Watching the revolt in Egypt on TV while helping my son with his poetry assignment, I had a flashback. From the depths of memory a Persian ode translated by Khushwant Singh popped into my head. I had read it in the Illustrated Weekly in 1979 alongside a caricature of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi following the Iranian Revolution.
Think not, 0 King! thy sceptre or thy pow'r
one moment can arrest the destin'd hour !
Only time will tell whether the tumultuous events of the past week in the Middle East are genuine popular movements or are strings being pulled to replace politically-inconvenient stooge-dictators with politically-correct stooge-democracies?
Meanwhile enjoy the powerful imagery of Ted Hughes' ode to megalomaniac despots – the Hosni Mubaraks and the Ben Alis and their ilk.
I sit in the top of the wood, my eyes closed.
Inaction, no falsifying dream
Between my hooked head and hooked feet:
Or in sleep rehearse perfect kills and eat.
The convenience of the high trees!
The air’s buoyancy and the sun’s ray
Are of advantage to me;
And the earth’s face upward for my inspection.
My feet are locked upon the rough bark.
It took the whole of Creation
To produce my foot, my each feather:
Now I hold Creation in my foot
Or fly up, and revolve it all slowly –
I kill where I please because it is all mine.
There is no sophistry in my body:
My manners are tearing off heads –
The allotment of death.
For the one path of my flight is direct
Through the bones of the living.
No arguments assert my right:
The sun is behind me.
Nothing has changed since I began.
My eye has permitted no change.
I am going to keep things like this.
Just brilliant !
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