John Whitworth



…think fredome mair to prys
Than all the gold in warld that is.

We saw the invaders’ fires in the valley.
Their impious revels borne upon the breezes
Stank in our nostrils like their rotting cheeses.
At last we had no time to shilly-shally.
Their devils’ fires were burning in the valley.

We were the architects of our calamity.
We had felt the iron fingers on our collars

And paid a strong sufficiency of dollars

To co-exist in spurious amity

As willing architects of our calamity.

They are come to desecrate our ancient places,
They are come to turn free people into chattels,
Too numerous to defeat in open battles,
This gallimaufray of gross, alien faces
That spit upon our ancient, holy places.

They will not see us watching from the shadows.
They will not see us crouched above the treeline.
Our counter-moves are feral, secret, feline.
To trap the rats that swarm upon our meadows,
And, one-by-one, to slay them in the shadows,

To drag them from the feasting and the laughter,
Rip out their throats and leave them staring, tearing
At fickle life that flits away uncaring
Back to the doleful dark before and after,
Far from the fires, the feasting and the laughter.

We thought we were too feeble to resist them.
They came with promises and civil speeches.
Like wolves they raven and they suck like leeches,
Like viruses they paralyse the system.
We thought we were too feeble to resist them

We were the architects of our calamity.
We sold our children and our children’s children,

And grovelled in the temples of the heathen,

Prostrate in our pusillanimity,

The willing architects of our calamity.

If we must die then let it be for Freedom,
With all the benison of blood can give us,
The rolling wheatfields and the tumbling rivers,
The silver sands about our golden kingdom.
For Freedom. Die for Freedom. Die for Freedom.


Born in India, John Whitworth graduated from Merton College, Oxford. His work has appeared in Poetry Review, The Times Literary Supplement, London Magazine, The Spectator, Quadrant, New Poetry, and The Flea. He has published nine books of poetry, and edited two anthologies, including The Faber Book of Blue Verse.

For more, listen to Tom O’Bedlam read Whitworth’s poem “The Examiners”: