David Betteridge

from Flight and Fall - Remembering the Russian Revolution 100 Years On

A Piper’s Progress
I came from The Cave of Gold, Uamh an Oir,
more years ago than I choose to tell.
Its entrance-exit lies halfway along the winding road
that leads from Tir-nan-Og to Hell.
No-one who ventured in that cave, except for me,
was ever seen on Earth again.
It is a cave of riches and of death, full of beauty
and the reek of a murderous Green Dog’s foul breath.
In I went as a young man to claim, not gold,
but the prize of the mastery of playing,
which I gained, at length, immune
from the Green Dog’s slaying.
Uamh an Oir was my nursery and my final school.
Ahead, a long way off  -  off any calendar or map  -
there lies my ancient and continuing goal.
Small step by step, precarious stage by stage,
I advance towards it, sometimes lost or slipping back.
It is an Age of Gold that never ends,
where Peace and Bread and Land are shared,
where Love can be exchanged for Love alone,
and green and golden Plenty takes the place of Lack.

Here you get a further sample of Piper’s oratory-in-verse,
this time from Day Nine of his ten-days marathon.
Piper’s choice of music for this occasion
consists of Slow Airs, Scottish and Irish,
with the addition of a set of variations
on a tune by Ronald Stevenson,
namely his tune for William Blake’s poem
“On Another’s Sorrow”, which begins,
“Can I see another’s woe,
And not be in sorrow too?”

Can wells,
that a long drought made bitter, self-restore?
Can sparks,
scattered from a beaten fire,
be raked in, and fed,
and made to blaze more brightly than before?
Can pages,
torn from a precious book,
be chased,
brought back from a high wind,
and then re-bound?
Can the green ribbon of a deep song,
and deep thought, extend to furthest folk its strong tug, and bring them soon
to the dear place where we all belong?
Where did we go wrong?
Where, and when, and how?
At every turn; and from the start,
matching point by point
the faults of those
whose hegemony we tried to end.
False leaders, whom too trustingly
we let command, presumed
too arrogantly to rule, and over-rule.
They dragged us down;

they stole the profit
from the produce of our lives;
they bled true meaning
from the hard-won words we use.
Their arrogance, their partiality,
their self-destroying choice of means -
we took them for ourselves.
Can a city, wrecked by poverty
or war, build again, and stand again,
secure on its old ground, attaining more?
Can we, bewildernessed,
construct a narrative and map
that leads us into wiser days?
Can there be a spring of good
sufficient to flush clean
the heaped contaminants
that history conveys?

David Betteridge © 2018