6 May 2010

GE2010: Barge of the Light Brigade

At the beginning of the 2010 Westminster general election campaign, I dipped into my archive and brought you this startling piece of poetic prophecy from the pen of William Butler Yeats. Perhaps due to the emotionally charged nature of today's business - millions of people huddling together to select their deputies - the air feels peopled with the spirits of our watchful ancestors, squinting ironically at us through the glass of history. If you know the tricks of the trade, you can capture the political commentary of ghosts and the revenant spectres of dead men. The latest piece of necromantic poetry I've been able to transcribe emanates from an unanticipated source - Alfred Lord Tennyson - who gave me this adjusted draft of his famous poem...

Barge of the Light Brigade

Half the vote, half the vote,
Half the vote upwards,
All for the tally and press
Toiled the six hundred (and forty-six).
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
Barge for the mums!" Cam said:
"Time for an Eton mess -
Elect all our six hundred!"

"Overboard, the Red Crusade!"
Was there a Labour man dismay'd?
Altho' the hacks knew
That Gordon had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to weep and sigh:
Shriek "Tory toffs to repress -
Elect all our six hundred!"

Voters to the right of them,
Voters to the left of them,
Voters in front of them,
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Swarm'd at with fatuous trot and yell,
Ruined by grannies and well,
Into their jowls of protest,
From their mouths a giant -"farewell!
Sod off all six hundred!"

Flashy Cleggy debated with more flair,
(Flashy Alex debated off the air)
Sabring the gurners there,
Whiling a smarmy while-
All the media wonder'd!
Expunged all save this chattery-bloke
Right thro' their two-horse race he broke;
Cameron and Gordon
Reel'd from his feather-stroke
Tatter'd and sunder'd.
Scotland didn't get her say,
Her charges do not split three way.
Scotland speaks but has no say -
Not for her half a'hundred.

Tory to the right of them,
Labour to the right of them,
Libs to the right of them,
Broadcast and plundered;
Bomber parties with their shots and shells,
Dream dreams of war and detention cells,
Prop up necrotic Britain's spent cartel
Send young folk thro' the jaws of Death,
Treat immigrants like merry Hell -
This cadaver is all that is left of them,
Left of the Union's six hundred.

Half the vote, half the vote,
Half the vote upwards,
All for the tally and press
Toiled the six hundred!
Can't you see - their glories fade.
O how tame is the charge they made!
All of Scotland wonder'd.
Don't honour the charge they made!
Don't honour this Light Brigade,
Nobble the unionist half-a-hundred!


  1. "A day may sink or save a realm."

    Alfred Lord Tennyson.

  2. There is a CD from the British Library which has Tennyson reciting this. The sound quality is obviously primitive but it's quite eerie hearing him recite.

  3. I think you must be referring to this wax cylinder recording, Richard.

    Eminently eerie.