New men and new measures

Error crept in, as error tends to do.
The orthodoxy was not well maintained.
The young did not understand the older knowledge;
They needed it simplified, and so more easily explained.

Exegesis became accepted as doctrinal,
And doctrine was in turn rendered arcane.
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Magic, soberly considered

What if there were a machine, such that hasn’t ever yet been built,
that if you, no matter if you were an expert, or no matter how unskill’d,
if you pointed it at a tree: a giant oak, or a young sycamore, or even, say, a spruce,
this machine would, by magic or mechanically, take that tree, and convert it into a house?

How would this device change the world? Be careful now, we have to get this right.
I don’t aspire to moralising. I don’t want, in any way, to be trite,
and talk of how we’d change the forest into slums, because a lone house in the woods fills us with dread,
and what we daren’t look at, and what we do instead.

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Atlantis: a tragedy

I
It rose, real as anything, from the roiling sea
A continent created by Neptune’s cunning
Fully formed, with free-flowing rivers overrunning
And blessed with black soil, bounteous and free

In the depths of the Atlantic, in darkness he’d delved
Surrounded by squid-workers, with sharks as sentries
In the annals of engineering they etched a new entry
With great plains and grand mountains and gallantly shelved

Atlantis, newly made by the noble Lord Neptune
A present perpetual from Poseidon to the world
Forged at the ocean’s foundation, was finally unfurled
Rich in minerals and ready to receive its fortune

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The plaintiff’s case

Would it be possible – does any of you out there think – to sue the entire capitalist class for fraud?
I am a republican, constitutionalist, small-C conservative, and democrat, a Disraeli-ite at heart, a believer above all in the majesty of Common Law.
Is there a mechanism; can we all just sue them, or get them charged with negligent homicide?
I am searching for a precedent, perhaps a hallowed decision under the Roman Hadrian, or a distant, un-repealed article of Norman law
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The Referee

Rick Ratter was a semi-professional referee
Non-league, but nationally ranked: nearly there
He travelled in his Transit van, or via train
Across most the North, even to Merseyside, from Middlesbrough

In the van’s front seat would sit his friend Ffion
Or curled up by his kit on the carriage floor
She was a white-and-black Welsh sheepdog
Devoted, daft, and always well-deported

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The Clotheless Convocation of Capitalists

Each day at noon the naked nabobs met
The bigwigs brayed and bellowed their commands
The Clotheless Convocation of Capitalists
Held their hearings in the house that shared a wall with mine.

Their servants screamed out ‘stocks! Stocks for sale!’
While their masters whipped them, raising welts
The clang and clatter of their chains was cacaphonic
Their uses – pleasure, pain and profit – ran together.

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King Theater

“Mercifully Short” was the newsman’s review
“I didn’t like it one bit
“The main character sniffed a banana like glue
“And the ‘sage’ was a braying young git

“The advertised whimsy I failed to discover
“But I found certain parts very strange
“In the kitchen scene the kettle did hover
“And the shopkeeper juggled his change.”

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Skeptic’s Magic: a pragmatic case for polytheistic imagination

‘The god of the gaps’ is a term that’s used to describe the retreating Abrahamic deity who is forced, for those who don’t reflexively deny science, increasingly far from everyday lives and events. He doesn’t perform miracles, which have rational explanations. He doesn’t live in the human heart, because we’ve pulled it apart and found no god living there. He might be begrudged to have set the universe on its present course and then left it at that. He is left to fill in the gaps that are, so far, unexplainable by science. This is pretty weak sauce for an almighty divinity.

