‘…Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib’d alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confin’d;
Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind…’
Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
When I was a pre-pubescent boy, I read
The Eagle – having graduated from
the seditious slapstick of The Beano
and The Dandy – a comic with Christian
values, though the masthead did not say so.
Its heroes were square-jawed with no moral flaws:
Dan Dare, Storm Nelson, PC 49,
Harris Tweed and Tommy Walls – ice cream
and woven cloth, such product placements!
The centre pages showed cutaways of
torpedo boats and aircraft carriers.
The prevalent villain was the Mekon
from Venus, with his hydrocephalic head,
riding some technological wizardry.
But worthiness would always triumph.
The lives of St Patrick and St Paul
featured, if I remember – citizens
of Rome and brothers in Christ triumphant.
I thought of those evolutionary charts,
beloved of late Victorians, showing
homo sapiens – upright, striding forth –
ascending left to right from ambling apes,
thought progress inevitable
when, adolescent and idealistic,
a young man and political, I believed
we could build Jerusalem, make it
as clean as Dan Dare’s London, make it
out of kindness and justice and children
ascending but we are slamming fast – even
unto the third and fourth generation –
the gates of mercy.
Note: The poem has been featured in ‘INTO AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE WITH DAN DARE’ – http://kjohnsonnz.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/into-uncertain-future-with-dan-dare.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=linkedin