Christmas Ode IV

(after Arnold)

Had we but World enough, and Time
This joyless Blair were no crime.
We would sit down, and think slowly which way
To make his parliament more au fait.
He by the River Thames’ side
Should’st humility one distant day find: I by the Tide
Of Clyst would complain and complain. I would
Barrack him ten years before the Flood:
And he should if he please refuse
Till he walked again in Socialists’ shoes.
My vegetable garden should its metaphors grow
Vaster than Millennium domes but much more slow.
An hundred years should go to raise
My fists and on his forehead graze.
Two hundred pummels on his hairless chest:
But thirty thousand to the puny rest.
An age at least to every part
And the last age should reveal him as The Grand Old Fart.
For Blair, Sir, you deserve this from the State
Nor would it reward you yet at any higher rate.
But at my back I always hear
Times winged chariot flapping near:
And yonder all before us Schools will be
In Deserts of vast Insipidity.
Thy intellect shall no more be found;
Nor, in number 11 (despite the move), shall sound
My echoing of being wronged: then Worms will eat
That long preserv’d Tory policies’ Repeat:
And Blair’s faint Honour turn to dust
And into ashes all my disgust.
The grave’s a very final place
But not where we should bury Education in disgrace.
Now therefore, while his youthful hue
With a few strands of manicured hair still seems new,
And while the suppressed Socialist nearly transpires
At every mention of the poor with aroused Fires,
Now let us do good while we may:
And now, like we mean what we say
Rather at once the Time devour
And begin to use what the people gave him: Power.
Let us roll all our Principles, and all
Our Convictions, up into one Ball:
And tear up Tory Blueness with rough strife
Through the School Gates of Life.
Thus, though we cannot make our Sun
Stand still, yet we will once again make Learning fun.

– 1997 –

This is the first of my six blasts from the past ‘education’ Christmas poems. For those who don’t recall the context: whilst Blair’s Labour government provided significant, real and purposeful financial investment in education, there was never any insightful curriculum development. Nor was there an alternative provided to the previous Conservative government dictates: indeed, on Labour’s first day in office in 1997, it re-appointed Chris Woodhead as the Ofsted chief – a withering, arrogant man – and it continued with and made even worse the target culture and the testing regime that had already begun to cause such damage and diminishing.


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