Jump to content
Poetry Magnum Opus

The British Empire (an outside view)


dedalus

Recommended Posts

Lies, lies, and yet more lies,

pedantically, unctuously spoken;

it’s so difficult actively to hate the English

when you meet them in their island home,

when you understand their bluff and shallow reasoning.

Promises and agreements are routinely broken

until violence brings forth counter-violence,

but they train for violence, they seem to like it,

they have the best little army in the world;

they only tend to give in when you won’t give up

after a few thousand (unnecessary) deaths

and then they compare it to rugby or cricket.

Divide and Rule: it worked, but it won’t go away:

India/ Pakistan

Israel/ Palestine

Ireland/ Northern Ireland.

That’s just the way they are, the neighbours,

and it would help such an awful hell of a lot

if they didn’t live next door.

Edited by dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites

Fantastic, Brendan. This poem came at just the right time for a family member (I shared it with her) who has recently returned from a disastorous experience on the island. Here's one by English poet Philip Larkin (from his Collected Poems):

 

 

The Importance of Elsewhere

 

Lonely in Ireland, since it was not home,

Strangeness made sense. The salt rebuff of speech,

Insisting so on difference, made me welcome:

Once that was recognised, we were in touch.

 

Their draughty streets, end-on to hills, the faint

Archaic smell of dockland, like a stable,

The herring-hawker's cry, dwindling, went

To prove me separate, not unworkable.

 

Living in England has no such excuse:

These are my customs and establishments

It would be much more serious to refuse.

Here no elsewhere underwrites my existence.

 

 

I hope you don't mind me sharing Larkin's poem here. It just seemed to perfectly compliment your poem.

 

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

Link to post
Share on other sites

I loved the Larkin poem, Tony ...

 

The salt rebuff of speech,

Insisting so on difference, made me welcome:

 

Maybe an Englishman would see it that way ... but there is no insistence; the difference is just naturally there.

 

Brendan

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites
Deleted.

 

Oh, come on, Frank!! Don't be such a wuss. Give me a hard time, why not? Anyway, Britain gave up its still rather extensive empire -- India, Malaya and large tracts of Africa -- more or less voluntarily after the Second War, particularly during the MacMillan years (1957-64?) and the majority of Britons have never missed it since. I believe this was a conscious choice between maintaining imperial control overseas or preserving a democracy at home ... and the British electorate, both Labour and Tory, made a wise decision in favour of the latter. This is something the American electorate will shortly have to decide about as well: they can't hope to carry on the way they are going. You cannot balance power politics and coercion overseas with republican principles at home. Rome famously lost its republic; Britain maintained its parliamentary democracy; it remains to be seen what will happen with the USA.

 

Britain still has extremely loyal bits and bobs: just think of Gibraltar and the Falklands, and then there's still Bermuda (I think!) and St. Lucia and St. Helena and a string of other places that hang on to Britain for dear life. Ulster does sometimes come to mind in this context ("Wu'll fayt ye if we hofta for the rayt to remayne Bruttish!!") Of course now you can afford to choose your friends and that's generally a good thing; it's the hangers-on in the family that generally cause the most embarrassing problems.

 

Anyway, go on and say what you think. I can't really see you as a great fan of Rudyard Kipling and Cecil Rhodes and Lord Kitchener (among others) but if you want to have a go at the ungrateful bleedin' Paddies then tear away. Stick as close to the facts as you can, though.

 

I'm just back from Europe where I visited (among a host of other things) the old battlefields of the Ypres Salient and a number of CGC cemeteries including the rather recent (1998) Ireland Peace Park opened jointly by the Queen, the President of Ireland (Mary MacAleese) and King Albert of the Belgians on the Messines Ridge where the 36th Ulster Division (formerly anti-Home Rule members of the UVF) fought together with the 16th Irish Division (Southern Catholics). It's not all hopeless.

