11TH SEPTEMBER, 2001
      (Reflections on hearing, in a vineyard near Minerve
      - a town destroyed by the Albigensian Crusade -
      of the planes and the fall of the World Trade Centre
      and, later, of George Bush's call for a new 'crusade'.)


I stand midst tapering vines,
Under south western sun,
Culture-lapsed and dismayed
As all pleasant ease expires
From a newly hopeful decade:
Waves of distancing stun,
Radiate all through the light
And darkling lands of Old earth,
Invading separate lives;
The live-link transmitted image of death
That shrouds September's last rite.

Faithful scholarship does
Unearth the whole offence,
From Cross-foot knights till now
That has driven some Muslims mad -
Find what Tikrit once bore,
What huge late suff'ring made
Their self-destroying god;
"I and the public know
What all school children learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return."

Exiled democrats show,
All that their lives could say
About the people's rule,
And what false rulers know,
In the retro-rubbish they talk
Of a mindless, bludgeoned grave;
But scrambled in their minds,
All enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Misrule, crusades and grief -
Must we suffer them all again?

Faces across the cave
Thrown from the throng of their days:
The screens that never go out,
And music that always plays,
Business habits conspire
To make this place assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should know where we are,
Lost midst history's trees -
Small folk afraid of the night,
Whose times' pleasures no longer can please.

The windiest militant trash
Self-loving leaders shout,
Is crazed at least as our wish:
What every stalker dreams
About their longing's aim,
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in our bone
Of women and every man
Craves what we each should have,
A universal love,
Loved as we're loved alone.

                    (Apologies to W. H. Auden)

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