One response to the advancing forces of science is to stick with Him, out of faith. But faith is illogical, morally questionable, and provides little in terms of aesthetic enjoyment. What sagas could we tell about a faceless, removed, absent ‘spark initiator’? How would we paint Him?
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I dreamt of a field

Our view is of a vast and varied, frozen field.
Furrows fill it, and it’s flanked by deep ditches full of water.
Stubble sticks up, remnants of the last good crop still visible.
Close by, a pile of rotten produce, there, a polluted pond,
further, the detectorists’ pewter teapot.
At the far end a hillock erupts and,
as if aware of the mood, sits, barren and unmotivated.
Everywhere, the cold earth is clumped in clods, undiggable.
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Marceline Ford

Marceline Ford is an interesting woman. There are some critics who argue that she is not an author, that her art is nothing but a gimmick, and that it is undignified to include reviews of her work, that of a ‘self-published’ writer, in the nation’s most prestigious literary magazines. Others retreat to technicality: she is not an author but a modern artist; her works belong not in English Literature classes but in galleries. Neither of these criticisms has any merit.

Ford is an author. In fact, it would be an extreme and unfair understatement to describe her as the premier author of her generation. Ford’s genius is so startling, so acute and warm, that her peers are better counted as the J writer and the Gawain poet, Langland and Homer: men whose works have survived all biography bar their names.

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How I won the war

The Marshal of the demon force called up his mighty horde.
His vassals heard the buccina’s call, and dropped their chisels and staves.
In throngs they mustered at shire oaks, and each villain brought a sword.
They were red and grey, full-scaled and hot, and most were very brave.

In columns each brigade assembled, and they marched towards our land.
They were disciplined and well-supplied: a fiery, gruesome sight.
What hope had we, we righteous few, to oppose this devilish band?
Within a week they’d pontooned a river, whose bank was ours by right.

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11

“The Surgeon’s Palace”, it was discreetly called
The place where men went in and tarried long
Its portcullis spat divinely their echoed song
And it was girdled round by delicately tiled walls.

Each eave betrayed gargoyled inspiration
Each roof tile bore the mark of godly hand
All un-beautiful things, within the grounds, were banned
And everywhere stood urns of contemplation.

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A Poetical Response

To Greg Mankiw’s assertion that “consumption smoothing” makes it worse for a rich child to lose their inheritance than for a poor child to remain poor

The rich feel more sweeter pain than we
It sugars their sublime fresh misery
A pinch to them is like the sweetest flowers
Not dull and torpid, like long workman’s hours
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1

And we’ll dance a quadrille on the graves of the lance-corpora
We’ll sing praise to the foolish commands of the centuriones and majori
Lord, how we love a slaughter.
-Lucifer, in De Selby’s one-act play ‘The Devils and the Little Green Men’

In the play, Lucifer, unaware that the main purpose of the Armageddon is the release of a ‘soothing vapour’ which will allow mushrooms and lichens to escape their stunted forms and become a host of angels, teams up with God against Satan (a separate devil) and Adam, who each have their own reasons for preserving the Earth.

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To the First Person who Consented to Another’s Claim to Ownership of Land

What did they tell you when you gave it all away?
Did they tell you it was theirs already,
And threaten you with rocks?
Did they say it was the only way
To keep out the tooth and claw?

Did they tell you that the common goats
Had destroyed the common land?
Did you really believe them?
Did you even understand?

Did they tell you you’d grow richer,
Have a navy, rule the world?
Was that even what you wanted,
And how did it turn out?
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Sic semper transit gloria patriae

I am from America, but not the America of now. I am from the America 200, 400 years from now. A once-proud once-republic. A nation that remembers its imperial glory not in living memory but in history books: chewed over, softened by familiarity. A rather arch America, aware of its sophistication, ruefully envious of brashness and power, but also superior to them. Once we built machines, great dams— here, here in a small room you can see them!
reconstructed, for ten renminbi.
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Birthdays

My parents will turn 60 this year.
They’ll be officially venerable,
verifiably old,
and very nearly pensionable.
I’d have thought,
when I was twelve,
that the seventh decade was practically unmentionable.
But now that I’m more than halfway there,
it seems eminently manageable
and even —almost— inevitable.