“Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget;
For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet.”
from ‘The Secret People’ by G. K. Chesterton
It’s all around them, though they never see it,
like Jesus said about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some, even a poet, say it cannot be defined,
even though they are immersed in it,
like fishes swimming blind to the sea.
They take it for granted, spurn it,
but they are born in it and nurtured by it,
educated and employed by it,
and then nursed to the very end.
They say the language is not ours,
that it belongs to the world,
or to the oppressed,
to anyone with a cause
except our own.
Countless cocks have crowed,
but each time its existence is denied,
its very future put up for discussion
by people who owe it everything –
yet who would rather die than accept it
for what it is.
poem and image © copyright df barker 2012
*** For Saint George’s Day on April 23, patron Saint of England (and other places) for around 700 years, at least. William Shakespeare (1564-1616), a candidate surely for ‘Greatest Ever Englishman’, was born, and apparently died, on this day. This is not meant to be overtly nationalistic, but to simply, starkly, re-iterate that the feeling that poets and people in the past saw as a reality, is still clearly evident today.
* First published, without the quotation, in poetry collection ‘Anonymous Lines’, available at amazon.
**The image is reproduced from a painting based on a scene at Southwold, Suffolk, a quintessentially English seaside town.