Poem 44

A return to the earlier poetic manner of Francis (see The Word At World’s End for example). He gives a robust serve at the madness of the modern world – its greed and the aggression that could easily send the mushroom cloud to toast us all.

Idiomatic language and the comic tone accentuate the grotesque horror. But there is a difference from the earlier Francis; he is no longer hoping to wake up the world. The primary purpose here is to remind us that God alone is real, all that really matters is dying in Him.

But he also has a crack at all the poets who are beautifying and ignoring the crisis. “Cocking the snipe” means cocking a sniping gun to menace someone. “By its short hairs” (not quite the same as by the short and curlies) means under complete control. “Some one” instead of someone seems to suggest Baba is behind whatever happens. The “insect brood” are thus called since they reduce human individuals to colony members.

The little men, the insect brood, have got the world by its short hairs.
Everywhere the heart-highways are blocked with signs ‘Road Under Repairs’.

Where can a hobbit enjoy his after-breakfast pipe
Without the scream of a jet or gossip cocking to snipe.

The bomb-happy bastards are preparing a great big treat –
It’ll be mushrooms and toast for breakfast for all in our street.

The poetry lads are still singing about woodlands green
And the prettiest birdies and flowers you have ever seen.

The Prosperity-balloon goes on getting bigger and brighter
And if you don’t fall on your face to it you’re an undemocratic blighter.

Sing the balloon and the woodlands! till someone presses the Button
And the balloon goes pop! And the woods burn and we are all dead mutton.

To which I am quite reconciled: since even if I escape that death,
My Beloved anyway will consume me with His dragon-breath.

All pretty grim but treated so coolly. The hobbits are the theme of the next poem. Just as well for us hobbits that the world is such a mess we can’t just hide away with pipe comforts.