 

There's an excellent book (also on Audio) by a guy called Sebastian Barry called "A Long Long Way" about a young Dublin guy who goes off to fight with the Dublin Fusiliers in 1915. While he's fighting with his mates in Belgium the 1916 Rebellion takes place in Dublin. The boys are outraged ... at the bloody rebels!! It's a devastating book not because it tries to make political points, but because it doesn't. It shows these guys trying to look out for one another in an increasingly murderous and mechanical war (from which there is no escape apart from wounds and death) while the people at home turn against them and their British officers begin to openly distrust them and accuse them of disloyalty. Until Mary MacAleese came along there was never any attempt to resolve this. I know. I used to see some of these trench survivors when I was a wee kid and nobody had any time for them. If you are still vaguely interested (doubtful, I know) have a look at this article I wrote after my first visit to Ypres and the Somme in 2000:

http://dublinerinjapan.blogspot.com/2005/1...istice-day.html

 

I don't know why I bother with you, Frank. Ahh no, I do ...

 

All the best,

Brendan/ dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites
Frank E Gibbard
Deleted.

 

Oh, come on, Frank!! Don't be such a wuss. Give me a hard time, why not? Anyway, Britain gave up its still rather extensive empire -- India, Malaya and large tracts of Africa -- more or less voluntarily after the Second War, particularly during the MacMillan years (1957-64?) and the majority of Britons have never missed it since. I believe this was a conscious choice between maintaining imperial control overseas or preserving a democracy at home ... and the British electorate, both Labour and Tory, made a wise decision in favour of the latter. This is something the American electorate will shortly have to decide about as well: they can't hope to carry on the way they are going. You cannot balance power politics and coercion overseas with republican principles at home. Rome famously lost its republic; Britain maintained its parliamentary democracy; it remains to be seen what will happen with the USA.

 

Britain still has extremely loyal bits and bobs: just think of Gibraltar and the Falklands, and then there's still Bermuda (I think!) and St. Lucia and St. Helena and a string of other places that hang on to Britain for dear life. Ulster does sometimes come to mind in this context ("Wu'll fayt ye if we hofta for the rayt to remayne Bruttish!!") Of course now you can afford to choose your friends and that's generally a good thing; it's the hangers-on in the family that generally cause the most embarrassing problems.

 

Anyway, go on and say what you think. I can't really see you as a great fan of Rudyard Kipling and Cecil Rhodes and Lord Kitchener (among others) but if you want to have a go at the ungrateful bleedin' Paddies then tear away. Stick as close to the facts as you can, though.

 

I'm just back from Europe where I visited (among a host of other things) the old battlefields of the Ypres Salient and a number of CGC cemeteries including the rather recent (1998) Ireland Peace Park opened jointly by the Queen, the President of Ireland (Mary MacAleese) and King Albert of the Belgians on the Messines Ridge where the 36th Ulster Division (formerly anti-Home Rule members of the UVF) fought together with the 16th Irish Division (Southern Catholics). It's not all hopeless.

 

There's an excellent book (also on Audio) by a guy called Sebastian Barry called "A Long Long Way" about a young Dublin guy who goes off to fight with the Dublin Fusiliers in 1915. While he's fighting with his mates in Belgium the 1916 Rebellion takes place in Dublin. The boys are outraged ... at the bloody rebels!! It's a devastating book not because it tries to make political points, but because it doesn't. It shows these guys trying to look out for one another in an increasingly murderous and mechanical war (from which there is no escape apart from wounds and death) while the people at home turn against them and their British officers begin to openly distrust them and accuse them of disloyalty. Until Mary MacAleese came along there was never any attempt to resolve this. I know. I used to see some of these trench survivors when I was a wee kid and nobody had any time for them. If you are still vaguely interested (doubtful, I know) have a look at this article I wrote after my first visit to Ypres and the Somme in 2000:

http://dublinerinjapan.blogspot.com/2005/1...istice-day.html

 

I don't know why I bother with you, Frank. Ahh no, I do ...

 

All the best,

Brendan/ dedalus

 

What? I deleted and did not see how you would then be posting this, are you clairvoyant Brendan?

