Republican Lupi: Alan Morrison's Wolves Come Grovelling
Thursday, 13 June 2024 07:42

Republican Lupi: Alan Morrison's Wolves Come Grovelling

Published in Poetry

Alan Morrison introduces his republican poetry collection published by Culture Matters in time for the Coronation.

[Note: This article was originally published on 5 May 2023].

One of the poems towards the end of Wolves Come Grovelling, ‘Grasp the Nettle’, attempts to do as its title suggests by grappling with the thorny issue of monarchy and democracy, subjecthood and citizenship, reminding us that England was once, albeit briefly (1650-1660), a republic without a king but instead a Commoner, Oliver Cromwell, as Lord Protector.

That decade in the middle of the 17th century seems to have been airbrushed out from our royalty-dominated history. But republicanism has remained, among a significant minority, as an enduring dream of generations who have dared to imagine a true democratic society with no hereditary head of state and whose sovereignty is properly represented by Parliament, and implicitly in the People.

‘Grasp the Nettle’ picks up on the mystical symbolisms currently being reasserted in the ritual, choreography and rhetoric surrounding the Coronation of Charles Windsor, some of which disturbingly echoes the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, once fatefully invoked by Charles Stuart and which in part triggered the English Civil War, or what Marxist historians term the English Revolution (which led inexorably to the trial and execution of that monarch):

Charles Stuart invoked Divine Right of Kings
To his detriment, & lost his kingdom—
Charles Windsor summons this shadow doctrine
Of anointment by God, or its symbolism:

For his Coronation: a consecration
With chrism oil made from olives pressed in
Jerusalem spiced with neroli, rose, jasmine,
Orange blossom, amber & benzoin.

We must perhaps pinch ourselves to remember that this is 2023, and not 1623 (or thereabouts: Charles I was coronated in 1625). The monarchic institution should demonstrate a little humility in the 21st century but instead seems to be doubling down on its hubris.

Days before the Coronation, many of us across the country have been flabbergasted at a royal request that we join in unison with a ‘Homage of the People’: a pledging of allegiance to the new monarch and his heirs and successors to be said out loud, or chorused (almost like a royalist travestying of the clapping and pot-banging we were encouraged to participate in during the early days of the pandemic). This has never been done before, and certainly should not be done now—such a crypto-feudal ‘request’ is utterly anachronistic, anti-democratic, and insulting to all of us.

It seems even before Charles is crowned king, his evident take on kingship seems about as privileged, entitled and absolute as is possible in a so-called ‘parliamentary monarchy’ (though with all its royalist sycophancy most of Parliament might well be perfectly happy with it), rather than the emphasis—as was constantly assured us during the long reign of his late mother—being on ‘public service’. For surely, in the spirit of ‘public service’, Charles should have instead invoked a ‘Homage to the People’: his swearing of allegiance to his ‘subjects’ who after all subsidise his supreme privilege (through the obscenely inflated Sovereign Grant) and are, absurdly, paying for his Coronation, through our taxes.

All this combined with last-minute missives sent to anti-monarchist groups to warn of severe prison sentences should any public protests—such as Republic’s planned ‘Not My King’ demonstration by the statue of Charles I—be seen to disrupt the pomp and ceremony of the Coronation and its Union Jack-draped pageantry.

It seems then that the mask of monarchy is slipping rapidly in spite of Charles Windsor having previously been anticipated as a more modernising and progressive sovereign. But is ever more deference and subservience for a hereditarily entitled, unelected head of state really a tenable settlement even for backward-looking post-Brexit Britain?

Wolves Come Grovelling, then, is my republican response in poetry to the Coronation. The collection also contains poems on other subjects, such as Brexit, the proroguing of Parliament, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and other vicissitudes of recent years. But the overarching theme is one of republican resilience and defiance at the start of our second Carolean Age.

The Wolves of the title are the wolves of poverty as paraphrased from a speech by David Lloyd George made in 1909 at the triumph of his hugely progressive People’s Budget:

'I cannot help hoping and believing that before this generation has passed away, we shall have advanced a great step towards that good time, when poverty… will be as remote to the people of this country as the wolves which once infested its forests.'

The Grovelling we Wolves are expected to do is, well, demonstrably, symbolised in that very ‘Homage’ of blind allegiance that we have been ‘requested’ to observe, and which makes my title poem something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, since I composed it last year during the Jubilee when it appeared in the Morning Star, before any of us were expecting to hear the title ‘Charles III’. I have since updated it:


Wolves Come Grovelling (Again)

Out of the forests of towns & hovelling,
Wolves of poverty, howl out in worship,
Bow to your Wolf-king, wolves come grovelling.

Forget soaring bills & the cost of living
For one weekend, spaff on wolf-fellowship,
Out of the forests of towns & hovelling.

