When the proud crowds march
And wave their banners
And bravely lung their chants,
I fear for innocence, and despair
At how easily discontent turns
To bile and anger and deeds done
In the name of Something Better,
That merely blood the young
In battles fought in righteousness
As by old crusaders cleaving
Mohammedans in the Holy Land.
So what I wonder should I tell my sons?
Trust no-one? Trust everyone?
Or simply keep away from crowds,
Those Mobius bands,
That run truth into the gutters.
It is no better to yell than it is to mutter.
So speak evenly and listen,
And stiffen the sinews only
For the hell that dogmas brew.
NOTE: Recently, I read a debate in the current utterly splendid literary journal Acumen about the relationship between poetry and politics (Yeats, Neruda, Blake, Owen, but no mentions for Pasternak, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva or Mandelstam - Lionel Trilling said that the place where politics and literature meet is "a bloody crossroads", and it certainly was for the latter four great poets). I myself tend to write 'confessional' poetry (in other words it is all about me, me, me) so I thought I'd have a bash at a political poem - and still I end up in there. This is really just a poorly disguised way of saying I don't like crowds. They are very easy to manipulate. Madonna tried to manipulate me once, but I was having none of it... (Note to note: the cleaving of the Mohammedans was inspired by watching James Purefoy - playing a Templar just back from the Holy Land - cleave a mercenary Dane in the extremely cleave-full movie 'Ironclad'. There is sometimes no telling with synchronicity.)