Light-reflecting water glistens,
Coloured houses shade to grey,
Here a tomcat sits and listens,
There a seagull flaps away,
Sounds of cheer from people feeding
Reach the steamer by the quay,
As I watch the day receding
From the waterfront and me.
Does a Spanish galleon lie yet
Out somewhere, beneath these waves?
Do old timbers still snag fish-nets,
Like drowned corpses seeking graves?
Darkness like the tide’s a-swelling;
Tobermory’s not for telling.


It seems to me, it’s plain to see,
You have no right to disagree,
And if you do, I guarantee
I’ll rave and scream and shout.

You are a Fascist, racist pig,
I don’t care if your brain is big,
You’re not like me. Who me, a prig?
There is no room for doubt.

I never look at both sides, since
A rationale just makes me wince.
I know what’s right; I won’t debate;
Your view's the kind of thing I hate!

I’m very glad I’m not like you,
You’re really not worth talking to,
I’m so much better, through and through,
And your kind simply stink.

Don’t ask me why I feel this way
Or for alternatives inveigh,
You’re just like Hitler anyway.
No! I won’t pause and think.

I never see both sides because
I only need my friends’ applause.
When I’m in charge, I’ll change the rules
I don’t have time to waste on fools!

And, once I’m done, there’ll be no place
For those whose thoughts are mean and base
And I shall build a master race
Who all think just the same.

Conformity shall be the key,
When all from difference are free,
Where people who think just like me
True righteousness proclaim.

I’ll never look at both sides then,
There’ll only be one side, and, when
There’s no dissenting view to preach,
I’ll call what’s left freedom of speech!


I know a place where ‘thou’ is spoken yet.
A blessed land where many folk I’ve met
In language that they would not dream to swap,
Use ‘t’ for ‘the’ and all their aitches drop.
Though, sadly, speech and time itself moves on,
And yon old Jacobean world has gone,
Us blokes employing ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ and such
May be less common now than Double Dutch,
But Old Norse? Anglo-Saxon? Ee-bah-gum!
Tha knows nowt til tha’s learned some Tyke, my son!

It can be ‘ard, Al not deny this fact
To write in Tyke an’ keep iambs intact.
Let ‘im as thinks ‘e can do better, try.
An’ mines a pint. Al sithee, by an’ by.

Poets Respond

I've recently taken an interest in Rattle's section devoted to poetry about the news. I suspect it's doubtful whether news from an idiosyncratic UK perspective would particularly appeal to their audience, but it's been a useful exercise for me. Here are some of my efforts:

5 May 2017


You might have thought he would have learned before,
Obama, when he cast the Brexit runes,
Telling the British how they should vote for
Europe, not go off whistling their own tunes.
Well, his advice did not go down so well;
You know what?” says we. “Do give it a rest!
We don't know much but one thing we can tell
Is when some foreign bloke tells us what's best
For us, we growl, “Go take a running jump!”
But no! He's back to tell the French to vote
For Macron, who was winning but now slumps.
So listen over there and please take note:
If you think we should move, cry out “Stand still!”
Lo and behold, you might just find we will.

7 April 2017


It's nothing like Ceuta and Melilla we declare,
Those towns are little bits of Spain upon Moroccan shores.
Gibraltar's not like that at all; you can't even compare -
That town's a little bit of Spain that happens to be yours!
You can't expect a modern state just to put up with this,
Investment flows like water there and no-one's unemployed;
They don't pay Spanish taxes; they're just like the dratted Swiss,
While here we're poor and needy, there the high life is enjoyed.
We know we signed a treaty, but it was a while ago.
We kept our word three centuries, well, surely that's enough?
Now we are short of money, so we think you ought to know
We'll let you have your Brexit, in return for easy stuff -
Like giving us Gibraltar back. Who cares how locals vote?
If we blockade the border what will they do? Bloody float?

25 March 2017


At last the mooring's loose! So long we've dithered in this port
I feared our ship had taken root and trembling willow
We'd become instead of English oak. Now praise the thought!
Once more our bark's afloat - alive upon life's billows
Not moored fast by an alien shore where weed grows on our keel
And worms gnaw courage from our vitals with their slothful stealth.
We may not be the men our fathers were, with ships of steel
That carved industrial empires, bringing home such wealth
As built a nation out of china clay and wool and steam
But let us only breath sea air again, bestride the deck
And feel the rollers pass beneath our hull, working our seams,
Filling our sails with hope, quitting the landlocked wreck,
Just let us once again be free and let us then
Follow a nobler course and live like Englishmen!

17 March 2017


I would not mind this half so much
If you would tell the truth,
If you'd stand up like honest folk
And not deceive our youth.

You stuff young heads with fantasy
And promises galore
Of how a fair society
Comes just by asking for.

We that are old have seen it all
So many, many times
From those who've proffered paradise.
Let's read between the lines:

The fact is Scotland will be poor
If we go off alone.
Taxes will rise and all our lives
We'll cut back to the bone.

Now maybe that's what they will choose,
Our young, if told what's what,
And if that's so, good luck to them
I won't complain a jot.

But don't pretend, for pity's sake
We'll have our cake and eat.
Don't promise them a fairyland
You know you can't complete.