Well again as is your wont you want to draw conclusions about what I may be about when deleting my post. Nor would I have avoided giving you an argument. And not due to wussiness I would aver, but because remembering the site rules I decided not to be openly in dispute with another member. I really have no time at the moment to continue this as I have to go to an urgent meeting of the Oliver Cromwell appreciation society as you may imagine. I am sorry Tony if you should not like to have these sorts of open exchanges on here but I must assert my views as the English person I am, even if half Irish which I do not disavow and never have.

 

Anyway I was not going to respond to this after deep reflection, did so in temper, then thought better after posting with no deletion option.

 

What I will explain is what bothered me about your poem if you can be still bothered with me the line about it being hard to hate the English, oh thanks, based on what % of the English as a whole that you pass such generalised judgements. I hate generalisations that have upheld racial and cultural stereotyping as were made about the Irish in the past so tell me that one such was not being indulged by you here. If it was not I owe you an apology.

 

I am sorry by the way about slavery, the Irish Potato Famine, The Highland Clearances, Oliver Cromwell, The Black and Tans, The URC and Bloody Sunday & the bloody all low-case british empire, But I do not like Bush's friend Bono, sorry he's a hypocritical prat IMO, see - no wuss me, not afraid of saints even. Bob G's a good fellow though.

 

And finally I will read your article and you were wrong to assume I would not. I am not going to have ago at any paddies (your words) or dispute the history of Anglo-Irish involvements with someone vastly more knowledgeable than I. You have a tendancy to assume things, you know the old aphorism "making an ass of you and I."

 

There it's all out in the open with none of the duplicitous sneeky English deployment of a dagger in a silk glove, just like the good old pre-PC days of "NO IRISH" signs in the Hammersmith windows. We can still keep it light, can't we? Hope others can get the ironic humour when intended. (I was just reading Dean Swift's famous directive to the impoverished Irish families the other day funnily enough Dedly). Irony deficiency is a problem in some folk as we know. I've calmed down now Brendan. Did you visit Britain? Sorry we couldn't meet, no honest, my medical limitations did proclude tempting possibilities. I meant to give you my number at least but forgot.Toodlepip, Frank.

Edited by Frank E Gibbard
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hiya Frank,

 

Well, you started off angry and then you calmed down considerably. That's always a good sign. I'm not assuming or presuming anything, believe me. I'm not out after you or any other person who happens to be English although I can imagine how you might just possibly entertain this notion. Do I blame Frank G for the history of the British Empire? No, I do not. Some bits of it were actually not all that bad. I'm trying to remember which. Well, look at Gibraltar, for example. Do they want to go back to Spain? Absolutely not. Do the Falklands want to be Argentinian? Not a bit of it, not even the sheep. Other bits, of course, had diffferent opinions on the matter.

 

Dialogue is all. I like a good chat, a "forthright" exchange of ideas, even a jolly old barney from time to time. There's no hidden agendas, nothing personal, small-minded or malicious in any of this. It could be I'm totally naieve, just a colossal thumping idiot. No need to agree too quickly, pal, but every possibility needs to be looked into!

 

Anyway, I'm tremendously pleased I managed to winkle a response out of you ... and do have a look at the article. Some things go beyond the give and take of daily nonsense and tend to literally overwhelm you. I'm afraid this was one of them and it still is. I still can't fathom the enormity of what happened to these guys ... and you must know I am not just talking about the Irish.

 

All the best,

Brendan/ dedalus

Drown your sorrows in drink, by all means, but the real sorrows can swim

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Brendan, Political poetry can certainly push buttons, that is one of the reasons it is written. I try to read it as means to understanding a singular point of view. :icon_cool: This poem is no exception and was actually a bit surprising to me in that it is a totally different perception from my own view and it was interesting.

 

Of course I have never been to the UK and admittedly at one time I had a secret crush on Tony Blair who even the Brits don't like anymore. I have always admired the Brits for their tenatious character, I am a big fan of Kipling, Gunga Din with Cary Grant (a classic), love their movies (Death at a Funeral, one of the funniest movies I've seen in a long time), but their politics -something I know little of so this poem's perspective gave me something to think about.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.