'A man's a man for a' that' – how does he know?
Traipsing with his plough, the rural hero,
Swaggering down the lea-rigs, talking to mice,
Sweating his sickly verses to entice
Lassies he'd never see again, strutting
Through the salons in his best breeches, rutting
In a cloud of claret, buttonholing
Lord This, sweet-talking Doctor That, bowling
His wit down levees, bosoms, siller quaichs –
D'ye think he's ever heard the groans and skraighs
Of city gutters, or marked the shapes that wrap
Fog and smoke about them as if they could hap
Homelessness or keep hunger at bay? What,
Not heard or seen, but has he even thought
How some, and many, and more than many, survive,
Or don't survive, on factory floors, or thrive
Or fail to thrive by foundry fires, or try
To find the words – sparks scatter and bolts fly –
That's feeble – to show the new age its dark face?
The Carron Ironworks – how he laughed at the place,
Made a joke of our misery, passed on
To window-scratch his diamond-trivia, and swan
Through country-house and customs-post, servile
To the very gods from which he ought to resile!
'Liberty's a glorious feast,' you said.
Is that right? Wouldn't the poor rather have bread?
Burns man, I'm hard on you, I'm sorry for it.
I think such poetry is dangerous, that's all.
Poetry must pierce the filthy wall
With cries that die on country ways. The glow
Of bonhomie will not let the future grow.
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Comments about this poem (James Macfarlan by Edwin Morgan )
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