Friday, 19 January 2018

Big Breadwinner Hog

‘Big Breadwinner Hog’ was a controversial TV series broadcast in 1969 and a part of the 1960s revolution in morality which displaced Christian morals with relativism. It featured a violent gangster protagonist as ‘anti-hero’. In such series, the police gradually came to be portrayed as ill-motived, incompetent and often corrupt. Hence, the values of traditional police/crime series, such as ‘Gideon’s Way,’ which reflected those of the wider society, were completely upturned.
   The career villain, Mark Duggan, was shot by police in August 2011 in possession of a handgun. The left-wing media and elite attempted to exonerate him as a lovable rascal and to defame the police.
   The Kray Twins, still with a faded notoriety to this day, were arrested in May 1968, found guilty of murder and jailed for life.
   The Great Train Robbery, similarly feted by leftish commentators as more an act of social rebellion than a violent crime, occurred in August 1963.
   And now into this swamp of moral relativism comes mass, and rapidly-growing, Islam, perhaps to impose a further moral revolution?

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“For nothing it availeth us to have been born, save that we were born to be redeemed.” (Exsultet, Holy Saturday liturgy).


Gruff though genial, Gideon of the Yard,
Trimly suited, raps orders from his desk;
Villains are villains, to be dealt with hard
That decent folk might walk the streets
In peace and earn their rusk:
All share a code, stern as a knife,
That’s rule born, disdaining all thugs and cheats,
Expressed in Gideon’s blameless family life.

And then ‘Hog’ Hogarth sneered onto the scene,
Brute-eyed, his morals acid in the face;
With 60s chic and long-nosed guns, a sheen
Of glamour disbowelled public sense –
Rogues became heroes, base
The police; citizens gave laud
To the flagrant flash of dishonest pence
And Hogarth’s violence of bed and bawd.

Fifty years on, the jakes are midden-full:
A villain, Duggan, is shot fleeing arrest
And officers are pilloried as cruel
Assassins; puce, the thought-elite
Declare the gangster blessed;
Self-dupes of moral lazy-eye,
They trample common good with two left feet
Like beasts bullying others in a sty.

All’s rotted by that still-revolving storm
Which flung the Sixties beam-end into wreck,
Which smashed to shards its birth-taught Christian norm,
Replaced it with autonomy
And broke decorum’s neck.
Now public institutions are
A butt, and scoundrels wielding rights make free
To cosh the social realm and spit at law.

Recall the Kray Twins, porcine, Sixties throbs,
Killers who shone in swell society;
The Great Train gang, inauspicious types though thugs,
Who cracked a driver’s skull for gain;
Jailed, yes, though privily
Respected by a rule-shy age;
But who guards private goods and public fane
If civil force may not fling down its gage?

Choked, miners fight to save a fire-damp pit;
Might Hogarth, shamed, stiffen and lend his arm?
Such selfless acts, like pearl around the grit,
At depth are God-induced, but now
The Cross is a dead psalm
What might remould morality?
Looms Islam chanting suras from its dhow – 
Hog, Gideon, both, will surely bend the knee.
 
July 2014

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© July 2014


Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Love's Realism

A poem of disabused experience. By way of comparison, here are links to a couple of early poems of a more hopeful persuasion: ‘My Living’, written in simple syllabics, dates from c. 1973-6 and was posted on 3 September '13; it can be seen here; and ‘Though the Weekday Go’, again in syllabics with a count of 9 and 8, written in 1976 and posted on 5 July '13; it can be seen here.

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Decades of years I’ve spent
   Raging at loss,
Angered by what love meant,
Its heart-confusing gloss;
No lover would remain
Long enough to explain.

An old man now, excised
   Of passion’s roar,
I pace out days unprized
Between my bed and door;
Unchanced to take or give,
What’s left for me to live?
 
===============
© July 2014
 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Roger Nowell, A Cornish Skipper

If you want to know what the life of a Cornish deep-sea fisherman is really like you only have to look at the 1993 BBC TV series 'The Skipper,' (it's on Youtube). Roger Nowell, the eponymous skipper, was one of Newlyn's characters and epitomised the hard, hand-to-mouth existence of many Cornish fishermen. And the dangers of the western sea are all too evident. In the series, Roger was rarely seen without a roll-up in hand or mouth; unfortunately, the consequence was an early death at 66.
 
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i.m. 1944 – 2010

Rough, untutored, though canny as a gull,
Skilled at all net or engine work to keep
The boat steady although its plunging hull
Risks swamping in the freezing western deep;

Blunt, unsettled, pub-haunting when on shore,
At sea philosopher of the tall waves,
Yarning under the moon in the wind’s roar,
Cursing as trawls are cast and the spume raves;

Wasteful of home life, frugal wife and child,
An eye for high-price fish to fiddle from
The fishing log – a ploy since boats began;
Wary yet by the rocking waves beguiled:
A rag-tag stormy petrel, shunned by some,
By all else loved – a Newlyn fisherman!

