… 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…