14 October 2012

The Chorus of the Secret Police

Christopher Logue 

(From a version of Antigone) 
There are many wonders on earth,
But the greatest of these is man!
We have divided the green sides of the earth
Into nations, and we utilize the land to know
And to nourish ourselves. Likewise, we cross the sea
And the changing air as easily as any room,
Even in storms, even at night, for then
We make the white stars guide us through.
Indeed, for man, the dark is brilliant, too!
Always the first among living things,
Fish, flesh, and fowl, the changing air
And mineral, we trick them into snares
Or mine them with our cunning hands until
Everything known is persuaded to obey.
So, in the evening, man sits by the fire
He has tamed, on the ground he makes fertile,
Outside, his creature, the horse that ran
Wild before he came. Oh, clever man!
And men have grown inside themselves,
Minds that move further and faster than light
Or the changing air, and men invented speech
To trap the mind as it flew and so
To hand things down; and, above all, we have learnt
The intricate civilities of government,
How to make laws, how to avoid unhealthy places,
And how to escape from the rain and the wind
Into cities of jet and ivory.
But even as he makes, whatever
He makes, and no matter how much he makes,
Man longs to destroy the thing he has made.
Finding no enemy, he becomes his own enemy;
As he traps the horse, so he traps other men,
But the others strike back, trap closing on trap;
Having eaten enough, man must next build a wall
Around whatever food is left, and other men
Must pull down that wall! So the roof gets split,
And the rain and the changing air wash away
Whatever is left of man and his cities,
When men have done with them.

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