I don’t think I’m the only one to notice that Percy Bysshe Shelley‘s “Mask of Anarchy” seems amazingly relevant to current efforts to suppress the voices and will of workers around the world. So, I’ve taken the poem almost verbatim, made a few textual changes, and changed the names of the politicians to the names of Tea Party members and others in the Republican party. For more info on the poem, see The Guardian‘s partial explication.
Here is my take:
As I lay asleep in Houston, Texas
I heard a voice declare war on us,
And with great power it led me
To walk in visions of Poetry.
I met Murder as the widows began crying—
He had a mask like Paul Ryan—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:
All were fat in the savage crew,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like John Boehner, an ermined gown;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.
And the little children, who
Believed him to be true,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.
Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night.
Like Perry, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.
And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies.
Last came Anarchy : he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.
And he wore a kingly crown;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone;
On his brow this mark I saw—
‘I AM CRUZ, GOD, KING, AND LAW!’
With a pace stately and fast,
Over Texas land he passed,
Trampling to a mire of blood
The adoring multitude.
And with a mighty troop around
With their trampling shook the ground,
Waving each a bloody sword,
For the service of their Lord.
And with glorious triumph they
Rode through Texas proud and gay,
Drunk as with intoxication
Of wine of wanton destruction.
And each dweller, panic-stricken,
Felt his heart with terror sicken
Hearing the tempestuous cry
Of the triumph of Anarchy.
For from pomp to meet him came,
Clothed in arms like blood and flame,
The hired murderers, who did sing
‘Thou art God, and Law, and King.
‘We have waited weak and lone
For thy coming, Mighty One!
Our purses are empty, our swords are cold,
Give us glory, and blood, and gold.’
And Anarchy, the Skeleton,
Bowed and grinned to every one,
As well as if his education
Had cost billions to the nation.
When one fled past, a maniac maid,
And her name was Hope, she said:
But she looked more like Despair,
And she cried out in the air:
‘My father Time is weak and gray
With waiting for a Change this day;
So long as Anarchy rages on still,
The world awaits a reborn will!
‘He has had child after child,
And the dust of death is piled
Over every one but me—
Misery, oh, Misery!’
Then she lay down in the street,
Right before the horses feet,
Expecting, with a patient eye,
Murder, Fraud, and Anarchy.
And the prostrate multitude
Looked—and ankle-deep in blood,
Hope, that maiden most serene,
Was walking with a quiet mien:
To an accent unwithstood,—
As if her heart cried out aloud:
‘People of conscience, heirs of Glory,
Heroes of unwritten story,
‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
You are many—they are few.
‘What is Freedom?—you can tell
That which slavery is, too well—
For its very name has grown
To an echo of your own.
But change rose as a two-headed monster
Each head struggling to devour the other
But Hope nourishes the stricken half
And leaves Gold with a dark epitaph
“Let not this monster rise again.
Squelch the greed that lies within.”
We are not, as impostors say,
A shadow soon to pass away.
We ‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake our chains to earth like dew
We are many—they are few.’