Category Archives: Ranters

Glasgow 1971

This punchy Edwin Morgan poem is in Worlds, an anthology of 7 poets that Penguin Education brought out in 1974. Adrian Mitchell, Seamus Heaney, Thom Gunn, and Red Hughes are also included. As with a lot of 70s school poetry there is some pretty good street photography too.

Glasgow 5 March 1971

With a ragged diamond
of shattered plate-glass
a young man and his girl
are falling backwards into a shop-window.
The young man’s face
is bristling with fragments of glass
and the girl’s leg has caught
on the broken window
and spurts arterial blood
over her wet-look white coat.
Their arms are starfished out
braced for impact,
their faces show surprise, shock,
and the beginning of pain.
The two youth who have pushed them
are about to complete the operation
reaching into the window
to loot what they can smartly.
Their faces show no expression.
It is a sharp clear night
in Sauchiehall Street.
In the background two drivers
keep their eyes on the road.

Edwin Morgan


Free Speech

This poem is from Rising Tide, an anthology of poetry and prose from the London Voices Poetry Workshop. There’s no date on the anthology but 1984 looks a good estimate. The Workshop met monthly at the Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green and was a member of the Federation of Worker-Writers and Community Publishers.
The poem is by Bill Eburn. He was born in 1911 and was a postman and POW in the Far East.

Free Speech

to lock
the door
behind me

I write boldly
on a piece of flimsy
‘Smith’ (our foreman)
‘is a bastard’

which carefully
I flush away,
content at last
to have had my say.

Bill Eburn

The Sick Journalist

From E. Nesbit’s Ballads and Lyrics of Socialism 1883 – 1908 published by the Fabian Society in 1908. That’s Edith Nesbit of the Railway Children and Five Children and It.

The Sick Journalist

Throb, throb, throb, weariness, ache and pain!
One’s heart and one’s eyes on fire,
And never a spark in one’s brain.
The stupid paper and ink,
That might be turned into gold,
Lie here unused,
Since one’s brain refused
To do its tricks – as of old.
One can suffer still, indeed,
But one cannot think any more.
There’s no fire in the grate,
No food on the plate,
And the East-wind shrieks through the door.
The sunshine grins in the street:
It used to cheer me like wine,
Now it only quickens my brain’s sick beat;
And the children are crying for bread to eat
And I cannot write a line!
Molly, my pet – don’t cry,
Father can’t write if you do –
And anyhow, if you only knew,
It’s hard enough as it is.
There, give old daddy a kiss,
And cuddle down on the floor;
We’ll have some dinner by-and-by.
Now, fool, try! Try once more!
Hold your head tight in your hands,
Bring your will to bear!
The children are starving – your little ones –
While you sit fooling there.
Beth, with her golden hair;
Moll, with her rough, brown head –
Here they are – see!
Against your knee,
Waiting there to be fed! –
I cannot bear their eyes.
Their soft little kisses burn –
They will cry again
In vain, in vain,
For the food that I cannot earn.
If I could only write
Just half a column or so
On ‘The Prospects of Trade’ or ‘The Irish Question,’
or ‘Why are Wages so Low?’ –
The printers are waiting for copy now,
I’ve had my next week’s screw,
There’ll be nothing more till I’ve written something,
God! what am I to do?
If I could only write!
The paper glares up white
Like the cursed white of the heavy stone
Under which she lies alone;
And the ink is black like death,
And the room and the window are black.
Molly., Molly – the sun’s gone out,
Cannot you fetch it back?
Did I frighten my little ones?
Never mind, daddy dropped asleep –
Cuddle down closely, creep
Close to his knee
And daddy will see
If he can’t do his writing. Vain!
I shall never write again!
Oh, God! was it like a love divine
To make their lives hang on my pen
When I cannot write a line?

Edith Nesbit

There’s A Fog Hangs Over Liverpool

This poem is from Rising Tide, which is an anthology of poetry and prose from the London Voices Poetry Workshop. There’s no date on the anthology but 1984 looks a good estimate. The Workshop met monthly at the Crown Tavern on Clerkenwell Green and was a member of the Federation of Worker-Writers and Community Publishers.
Pat O’Gorman was a legal secretary, and she didn’t believe that politics and poetry don’t mix.
CS gas was used during the Toxteth riots in 1981.

There’s a fog hangs over Liverpool

There’s a fog hangs over Liverpool
The fog of C.S. gas
There’s a plastic bullet waiting
To go through your head lass

My ring upon your finger
Is shining burnished gold
Love me now or never lass
We may never grow old

My brother served in Belfast
When they shot the Paddys down
I never thought the bullets
And the gas would hit our town

I never though that Liverpool
Would see a barricade
And the C.S. gas come choking us
For petrol bombs we’d made

I thought the British copper
Would protect me with his life
I never thought a bullet
Might come and kill my wife

I don’t know much of politics
I didn’t learn in school
But my eyes and ears are teaching me
That there’s one golden rule

The politicians told the cops
To follow R.U.C.
And now the gas and bullets
Are turned on you and me

The workers always get it
Be they black or be they white
But they’re rioters or terrorists
If they have the cheek to fight

My brother spoke of ‘terrorists’
When they shot the Paddys down
But now the bloody terrorists
Have come to Toxteth town

And they don’t wear masks or berets
And their name’s not I.R.A.
They’re protecting Law and Order
In the good old British way.

Pat O’Gorman

Hooligan Summer

From the front page of The Clarion, 20 August, 1898. The poem makes fun of the Hooligan panic that was currently filling, and being whipped up by, the papers.

Hot Weather and Crime

I scarcely can fink
That ‘ot weather and drink
Is sole causes of murders and priggins,
And I’ll tell you my views
(Which the same mayn’t be news)
Wot I frequent relates to Bill ‘Iggins.

I’m one of the group
Of poor cowves in the soup
I knows wot the treadmill and clink is;
I ain’t quite t-t,
For I’m boozed frequentlee
So I knows wot the evils of drink is

Us chaps drink a lot
When the weather is ‘ot –
That statement I will not deny it:
But it ought to be told
That we drinks when it’s cold
And whene’er we can steal it or buy it

We lives and we dies
In foul dens and styes
Without and fun or hexcitement
Like sparrers in cages –
‘Ard work and low wages –
Till we figgers vithin a hindictment.