‘O what fine thought we had because we thought
That the worst rogues and rascals had died out.’
NINETEEN HUNDRED AND NINETEEN, W.B. Yeats
Where the four main thoroughfares of our erstwhile
Roman city meet, a many-legged dragon,
in vivid gold and red, curved and reared, to gongs,
drums, fire crackers on a February day.
Dancers whirled long white ribbons, a whorl
of streamers like a wild, wispy sky.
This was the year of the omnivorous Pig,
saturninely devouring its own children.
Next is the Rat, ubiquitous, cunning –
happy for self-harming fools, tax-dodging knaves.
Some of the elected representatives
of the people turned their tailored backs
on ‘The Ode to Joy’ – Alle Menschen
werden Brüder – that song of protest,
that anthem of jubilant community.
Two hundred years ago was Peterloo,
one hundred Amritsar. Injustice
is never forgotten – and good sense
may prevail. The parochial rhetoric
of violent, bitter men may choke them,
in their locked courts and gated houses!
The wisdom of the crowd, not its ineptness,
its ignorance, its folly may save us:
reform our lottery democracy,
unite Ireland, free Scotland, make Wales
autonomous, England a federation!
The new decade is close. You can hear
its jostling caravanserai of guile
and deceit; its proxy civil wars; its
alchemy of assertions made truths,
lies transmogrified into speculations,
hatreds tempered into virtues, histories
traduced, honesty persecuted.
But listen! There, far off, is a mustering
of rustling drums, the subtle summonings
of gongs. Let chaos be our only hope,
and the triumph of youth!