To An Englishman With Liberty

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I
Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals?
We have all feet of clay, women as well as men…
Oscar Wilde

Sir, did you please your skin ‘neath Nunraw’s sylvan falls,
Or ease your boat within Old Dunbar’s harbor walls,
& have you ever gazed on Whittinghame’s great yew
As morning chorus lazed, drunk on a fresh haar’s dew?

Sir, did you stroll the swerve serving Port Seton’s sands
Invested with the verve East Lothian demands,
Like pluckin’ young fungi from Saltoun’s lofty wood
Or gladly ambling by wylde Bara’s handsome flood?

Sir, did you ever take the views from Deuchrie Dod,
& in that moment make a pact with Man & God,
To wander to & fro, record all seen & felt,
’til all thy senses slow, when mental trances melt.

To an Englishman with Liberty
Dost thou ken thy’s a bard?
‘I do, sir, in my dreams!’

You do?
By land & sea
Ascend art’ s boulevard
Upbending via beams
Thro’ heavens thickly starr’d!


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II
Everything you can imagine is real…
Pablo Picasso

Sir, did you ever take these bright isles in a tour,
The pride of Scotland slake on Hampden’s awesome roar
& did you ever stun the herd of Wicklow deer
Or strike a mountain run on Snowdon sloping sheer?

Sir, have you spent a night with Haggis Burns & song
Or watch’d a ravensflight from battle cairns at Kong
& have you seen the sun oer Glencoe’s savagery
Or seen Portmeirion in total privacy

Sir, did you break your fast upon old Boney’s nose
Then gaze down on Belfast & all those terraced rows
& have you ever stood atop the Isle of Man
With weather fine & good, & Britain like a fan

To an Englishman with Liberty
Ye love thy Celtic fringe?
‘I do so, & am proud!’

You are?
Then set life free
& let your soul impinge
Into thy native crowd
Streaking a silver tinge


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III
The country is looking much more beautiful
than when I came through it three weeks ago
Edith Holden

Sir, have you ever seen Cumbria clad in snow
Or Brighton’s beaches been in summer’s easy glow
& have you ever heard the Cambridge matin bells
Or felt your senses stirr’d when England’s anthem swells?

Sir, did you drink the ale brewed for the northernmills
Or watch seafarers sail from Whitby’s salty sills
& did you ever feed your thirst in Cornish Springs
Or take the time to read thro’ histories of kings?

Sir, have you ever pass’d an afternoon at Lords
Or watch’d a happy cast a-tread Adelphi’s boards
& have you ever cheer’d the horses at Aintree
Or as a bargeman steer’d the waters of the Lea

To an Englishman with liberty
What of these coy demands?
“These things, sir, I have known!”

You have?
Then let us fly
Beyond these fabled lands
The English call their own
Set sail for Calais sands


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IV
The sea is calm to-night.The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; -on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone;
Matthew Arnold

Sir, did you ever ride the high-speed Gallic trains
Or climb a mountainside kept by Croatian swains
& did you ever try the tramways of Zurich
Or skiing full hilt fly upon an Alpine peak?

Sir, did you ever tour the fields of Waterloo
Or urge Rooney to score amidst a foreign crew
& did you lap the flow of Castalian Spring
Or seek a fireside glow from Finland’s wintry sting?

Sir, did you take a dance with maidens of Seville
Or breathe the elegance of the Avantine Hill
& walk the wylde contree barefoot upon the Basque
Or taste the brevity of the Venetian masque?

To an Englishman with Liberty
Italy has it all,
“It does, sir, & does well!”

Bene!
No finer place to visit
& forge a poet’s soul!
Tis here the muses dwell
& welcome one & all


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V
Paradise of Exiles
PB Shelley

Sir, did your pallet taste sepia’s sable sheen
Or spread green pesto paste on bread like margerine
& steep Collodi climb to read Pinnochio
Or see day set sublime oer Pontevecchio

Sir, did you Lord Byron raise through old Venetianlanes
Or find yourself amazed by Pompeii’s strange remains
& did you ever take the waters of Trieste
Or swim Averno’s lake without a moment’s rest

Sir, did you cheer the riffs as Ligabue rocks
Walk Cinque Terran cliffs, or bought Le Scale box
& did you deck the sails round Ponza’s pirate isle
Or study Tuscan tayles in Dante’s sweet new style

To an Englishman with Liberty
Art thou adventurous?
“I am sir, life is good!”

