(or, Poetic Justice)

1 - Violent Symbols

The sword you adopted was misshapen.
Chivalry and honour an excuse for a feuding device,
heraldic insignia, pride's immature vice.
Institutionalised brawling with long knives and badge.
Simply a gangland carve-up; or Capulet's vainglorious boast.
Symbolic of strife....it's the quest for status dominating historical trend
(except religion muddies the gentlemanly end)
and heavenly hosts do battle over the hearts and minds of Dark Age sinners.
Paranoid, delusional; full of monkish ire (and still a flaming sword, Crusader style)
Hollywood's romantic sniff is Flynn's flying thigh – De Havilland's moonlight smile
Death in cape and tights is a youth-enhancing performance, making young men weep....
Such a glorious sound, full of flags and stomping horsemanship
though really just a melee in a coconut shy,
where severed heads, returned with interest, cheerfully vie.
We fenced till sunset, my father and I.
Gloveless hand with red bruising, a knuckled sound often oozing.
An iron defence he taught, where only words could still flay,
those banners on proud parapets, jeering syllables survey.
1948 was a year born to evolutionary ferment,
when I sheathed Arthur's sword into setting cement.
And an apocalyptic rejection of much that before.
Our history; past and present, a serious gas leak did proclaim....
A match to the 60's sky over Vietnam, was your bane,
that responded with lightning, a guitar held on high, truth's standard now risen, earth's war-dead let fly.

The art of the metalsmith, sweating over anvil and song.
So malignantly metallic under moonlights pale casting
(and latent with greed to the hilt's bloody feasting)
But the plough has longer lustre, and infallibly at morning muster,
turns over old battlefields, where rusting bones do ply,
the trade of arms to diggers in the corner of our vision.
Where a rather large burial mound does suddenly appear
and Medrin's gloomy prophesy does inspire a lasting fear
that cloud-enshrouded articles of faith, cast too strong.
Is ever the province of princes – glory dreaming – always wrong.

2 - The Lens of History


The History you lived by was wrong, starting with that weather,
God's favoured weapon – and the destruction of galleons in 1588.
(Actually the Spanish landed post-Armada giving a fingered sign of benediction)
whilst en-route establishing a cardinal fiction, that the English were an island in isolation,
free to profit by distant machination!
To enjoy a favoured status (until steamships tested that flatulent myth)
and an admirable deterrent arms race in 1914, gave birth, in bloody pointless war
to weathered reports, undermining sea defences (plus part 2 viewed in cinematographic gore)

The Dunkirk spirit often evoked, when defeated in battle we thanked Hitler who choked!
….choked by propaganda bulletins more scary than Grimm.
Logically extended to demonise Russians within.
….within shadowed doorways smoking, our unshaven enemy, those bearskin ruffians baited,
was really on our side; bombastic Texans feted.

Britannia ruled the seas, in defence of slavery, sugar and strategies.
Slavery presided over wealth of Empire which then abandoned it to exploit slave conditions at home.
Digging deep into landscape, it picked a blackened pit-of-profit, where even canaries were taken for a ride.
….a one-way descent into the heart of national pride.

The world back then was still craven in faded red, heroically moulded in illusions that bled.
A truism; that Englishness is nothing special or superior in any way post-spherical.
No! And to my watching inner forebears, your complicity I absolve, because you, like me, fell victim to educated narrow-mindedness..., jingoistic dreams, full of whisky and beef.
Colonial sunsets in stark disbelief.
If this was all just history, it probably wouldn't matter; we'd still have time to swap stories
over an Anglo-Saxon beverage,under the shadows of Kentish oast-houses,
pointing blue-grey fingers into the historical murk....If only.
..Oh my father, the books we shared (G.H.Henty, Hornblower, Dennis Wheatley and the like)
Boys own adventures into Biggles’ last flight.
Remaking the history we liked, but chosen, we thought, to ignore that which we didn't....
….For while most of us sleep, spiders weave dreams of Imperial deceit.
Armies and ships still straddle the globe in our name, like it or not.
“He was killed by 'friendly' fire” (sent to Heaven by pals in self-denial)
These words are our only real sop, for a power still hungry for glorious mop..,(threadbare but serviceable)
A bitter-sweet legacy (a persistent idiocy for people left lonely)
as walking the dead seems ever our homily.
So to my ancestors, I apologise, no harm do I mean, only to your calling, a privateers' free-market spleen.
You writers of history may never stop long, in the territories and accidents that were ever your trade.
But you always wrote in English.
In essence always wrong.

3 - For Queen and Country

The encrusted monarch your oath is entrusted to, has recently been seen dressed in a tutu...
A tizz at the bottom of an archivist's lost manuscript,
means everyone (from Edward IV onwards) wears a spuriously minted lip!
An ancestral man sunk in an embracing clinch, out of love, did spawn a right royal glitch.
And a monarchical history now marred in controversy, in effect, by its own rules, an inherited false legacy.
How can we say that this oath to our Crown, is just bastardised English for a, “Who-mi-wat” scam?
(or a prerogative derogative for a grammar school plan)
Human nature one might blame for this ludicrous legitimacy,
(whisper) “It isn't only heirs presumptive hid in hiccups for lost progeny”.
For monkey-business melodrama in a treetop neighbourhood,
sends all fruit picking crazy in a jasmine-scented backwood!
My father when home was the cook and 'how',
though mother looking put out would frown on errant 'meow'.
As when eggs being scrambled, with yellow bits excluded, shouted,
“Eat up! You're a man, not a sissy introverted.
I can box the best of you – and wipe that stupid grin, forbidden class of 61, I'm Gentleman Jim!”
Children are so often an extension of their parents’ foreign policy – making monarchy almost inevitable – though there was a past in ancient times when nepotism had nothing to do with it.
So it's a comic opera, illusionist’s projection, peeking back through history's notional collection.
Where ludicrous 'Keystone' moments light up schoolboy insurrection.
...And a resident cowboy-in-waiting in Aussie-land is supposedly our King,
descendant of true-blue Yorkshire clan!
Who, knowing full well his rightful legitimacy, amusingly insists, he's a republican non-entity.
Ah!...We're back where stories were begun, and rightfully said, “Is fool’s work ever done?”
Encapsulated secrets our studies do unfold,
as inconvenient metaphors rise like garden rooks unspoken,
bidding the spade that laziness does prolong,
sanctioned by royal emptiness, this model, always wrong.

Paul Ellis April 2010.



For a very different exploration of British national identity myths, try the story by Hedwind.

Or click here for information on Paul Ellis

Or here to return to Natterjack Poetry and Fiction

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