Plutocrats , the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn,â€”hatred from a Brexit Spring;
The media who neither see nor feel nor know,
But leechlike to their failing country cling
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow.
A people starved and stabbed in th’ bitter field;
A DWP, whom liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who feel;
kipperish and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Belief meaningless and useless â€”a book sealed;
A Brietbart , Timeâ€™s worst statute, unrepealedâ€”
Are graves from which a glorious Boris may
Burst, to illumine our Brexitous day.
England in 1819
BY PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying King;
Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow
Through public scorn,â€”mud from a muddy spring;
Rulers who neither see nor feel nor know,
But leechlike to their fainting country cling
Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow.
A people starved and stabbed in th’ untilled field;
An army, whom liberticide and prey
Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield;
Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;
Religion Christless, Godlessâ€”a book sealed;
A senate, Timeâ€™s worst statute, unrepealedâ€”
Are graves from which a glorious Phantom may
Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.â€œEngland in 1819â€�
The speaker describes the state of England in 1819. The king is â€œold, mad, blind, despised, and dying.â€� The princes are â€œthe dregs of their dull race,â€� and flow through public scorn like mud, unable to see, feel for, or know their people, clinging like leeches to their country until they â€œdrop, blind in blood, without a blow.â€� The English populace are â€œstarved and stabbedâ€� in untilled fields; the army is corrupted by â€œliberticide and preyâ€�; the laws â€œtempt and slayâ€�; religion is Christless and Godless, â€œa book sealedâ€�; and the English Senate is like â€œTimeâ€™s worst statute unrepealed.â€� Each of these things, the speaker says, is like a grave from which â€œa glorious Phantomâ€� may burst to illuminate â€œour tempestuous day.â€�
â€œEngland in 1819â€� is a sonnet, a fourteen-line poem metered in iambic pentameter. Like many of Shelleyâ€™s sonnets, it does not fit the rhyming patterns one might expect from a nineteenth-century sonnet; instead, the traditional Petrarchan division between the first eight lines and the final six lines is disregarded, so that certain rhymes appear in both sections: ABABABCDCDCCDD. In fact, the rhyme scheme of this sonnet turns an accepted Petrarchan form upside-down, as does the thematic structure, at least to a certain extent: the first six lines deal with Englandâ€™s rulers, the king and the princes, and the final eight deal with everyone else. The sonnetâ€™s structure is out of joint, just as the sonnet proclaims England to be.
For all his commitment to romantic ideals of love and beauty, Shelley was also concerned with the real world: he was a fierce denouncer of political power and a passionate advocate for liberty. The result of his political commitment was a series of angry political poems condemning the arrogance of power, including â€œOzymandiasâ€� and â€œEngland in 1819.â€� Like Wordsworthâ€™s â€œLondon, 1802,â€� â€œEngland in 1819â€� bitterly lists the flaws in Englandâ€™s social fabric: in order, King George is â€œold, mad, blind, despised, and dyingâ€�; the nobility (â€œprincesâ€�) are insensible leeches draining their country dry; the people are oppressed, hungry, and hopeless, their fields untilled; the army is corrupt and dangerous to its own people; the laws are useless, religion has become morally degenerate, and Parliament (â€œA Senateâ€�) is â€œTimeâ€™s worst statute unrepealed.â€� The furious, violent metaphors Shelley employs throughout this list (nobles as leeches in muddy water, the army as a two-edged sword, religion as a sealed book, Parliament as an unjust law) leave no doubt about his feelings on the state of his nation. Then, surprisingly, the final couplet concludes with a note of passionate Shelleyean optimism: from these â€œgravesâ€� a â€œglorious Phantomâ€� may â€œburst to illumine our tempestuous day.â€� What this Phantom might be is not specified in the poem, but it seems to hint simultaneously at the Spirit of the â€œHymn to Intellectual Beautyâ€� and at the possibility of liberty won through revolution, as it was won in France. (It also recalls Wordsworthâ€™s invocation of the spirit of John Milton to save England in the older poetâ€™s poem, though that connection may be unintentional on Shelleyâ€™s part; both Wordsworth and Shelley long for an apocalyptic deus ex machina to save their country, but Shelley is certainly not summoning John Milton.)
Corbyn thou shouldst be PM at this hour:
England hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited their ancient English dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
O raise us up, return to us and win ,
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power!
Thy soul is like a Star, and dwelt apart;
Thou hast a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So doest thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful socialism; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on herself did lay.