Homage to an Empire*


The budget talks have broken down again.
And bliss is ignorant to show what love
Between a man and wife has got to do
With lasting peace. What nature cannot do
Is rendered pointless. We’re at war again –
So power speaks its mind to truth. And sends its love.

The tyrant’s compass spins democracy
Around the globe – what prior to the fall
Had slithered forth – and scales back our freedom too.
While history plays its part for only two –
I and thou – the circus of democracy
Has swords and thumbs enough for all to rise and fall.

Which is fine. Liberty pays the price
And soldiers stay the course. So goes the game:
Your countries are all ours. Your babies – also ours.
(Too many, though, and they stop being ours.)
So empire asks its men to name a price,
To load the dice, enthrone the orb and throw the game.

*With apologies to Philip Larkin.