Friday, April 12, 2024
HomeCOVID-19The pen is mightier than the Covid bully

The pen is mightier than the Covid bully


THE present culture wars are largely fought audio-visually. Modern technology – and attention spans – demand it. But the war of the pen remains an important theatre of battle. Its belligerents deploy diverse weapons: the insightful article, the acerbic tweet, the explanatory graph or table. Some armaments are neglected, however. To nobody’s surprise, poetry is one such. Who today reads it? Few young people, certainly. Educators daren’t inspire pride in our literary heritage. Shakespeare, Keats, Kipling? The Long March and George Floyd have all but cancelled them.   

In an earlier internecine conflict, poetry mattered. The English civil wars generated memorable verse by Herrick, Cowley, Denham and Lovelace, among others. Arthur Powell, an American writer born in England, would be embarrassed to be mentioned in the same breath as them. Yet, albeit on an infinitely smaller scale, he fulfils a similar role to that of the cavalier poets. Horizons of Iron, his newly published first volume of poems, is more an act of internal conservative resistance – the poetics of consolation – than offensive insurgency, and no less potent for it.

Powell endured an inauspicious introduction to poetry at school, where he recalls the resentful, patois-infused verse of Benjamin Zephania being foisted on his class as a means of promoting multiculturalism. Later, fortunately, he was introduced to the works of Donne, Frost, Yeats, Wordsworth, Pound and others, poets who ‘speak to concepts I consider primordial: Truth, Beauty, and Justice’.

He views his own work as a ‘duty to preserve the fire that arose in great men’, to be ‘unashamedly proud of our past and care about what matters in art’. It’s his riposte to the ‘leftist hyper-feminine control of culture that permeates life today’. He won’t be welcome at a Western university any time soon.       

Many of Powell’s poems are self-referential, familial. All are spare. In Taking the Blue Pill, he evokes the pain of sibling estrangement wrought by recent events. 

It’s a bitter pill brother
Seeing you adrift in normalcy
Once you were another

I stood by your side
Spoke a good speech
As you made her your bride

Today we rarely talk
Politics cut us deep
Both turned to walk

Far away we drift
Occasional messages
Cut across our drift

Trump Derangement Syndrome
Branch Covidian

Strange terms out of place
Years ago meant nothing
Now occupy all space

Perhaps one day you’ll see
A prison in your mind
Not all can ever be free.

Another poem, Crisis Actors, neatly captures the slickness and insincerity of the Covid propaganda machine, especially of those in authority who stood (and in some cases still stand) on podiums to indoctrinate and bully.

Groomed from a young age
Now boldly
They take the stage

A carefully selected mix
Diversely present
Preach to you a magical fix

Their nascent voices amplified
Blare out
So more control is justified

But they are not real
Media shills
Carefully taught not to feel.

Recovering Western man’s lost masculinity is a recurring theme. Suburbia targets the privileged, emasculated lifestyle of the contemporary liberal male.

Manicured lawns
Pampered hands
He looks out over his New York Times
‘Must pay Pedro’

His son does not mow
Nor does he sow
Instead he sits
In a fluorescent darkness of screens

This is the lot of modern American man
Weak and lazy
The lawn not his own
Destiny forgotten and traded away
So his manicured hands need not stray.

Poems such as Rites of Warrior Past, The Winter Hunt and Ode to Northern Man throw such effeteness into sharp relief, drawing partly on mythical pagan imagery. But forgotten heroes of more recent vintage inform the most powerful – nostalgic but never maudlin – pieces, notably Beneath the Streets.

Those streets
That saw the boots
Marching proud
With many to Greet

The cobbles
That felt the cart
Trundling along
Quick to markets start

Upon hallowed ground
Thou stride
Your way to work
Unaware, not proud.

Layers beneath
Our very feet
Progenitor’s work
To us bequeathed.

Powell doesn’t sugar-coat the West’s predicament. Yet all is not lost. As The Candle Flickers suggests, poetry itself, in expressing and preserving the things we hold dear, can illuminate the way ahead.

Lights dim in the West
Nothing but
Carried on the wind

Deep below
Stirring bones
Pitch black

What a time to be alive
The sane known as insane
The ill

No choice for these times
Only a straight path
Righteous beauty

An ember carried

Poetry is unlikely to re-emerge as a major feature on today’s literary landscape. But in these disorienting times traditionalists can yet find meaning in it. With Westminster virtually a lost cause, and politics lying downstream of culture, we could do worse than undertake a rejuvenating salmon-run. Upstream, the poetry of our inheritance will be waiting patiently for us; and so too, in its own more modest way, will Powell’s.      

If you appreciated this article, perhaps you might consider making a donation to The Conservative Woman. Unlike most other websites, we receive no independent funding. Our editors are unpaid and work entirely voluntarily as do the majority of our contributors but there are inevitable costs associated with running a website. We depend on our readers to help us, either with regular or one-off payments. You can donate here. Thank you.
If you have not already signed up to a daily email alert of new articles please do so. It is here and free! Thank you.

Stuart Major
Stuart Major
Stuart Major is an independent scholar based in Sussex.

Sign up for TCW Daily

Each morning we send The ConWom Daily with links to our latest news. This is a free service and we will never share your details.