Their streets will not be paved with gold,
Their wallets will be thin,
And once they're out the door they're out,
If they are taken in.

No Escape

Owd Noah ‘ad a magic cloak wi’ ‘ygroscopic properties,
That is ter say ‘e wore it when ‘e wanted it to rain.
‘E got it from the weather clerk, the archangel ‘ose job it is
Ter turn them ‘eavenly sprinklers on, and ter turn ‘em off again.

“Nar listen ‘ere, owd Noah,” says the archangel ‘oo give it ‘im,
“This ‘ere’s a mighty BIG job that The Lord ‘as given thee.
No matter what’s on TV, or if the football’s rivettin’
Jus’ thee mind an’ tek thy cape off, lad, afore thee ‘as thy tea!”

Nar Noah was a good soul, though some would say a wally. ‘Ey,
For years and years ‘e did the job and never would complain,
‘E organised the sunny spells so folks could go on ‘oliday,
And then ‘e put ‘is cape back on, an’ ‘e give the farmers rain.

When Noah turned six ‘undred, ‘e were old an’ a bit silly, like,
An’ ‘e got a bit forgetful, as very well ‘e might,
‘E went up Blackpool Tower wi’ ‘is cape on, ‘cos ‘t were chilly, like,
An’ e sat down in a deck chair, an ‘e fell asleep all night.

When Noah woke next morning, ‘e saw all the world were water,
An’ t’ top of Blackpool Tower were the only bit left dry.
The angel said “’Ee Noah lad, there’s been an awful slaughter,
An’, there’s thee wi’ thy cape on still as t’ floods are risin’ ’igh.”

“Oh dearie me!” says Noah, an’ ‘e jumped up from ‘is deck chair,
‘E took is cape off straight away; ‘e’d ‘ad an awful fright,
“What shall we do? All Lankyshire is waterlogged and wrecked; there
Is not a chance Old Trafford’s pitch’ll be playable tonight!”

“I’ll tell thee what,” says t’ angel, “’Ere’s what’ll see us through lad,
We’ll cut off top o’t’ tower, like, and mek a kind o’ boat
An’ tha’ can bring all t’ animals that live in t’ Tower Zoo, lad
An’ we can call it Noah’s Ark an’ eastward we shall float.”

“An’ when we’ve crossed o’er t’ Pennines ‘igh, then we shall find an ‘ome, lad,
In t’ West Riding o’ Yorkshire; we’ll in God’s county dwell,
Meanwhile I’ll shove this water ‘ere, right out in t’ ‘lantic foam, lad,
An’ if ’n t’ sea gets deeper, well, be years ‘fore they can tell.”

So all thee long-‘aired scientists, wi’ thy dire prognostications,
Wi’ all thy glaciers meltin’ fast and and all thy stats on tape,
It’s nowt ter do wi’ isobars, or green’ouse emanations,
An’ it’s nowt ter do wi’ climate change; it’s ‘cos of Noah’s Cape!


by Heinrich Heine (1822)
paraphrased in translation 2012

I know neither rhyme nor yet reason
Why the sight of this rock frights me so,
Unless I'm caught up out of season,
In a tragedy here long ago.

The air murmurs soft in the gloaming,
As Old Father Rhine makes his way
Through this cavernous gorge, rapids foaming,
Whilst the high peaks catch sunshine's last rays.

But wait, does that glow hide a maiden
All artlessly combing her hair?
Oh see, clothed in fine golden raiment,
She glistens and glimmers up there.

And hark! As she combs out her tresses,
She's singing a sweet faerie song;
Its melody softly caresses
A doomed man that it draws along.

Lo! There in his ferry the boatman
Enthralled can do nothing but sigh;
His skill will not keep him afloat when
His gaze is directed on high.

Oh boatman, have care of the river
Lest it swallow both you and your boat!
Ah no! You are captured for ever
By the whisp'ring rock's magical note.

Nil Desperandum 

The artist sadly pondered, as he sat out in the sun,
That the best of all his paintings were the ones not yet begun,
For, although those completed had each at least one flaw,
They’d all of them been perfect when he’d thought of them before.

So let’s take a lesson from him, as we on life’s canvas scrawl,
Though our schemes may not work out right, or may not work out at all,
For, if to err is human, and to forgive divine,
We may yet be things of beauty when He comes to draw the line.

The Castle in the Marches

At the horizon, misty purple haze
Hides trackless borderland, a heather ridge
Whence lawless reivers of long bygone days
Stormed from the hills down to the castle bridge.

See, from this crumbling remnant of a tower,
Where now the swallows flit and soar,
A sentry would, for many a wistful hour
Watch for the peril coming from that moor.

Above these stones he once his vigil kept,
In silent patience; armoured, strong and proud.
Beneath these same stones now, he lies unwept,
Deep graved in time; to age’s siege he bowed.

Now the stout oaken beams decay with rot,
And daylight glares into the roofless hall.
Where battering ram and catapult could not,
The slow assault of time has breached the wall.

Unguarded now, the marcher castle stands;
Gaunt bastion, fortress of forgotten men,
And keeps its lookout to the borderlands,
Waiting for ghostly clans to come again.

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