His crowned head, minted on our pound sterling
& postage stamps, shadows our hardship—
Bow to your Wolf-king, wolves come grovelling.

Grab the bank holiday, string out the bunting,
You’re Subjects of strung-along citizenship—
Out of the forests of towns & hovelling;

It’s all just so much Cat-Rat-&-Lovelling
Of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha & kingship—
Bow to your Wolf-king, wolves come grovelling.

Mark the Coronation by volunteering
Community penance/unpaid stewardship—
Out of the forests of towns & hovelling,
Bow to your Wolf-king, wolves come grovelling.

 

Video by Ness Sadri

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Wolves Come Grovelling can be ordered here

Revolution
Thursday, 13 June 2024 07:42

Revolution

Published in Poetry

Revolution

by Sally Flint

Top of Google it's a wine bar, a game,
a make-up range. I recall science lessons ‒
to rotate, twirl, circuit, cycle, orbit.
It's the Earth spinning around the sun.
On the screen the little circle rolls
over the Thatcher era and a miners' revolt.

It's an instance of sudden change
industrial, technological. Political theorists
say in terms of evolution a 'revolution'
can only happen when a government is weak.
It's a rebellion that forces change ‒ as the little circle
I have no name for rolls around again.

Barnstormer 1649 – Restoration Tragedy
Thursday, 13 June 2024 07:42

Barnstormer 1649 – Restoration Tragedy

Published in Music

Chris Guiton reviews the new CD by Barnstormer 1649.

Restoration Tragedy, the great new album by Attila the Stockbroker’s band, Barnstormer 1649, centres on the events of the 17th century English Revolution. This was a pivotal point in our history, part of our transition from a feudal to a capitalist state. Parliament challenged the despotic rule of King Charles I, civil war broke out between Parliamentarians ('Roundheads') and Royalists, King Charles was executed for high treason in 1649 and a republic, the 'Commonwealth', was established under Oliver Cromwell.

In the words of the famous ballad of the time, ‘the world turned upside down’. Visionary thinkers fought for radical political reform and articulated ideas of social justice and equality. Later, they turned against Cromwell: disillusionment set in as he reinforced the power of property and the landed gentry, and the lot of the common people failed to improve.

Attilla was moved to write the album through a combination of his love of local history and of early music. He says: “I have always loved early music and have taught myself to play many ancient instruments. For the last 30 years or so I have had an ambition to record a whole album combining early music and punk in the same kind of way that the Pogues combined Irish music and punk.”

Wellingborough and Wigan (Live at Rebellion 2018)

Barnstormer’s songs are about the radicals, dissenters and early communists who flourished in this period: Gerard Winstanley’s Diggers, the Levellers, the Ranters and their larger-than-life leader Abiezer Coppe, and their confrontations with Cromwell’s grandees and squires:

'The king had been beheaded, the world turned upside down/Winstanley and the Diggers cried 'the poor shall wear the Crown!'' 

They reflect on the contribution to the anti-Royalist and radical cause made by some of the key historical figures from this period: Thomas Pride, Thomas Harrison and Thomas Rainsborough. There’s a fine song about the narrow escape of Charles II after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, in a coal brig from Shoreham Port, close to Attila’s home, and the later betrayal of the Commonwealth and the restoration of the monarchy in the shape of Charles II in 1660:

‘Monck then rode the monarch’s way/Commonwealth he did betray/Lost chance to change history/Restoration tragedy/Once more things the monarch’s way’. 

The Monarch’s Way (Live at Rebellion 2018)

As you would expect from someone of Attila’s political convictions, he also draws an important parallel between 1649 and today’s ‘distressed and divided nation’, reflecting in The Man with the Beard, on the power of Jeremy Corbyn’s political vision as well as the risks of the emergence of a personality cult.

The album closes with a lovely tribute to his wife Robina.

The album features Attila (vocals, crumhorn, cornamuse, bombarde, shawm, rauschpfeife, recorders, violin, viola, mandola, and mandocello), Jason Pegg (guitar/backing vocs) Tim O'Tay (recorders/backing vocals) M.M McGhee (drums) and Dave Cook (bass/backing vocals). And there’s a guest spot from Robina, on piano, who composed one of the pieces.

Attila describes the Barnstormer sound as ‘Roundhead Renaissancecore and Baroque ‘n’ Roll’. The music combines the energy of punk with the window on the past represented by early music,  and is brought to life with a selection of historical instruments from the period. It’s a fine album and a timely reminder of the importance of understanding our history, the inspiration we can draw from our radical past, and the need to keep fighting for social justice and equality.

Oh, and the importance of drinking beer, having fun and raising a ballyhoo!

barnstormer 1649

Image based on the first 'headless' coinage minted under the Commonwealth after the execution of Charles I.

To buy a copy of Restoration Tragedy and find out about Barnstormer 1649’s upcoming gigs go to: www.attilathestockbroker.com