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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Two sonnets by Anthony Cronin

Tony Cronin Picture: Tony Gavin
Tony Cronin Picture: Tony Gavin

Anthony Cronin

Tony Cronin knew what made a good poem - and he wasn't so shy as to not include his own works among one selection he made for The Sunday Poem last July. We also reprint his introduction below

Following the formal (and also celebratory) launch of my long poem, The End Of The Modern World, as well as the extraordinary shifts in English and indeed European politics, here are two sonnets from it.

The sequence of poems describes the world of 'modernity' made possible by technological progress and illuminated by thinkers such as Freud and Marx, and which can now be said to have ended.

It is the longest poetic sequence to have been written by an Irish poet, including Thomas Moore's Lallah Rook, a kind of Irish Arabian Nights. The Labour Party adverted to in the first sonnet is of course the English Labour Party whose conferences always conclude with a rendition of William Blake's Jerusalem.

'Bring me my bow of burning gold' they sing,

Linked hand in hand on the Labour Conference platform,

Their faces grey after a week of murdering,

Tormenting words through composite resolutions

And phrases chosen for inclusiveness.

'Bring my arrows of desire'. They look

Like their desires, unacted, nursed

Through nights of envy, bonhomie and booze,

The pristine vision dying among details.

Outside is England on an autumn evening,

Skinheads and space-invaders on the front,

The televisions blueing the bow windows.

'I will not cease from mental strife' acquits

Blake's verses of a mere utopian wish.

The speaker is smart. No doubt at all of that.

His glasses glint. His punch lines are quite punchy,

And smart or not his heart's in the right place,

Which is to say, exactly where ours is.

Then why this vague unease one knows so well?

When the unanimous resolutions start

And everybody bleeds for a good cause

Why is one guilty, with them or against?

I listened at the NUJ, the protests,

Apartheid, Solidarity, the lot.

They applauded, right on cue, with righteous faces,

And laughed, with righteous glee, at easy sallies.

Why does being right seem wrong? I wondered,

Or protest seem so like complacency?

Sunday Independent

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