===============
© July 2014

 

Monday, 27 November 2017

Villanelle: Destruction

"Eheu" is taken from Horace's famous lines "Eheu, fugaces, Postume,Postume,/labuntur anni..." (Alas, Postumus, Postumus, the fleeting years slip by) [Odes Bk II, XIV]. Some critics say "eheu" is pronounced as three syllables, some as two, and some with a sort of dying fall on the second syllable making two and a half. For my purposes it's two, although the other pronunciations work well.

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Eheu, such heartache, all that was is dead,
Lost to the past like wreckage on the tide;
Chastened, the wise man lives within his head.

Tremble of heartstrings, twined by board and bed,
Untuned to din when love and hate collide;
Alas, such heartache, all that was is dead.

A mate and spratling to be clothed and fed,
But crippling horror when that child’s eyes chide;
Chastened, a wise man lives within his head.

Smash up of home when each from each has fled
Implacable as seagulls on the glide;
Eheu, such heartache, all that was is dead.

Years upon years into the night have bled
And each is changed and to the truth has lied;
Chastened, the wise man lives within his head.

But oh to share again what kissing said,
And traipse, a prattling young one at my side;
Alas, such heartache, all that was is dead,
Chastened, a wise man lives within his head.
 
=============== © July 2014


Saturday, 21 October 2017

As Seen

This poem is in syllabics with a count of 8 syllables per line. The stanzas rhyme in pairs, ABCD, except the final stanza which has a single rhyme.

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That robin on the topmost point
Of the luscious spreading maple,
Stark upright in the June-blue sky
With his warrior’s red-blaze breast,

Lazily mutters a disjoint
Song having discharged his staple
Task of feeding the shrilled “I, I
Of his young; stood down, he can rest.

Lower, crazy-active starlings
Tug cherries from the cherry tree;
Its serried leaves like drooping tongues
Pant in the swelling morning heat.

Frantically clinging to gnarlings
Of string-thin branches those birds glee
In fruit, hanging like drunks on rungs,
Wings clattering like rain in wheat.

Lower again, chink-voiced tom tits
Crowd into fresh forsythia
Like scraps on the wind; voracious
For greenfly they trapeze into

Every angle, living on wits,
Heads blue as the banked aubrietia
Below. Abrupt as loquacious
Panhandlers they flee on the hue.

What a chirograph of being:
Above, the sparrow hawk seeing,
Below, the dowdy wren fleeing;
All sustained by light agreeing.

===============
© June 2014
 
 






Friday, 13 October 2017

After Rain

Thistles and nettles after rain
Glow with edenic bliss again

When nothing pricked and nothing stang –
The serpent slept and sucked its fang;

Now raindrops gleam and leafage shines
And light enliquors tines and spines,

The only blot, the slug aslide
The thistle’s rainwashed spring-green hide,

Ulcerous, oozing, a mucous clot,
Emballing to a muscled knot

When prodded in its striate back –
Pockmarked brown and slime-glossed black:

Who can deny, post-eden days,
Old Nick still slithers at his ways,

Saucing spine and sharping bristle
Of nettles and the skin-snag thistle?

===============
© May 2014

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Samuel Johnson: Belated Anniversary of His Birth

Samuel Johnson was born on 18 Sept 1709 and it is well worthwhile remembering his anniversary. In June 1981 I wrote a poem, ‘On the Death-Mask of Samuel Johnson’. I posted it on my blogsite on 6 September 2012. There is a link here. I wrote the poem after being hugely impressed by Johnson’s poems and reading the recently-published mighty biography of Johnson by Walter Jackson Bate. Although I also remember giving up on ‘Rasselas’ after the first few chapters. My poem refers to a number of well-known biographical details of Johnson’s life. Below are the first five stanzas of the eight stanza poem. Those who read to the end will notice the imperfect rhyme in the last line. I was less sensitive to such things in those days; when I looked at the poem again in 2012 prior to posting I could not find an alternative which said what I wanted to say, hence the rhyme remains.

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ON THE DEATH-MASK OF SAMUEL JOHNSON

Silent in the toils of death
Sweet pugnacious Johnson lies,
No disturbance of a breath
Mars the thinking in his eyes.
Hard at work and hard at thought
Somewhere he makes headway with
Problems how a soul should live –
Once the teacher, now the taught.

Through the window in the street
Sooty sparrows feed and fight,
Citizens on business meet
To gull each other day and night.
Johnson and his commonsense,
Treating with the tragic muse,
Goes unnoticed by the queues
Wailing for their rightful pence.

Forms decay and mobs go out
Roaring that the streets are theirs,
Protest stumbles into rout,
Looters grab their fairer shares.
Ugly prophets, lithe of voice,
Put their callous point of view:
“Beat your neighbour – when you do
Make it plain you had no choice.”

Yet for all this public noise
Nothing is so altered that
Miseries give way to joys:
Every beggar has his hat,
Every child a bite of food,
But before a cheer can rise
Someone finds with angry cries
A violation of the good.

Johnson, Savage and the rest,
Walking London streets at night,
Talked till dawn about the best,
Argued Tory points of right;
Wary of what pundits bring
They agreed to drink a toast
When they might afford the cost,
“Gentlemen, God bless the King!”

Read the rest here.