Week 296: From ‘Notes for a Biography’, by Louis MacNeice

Poetry and politics do not always mix well, but one has to admire poets who are not afraid to engage with the big issues of their day, and they don’t come much bigger than the one addressed by Louis MacNeice in this poem, written after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

From ‘Notes for a Biography’

‘Now follow our pointer; look, here is Japan
Where man must now make what he chooses of man,
And these towns are selected to pay for their crime –
A milestone in history, a gravestone in time.

When I first heard the news, to my shame I was glad;
When I next read the news I thought man had gone mad,
And every day since the more news that I read
I too would plead guilty – but where can I plead?

For no one will listen, however I rage;
I am not of their temper and not of this age.
Outnumbered, outmoded, I only can pray
Commonsense, if not love, will still carry the day.

Louis MacNeice

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