For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Monday, 23 September 2013

England, My England

In England we love to lampoon the country we love. I think it’s a sign of a secure and mature democracy.

England, My England

England, my England, you bore the pants off me.
Your nightingale in Berkeley Square is silent as a tree.
Your fish and chips have lost their battered loveliness for me.

England, my England, now not so proud and free.
Your British bulldog’s lost its bark, it whines interminably. 
Your fiery chariot’s lost its spark, I think you would agree.

England, my England, and your split identity,
half turned towards the USA, half facing Germany,
an overtaxed and overcrowded island in the sea.

England, my England, God save democracy!
Jerusalem was never built upon a monarchy,
and William Blake and all his works were sent to buggery.

England, my England, the New Austerity.
You’re dumbing down the broadsheets, not to mention Radio Three.
You’re battening down the hatches in your new thugocracy.

England, my England, I hope it’s plain to see
that clutching Ukip to your breast is sheer insanity,
and for the love of Jove, M Gove is not your cup of tea.

England, my England, with your garden gnomes so twee,
your Wetherspoons, wet afternoons, your bloody history.
My England, I still love you, though you bore the pants off me.

9 comments:

Ruth said...

Ah, clever you.

Some of the references are lost to me, but it doesn't matter, it all works. It works because you strike just the right tone (Oscar Wilde comes to mind) as you somehow manage to present the ridiculousness of our modern culture (trans-Atlantic) alongside a deep longing for meaning, nostalgic or hopeful for the future.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Ruth. Yes, Oscar Wilde was hovering for me too!

The Weaver of Grass said...

An apt poem in the month of Party Conferences Robert! It should be writ large and on stage at them all.

The Cranky Crone, she lives alone! said...

Thank you for such a poignant poem.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for reading and commenting on my poem, Pat and Cranky Crone. As has been recognised, it was meant to be both loving and critical, an homage to a place that's in one's blood and one's tried to leave but one cannot. I actually feel very lucky to live here, after years of wanting to get away! Such are the vagaries of human longing — often misplaced.

Hildred said...

Loving the warts on the princely toad!

The Solitary Walker said...

Hildred :-)

Vagabonde said...

My goodness! You are courageous to write such things about your country. Here, in the US, I could never write something like this on my blog or people would say that I am “un-American.” Americans are very sensitive about criticism about their country. I have found this for sure and rarely say anything like “constructive criticism” because it is taken as I hate America or I have been told, “if you don’t like it here, leave it.” Even educated Americans tend to have these feelings, but they express them in a subtler ways. They just don’t like to discuss it. If you are an immigrant like me, better not say anything like what you wrote even if you finish on a good note. I do sometimes, and so I don’t have too many friends. You have to be “socially correct” here, and that means – no criticism. I like your free speech; there is free speech here, but some subjects are just taboo. On French sites, and other sites, there are warnings to foreigners visiting the US such as “don’t make criticisms about the US, as they take it as a personal insult” and I have found it so.

The Solitary Walker said...

It's very interesting what you say, Vagabonde. I can understand your sensitivity as an immigrant.

In England we tend to have a very self-deprecating, often ironic sense of humour, and we seem to be able to tolerate, even perversely enjoy, well-meaning 'attacks from within'. (Look at writers like Evelyn Waugh.)