inverting the theme...
(Poem #95) Nostalgia - Now Threepence Off
Where are they now, the heroes of furry-paged books and comics brighter than life which packed my inklined desk in days when BOP meant Boys' Own Paper, where are they anyway? Where is Percy F. Westerman? Where are H. L. Gee and Arthur Mee? Where is Edgar Rice (the Warlord of Mars) Burroughs, the Bumper Fun Book and the Wag's Handbook? Where is the Wonder Book of Reptiles? Where the hell is the Boy's Book of Bacteriological Warfare? Where are the Beacon Readers? Did Ro-ver, that tireless hound, devour his mon-o-syll-ab-ic-all-y correct family? Did Little Black Sambo and Epaminondas dig the last sit-in? Did Peter Rabbit get his when myxomatosis came round the second time, did the Flopsy Bunnies stiffen to a standstill, grow bug-eyed, fly-covered and then disintegrate? Where is G. A. Henty and his historical lads - Wolfgang the Hittite, Armpit the Young Viking, Cyril who lived in Sodom? Where are their uncorrupted bodies and Empire-building brains, England needs them, the Sunday Times says so. There is news from the Strewelpeter mob. Johnny-Head-In-Air spends his days reporting flying saucers, the telephone receiver never cools from the heat of his hand. Little Harriet, who played with matches, still burns, but not with fire. The Scissorman is everywhere. Babar the Elephant turned the jungle into a garden city. But things went wrong. John and Susan, Titty and Roger, became unaccountably afraid of water, sold their dinghies, all married each other, live in a bombed-out cinema on surgical spirits and weeds of all kinds. Snow White was in the News of the World - Virgin Lived With Seven Midgets, Court Told. And in the psychiatric ward an old woman dribbles as she mumbles about a family of human bears, they ate porridge, yes Miss Goldilocks of course they did. Hans Brinker vainly whirled his silver skates around his head as the jackboots of Emil and the Detectives invaded his Resistance Cellar. Some failed. Desperate Dan and Meddlesome Matty and Strang the Terrible and Korky the Cat killed themselves with free gifts in a back room at the Peter Pan Club because they were impotent, like us. Their audiences, the senile Chums of Red Circle School, still wearing for reasons of loyalty and lust the tatters of their uniforms, voted that exhibition a super wheeze. Some succeeded. Tom Sawyer's heart has cooled, his ingenuity flowers at Cape Canaveral. But they are all trodden on, the old familiar faces, so at the rising of the sun and the going down of the ditto I remember I remember the house where I was taught to play up play up and play the game though nobody told me what the game was, but we know now, don't we, we know what the game is, but lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime and departing leave behind us arseprints on the sands of time, but the tide's come up, the castles are washed down, where are they now, where are they, where are the deep shelters? There are no deep shelters. Biggles may drop it, Worrals of the Wraf may press the button. So, Billy and Bessie Bunter, prepare for the last and cosmic Yarooh and throw away the Man-Tan. The sky will soon be full of suns.
Mitchell has always been a poet of the social conscience, unafraid to take on the establishment while stating truths which he feels are in need of being stated. As the 'elder statesman of literary protest' (George Macbeth) he has often taken controversial stands; his poetry, albeit harsh and uncomfortably honest, is always worth reading. Today's poem is, in addition to being vividly nostalgic (despite the self-parody of the title) and extremely funny, a vicious indictment of modern society... the innocence of childhood seems forever lost in a world where the old truths no longer hold, a world of hydrogen bombs and the holocaust. thomas. "There is no other poet in England who has more steadily focussed his aesthetic aims through his social ones"... to read more about Mitchell, see the notes to 'To Whom It May Concern, Minstrels Poem #28 PS. Yes, I know, I cheated, this isn't a poem 'by' a fictional character, it's a poem about fictional characters. I couldn't find a satisfactory third poem to round out the theme of the week... my first choice was pre-empted by Martin for one of his themes :-(. PPS. And I should have added to the commentary for my previous poem that Tolkien's metapoet was Bilbo Baggins, who in turn was merely translating an older lay from Elvish (Quenya, if you want to nitpick) into Common Speech (Westron, which corresponds to modern English in Tolkien's mythology)... thus making him (Bilbo) a metametapoet, I suppose :-).