It is?
Then reach this sea
The gods named glorious,
Let freedom clasp thy hood
& cross the Bosphorous


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VI
In Hellespont, guilty of true love’s blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoin’d by Neptune’s might;
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
Christopher Marlowe

 Sir, did you feel the heat of searing Rajhastan
Or clad Kimono greet fair geishas of Japan
& did you ever wear th’Atlantic’s mistral miles
Or dreams of Zion share amidst Pacific isles?

Sir, did you ever ride the Vladivostok rail,
Or watch the proud Roos hide from harsh Van Diemen hail
& did you ever climb the Islandwhanan rock
Or hear the lilting chime of the diannual clock?

Sir, did you note the chill of the Saharan night
Or felt your senses thrill with Rio neath yourflight
& did you ever smell the waifs of Singapore
Or share a living hell when nations go to war?

To an Englishman with Liberty
With spirit cavalier,
For you the world grows dull?

“It does!”
Then come with me
A fresher course to steer,
Launch from Canaveral
To chase the stratosphere


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VII
Whenever mankind has sought to conquer new frontiers,
there have been those who have given
their lives for the cause.
Mission of the Astronauts Memorial

Sir, did you foot the floor of dusty lunar seas
Or spread your mind & soar upon the solar breeze
& did you ever sail betwixt the Saturn rings
Or catch a comets tail & tie it to your wings?

Sir, did you abseil down craters of Mercury
Or wander rusting towns of Martian history
& did you pierce the clouds twixt Ceres & Trojan
Or hide beneath the clouds of rain Venusian?

Sir, did you feel winds form on Neptune’s azure reed
Or watch the great red storm from twinkling Ganymede
& did you once observe the green Urasian glow
& with Colombus verve pass fringes of Pluto?

To an Englishman with Liberty
Have you these pleasures sought?
“I have sir, & have felt!”

God bless astronomy!
Relax, come let us float
Beyond the Kuiper belt
Upon our blazing boat


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VIII
Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.
Sigmund Freud

Sir, have you ever gone beyond the icy Quaoar
Or paused at Ixion, core of an ancyent star,
& did you scan the skies from lovely Varuna
Or set your naked eyes on sanguinous Sedna?

Sir, come with us & spin upon this scarlet sphere,
Through head of tiny pin watch our vast sun appear,
Here ye shall find no guide, nor shall ye hear asound,
From Sedna’s swirling side a rocky moon slips round…

Sir, watch the goddess sit, voluptuous & fair,
Beloved Enuit, with starfish-dappl’d hair,
Whom by her husband cruel purg’d of her vanities,
Now sits she as the jewel of the infinities…

To an Englishman with Liberty
What brings ye to this place?
“She called me from her stone!”

She did?
Then cross this sea
She calls the stretch of space,
Continue, sir, alone
A vapour without trace


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IX
Perhaps, long hence, when I have passed away,
Some other feature, accent, thought like mine,
Will carry you back to what I used to say
Thomas Hardy

Sir, feel each sphere that forms as if life’s hallow’d birth,
Faint, incandescent storms enough to swallow Earth,
& we shall delve among distances none conceive,
Some durable among extremes none dare believe.

So many rocks like ours, some more Peg Fifty-One,
Whom in a hundred hours hurtles around her sun,
Stars flicker firefly by supernovae gongs,
While choirs of nebulae court angels with sad songs;

Sir, witness Icarus, a single stable star,
Whose supergiant dress our furthest light by far,
Here nature helter-skelts, her cosmos skirls askew,
Here conscious motion melts in pools of pearly blue;

To an Englishman with Liberty
Freed fell thee from this cage?
“I do, Sir, like a bird!”

You are?
Then let us flee,
Forever on this page,
Untether’d from the herd,
A jester on the stage.

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