Thursday, 23 June 2011

We brought our troops home for lack of money...


That Larkin line, voiced for whoever, might apply to Barack Obama's statement regarding the early withdrawal from Afghanistan. I doubt it's a coincidence that US recovery is slow and that Europe is in a continuing and possibly developing financial mess.

The Big Crash isn't over when the papers stop headlining it. Crashes go on through at least a generation, as this one will. And maybe longer. Not in the sense that the buildings all fall down at once, just that they slowly empty out as maintenance becomes more expensive. The rich fly off to their havens, the middles grow poorer, the poor poorer still, while 'Altogether elsewhere, vast / Herds of reindeer move across / Miles and miles of golden moss / Silently and very fast.'

Might as well have the whole magnificent Auden poem that made me shudder the first time I read it all those years ago, and still does:


The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.

Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.

Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.

Cerebrotonic Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.

Caesar's double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.

Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.

Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

A little stagy? Certainly. But the beats fall on and through the veins as those reindeer vanish in the distance.

1 comment:

Cormac O'Leary said...

great poem from an era that frighteningly looks like ours - global recession, simmering ethnic and social resentments -
It echoes the strange atmosphere of contemporary times - life going on amidst the ruins of a corrupted, collapsed system - like people drinking tea on the decks of the Titanic!