’s defender.
I watch you simper, fawn and scrape,
Tugging on the pontiff’s cape,
Out you reach, at every whim,
To shower praises onto him,
Lapping up the words he spills,
And ranting on the nation’s ills,
Some are earnest, some are cynics,
All are supine, all are mimics,
Do you think that I, of yore,
Have not this pageant seen before?
An ancient line have I to boast,
Of glories heaped from coast to coast,
And boastful often have I been,
About my blessed fields of green,
About my people, fair and strong,
Who love the right and shun the wrong,
Of all the battles they have fought,
Whom pain and pride have wisdom taught,
Who mapped the skies and sailed the sea,
And cast off wretched tyranny.
And, yes, their pride has often led
To horrors heaped upon my head,
To slavery and pointless war,
Repression of the humble poor,
The flames of hatred often fanned,
Across my green and pleasant land,
Such wisdom rarely comes for free,
The price, too often, agony,
But slowly, though the cost was vast,
They learned the lessons of the past.
I picture now a flame-haired queen,
With lustrous locks of auburn sheen,
Atop a chariot of pine,
Her image now the cast of mine,
By war usurped from hearth and home,
Resisting all the might of Rome,
A woman, powerful and great,
An image that you roundly hate,
For you, oh lordly Pontifex,
Decry the worth of female sex,
Condemn full half of humankind
Unwilling still to change your mind,
To free from bondage to the womb,
And let their chained potential bloom,
And rather numbers be increased,
Than even one become a priest.
I see another, ‘neath a horse,
She bleeds her last upon the course,
A sacrifice to free her nation,
Know I stand for Liberation.
I picture now a doctor brave,
He sweats to find the means to save
The lives of thousands wracked with pain,
Applying skills of hand and brain,
To isolate and grow in mass
The mould upon the moulded glass
Penicilium Notatum
Thanks to which his patients hearten
That their suffering is ended
Lives renewed and bodies mended,
Hope resounds and interest swells,
In new research on human cells,
And means to combat all diseases,
Come as what we know increases.
Yet, you would see progress thwarted,
Lives unnumbered blithely slaughtered,
Just on dogma’s ancient teaching,
‘gainst the hand of man o’erreaching
Deadly philistine defiance,
Know I stand for Good through Science.
Now I see a man has died,

An apple laced with cyanide,
Never mind he changed our lives,
And from his works our world derives,
That mathematics overjoyed him,
Still my people have destroyed him.
Like they did with witty Wilde,
Yet another darling child,
Both were hounded, for the same,
Love that dare not speak its name.
But, at last, my people learned,
Ancient attitudes were turned,
Love was vaunted over hate,
Man or woman, gay or straight,
Rights to marry, rights to love,
Shouted to the stars above,
This you scorn, and evil call,
Vaunting shame and hurt for all.
Turn from such a sordid sequel,
Know I think that All are Equal.
I watch you prostitute my fame,
By trading on my hard-won name,
By selling out on all I gave thee,
All your history has made me,
Writ in grease, a coward’s charter,
Spitting on my Magna Carta,
Spurning Hume and Hobbes and Milton,
Telling lies to tortured children,
Acquiescing in corruption,
Trading truth for pained induction,
Welcoming this king of priests,
To share the bounty of your feasts,
Vilest hatreds flat ignoring,
All my noble virtues whoring.
This is not your finest hour,
Led by fools obsessed with power,
Greeting critics with derision,
All to pander to religion.
Well, you’ve made your choice, now bear it.
Know Britannia does not share it.

(with thanks to my friend VP for permission to reproduce his wonderful poem which encapsulates how many of us feel)

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