What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

The Soul of a Poet & the hands of an Artist…

… but they have to be back by a week on Thursday…

Having seen the triumph of fiction over fact that was “The Iron Lady”, I was thinking about the “image thing”, and the constant belittling of Labour Leaders. The magnificent Clement Attlee was a case in point – almost always portrayed as dry to the point of aridity, in fact inside the reserved exterior lay the passionate heart of a poet.

To prove this, here is one of his earliest published works, from 1909;

In Limehouse, in Limehouse before the break of day

I hear the feet of many men who go upon their way.

Who wander through the city

The grey and cruel city

Through streets that have no pity

The streets where men decay.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse by night as well as day

I hear the feet of children that go to work or play.

Of children born to sorrow,

The workers of tomorrow,

How shall they work tomorrow

Who get no bread today?

In Limehouse, in Limehouse today and every day

I see the weary mothers who sweat their souls away.

Poor,tired mothers trying

To hush the feeble crying

Of little babies dying

For want of bread today.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse I’m dreaming of the day

When evil times shall perish and be driven clean away.

When father, child and mother

Shall live and love each other

And brother help his brother

In happy work and play.

These are not the words of some prim and paltry lawyer, nor the vainglorious bombast of some posing buffoon. Clement Attlee dedicated his life to improving the lot of the workers, particularly those of his adopted East End home. In that, he was not alone in his generation. Not for him the learned phrases of the petty Oxbridge braggart, nor the empty posturing of the machine politician.

Sadly, in 2012 the good citizens of Limehouse will have no candidate of his stature standing for Mayor of London. It seems that today’s polite political class have no time left for passion or good works, only vanity and empty lies. With few exceptions, they certainly have no shame as they prostrate themselves before their tax-avoiding masters.

And for all the heaps of prose they generate, they cannot match the masters’ poetry for its clean elegance and noble passion.

Sadly, it is possible to read the verses above and still recognise not only our Capital, but every town and city in our barely United Kingdom, thanks in great part to that great heroine, Margaret Hilda Thatcher. Somebody should tell Meryl Streep before she gives her winners’ speech.

In my opinion, our body politic is much worse off without poets such as these…

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11 thoughts on “The Soul of a Poet & the hands of an Artist…

  1. Pingback: Clement Attlee, a politician with a poetic heart! « The Scribe of the Red Rose

  2. As a poet who dabbles in politics, I completely agree that our body politic is worse without poets like Attlee!

  3. Excellent – take a look at the link on my blogroll…

  4. Good show, saves me hinting at you then…
    Had a chance to look a “Chavs” by Owen Jones?

  5. Still, it’s not as bad as that John Hookham Frere poem that goes…

    “The feather’d race with pinions skim the air –
    Not so the mackerel, and still less the bear!”

    Not quite as bad as that.

    But far less entertaining.

    By the way – don’t buy the new Nick Cohen book yet – cough, cough, hint, hint.

    Alan x

  6. I disagree Alan, but then I like Kipling and all sorts of crap. I wouldn’t know proper poetry or literature if it jumped up and smacked me in the mouth. If its that stuff they do on Radio 4s “Poetry Please”, then gawd help me…

    As for the welfare state, well, by the time your son is old enough to vote, lets just say he won’t be burdened with universal healthcare.

    • I am actually thinking of chaining the child to the welfare state so they can’t dismantle it anymore! Certainly if he keeps misbehaving in the way he has lately.

      You may disagree about the poem but you’re so, so wrong.

      See you in Feb x

  7. Ian, to be blunt, however worthy the sentiment, that poem is fucking awful and it’s a mercy he focussed on his political career rather than churning out that terrible doggerel. It’s so bad it makes me want to dismantle the welfare state myself!

  8. “In my opinion, our body politic is much worse off without poets such as these…”

    Amen to that!

    Marie Marshall

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