Empires

By Douglas Dunn

EmpiresAll the dead Imperia…They have gone

Taking their atlases and grand pianos.

They could not leave geography alone.

They conquered with the thistle and the rose.

To our forefathers it was right to raise

Their pretty flag at every foreign dawn

Then lower it at sunset in a haze

Of bugle-brass. They interfered with place,

Time, people, lives and so to bed. They died

When it died. It had died before. It died

Before they did. They did not know it. Race,

Power, Trade, Fleet, a hundred regiments,

Postponed that final reckoning with pride,

Which was expensive. Counting up the cost

We plunder morals from the power they lost.

They ruined us. They conquered continents.

We filled their uniforms. We cruised the seas,

We worked their mines and made their histories.

You work, we rule, they said. We worked; they ruled.

They fooled the tenements. All men were fooled.

It still persists. It will be so, always.

Listen. An out-of-work apprentice plays

God Save the Queen on an Edwardian flute.

He is, but does not know it, destitute.

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