Wednesday, 31 October 2018

On Samhain, Remembering the Witch Hunts and the Burning Times

Today marks Halloween, Samhain, All Hallows, All Saints or Winters Eve,The Festival of the Dead. There are several explanations for its origin, one being the Roman festival of the dead 'Parentalia', but another origin, not necessarily exclusive from the Roman one, is from the ancient Celtic old day of Samhein (sa-wain). and most of the traditions that we celebrate on Halloween have its origins in Celtic/Gaelic Culture.
Samhein, which means November in Irish, was the end of summer and the harvest season in the Celtic calender. It was the last great feast held outdoors before the cold months to come. The last night of October also marked the ancient Celts New Years Eve. Marking the end of the summer and the beginning of Winter.
The Celts  believed that on Samhein, the veil between the living and the dead was dropped for one day, and the spirits of the living could intermingle with the spirits of the dead.The ancient Celts divided their year into two seasons: the light and the dark, at Beltane on 1st May and Samhain on November 1. Many believe that Samhain was the more important festival, marking the beginning of a new cycle / new year,and the most magical time of this festival was November Eve, the night of 31st October, better known today as Halloween..
Samhain, means November in the Celtic Culture, the literal translation being‘summer’s end.’ It is the Gateway to winter, a time when the veils between the realms of the living and the afterlife were said to be especially thin, marking a time for reflection to honor the worlds of the seen and unseen. In the country year, Samhain marked the first day of winter, when the herders led the cattle and sheep down from their summer pastures to the shelter of the stables, .in order to determine how many animals could be adequately fed through the winter. Those not able to be cared for were butchered, which would help to feed the family during the dark days ahead.  It is partially due to this practice that Samhain is sometimes referred to as the ‘blood harvest.’
With the rise of Christianity, Samhain was changed to Hallowmas, or All Saints’ Day, to celebrate the saints in heaven, and so the night before became popularly known as Halloween. The 2nd November became All Souls Day, when prayers were to be offered to the souls of the departed. Throughout the centuries, pagan and Christian beliefs and celebrations have intertwined
 Over the years we have ended up with the modern commercialised, corporate version that is now known as halloween  far from its original roots  when children dress up in Ghoulish costumes and go out trick and treating in what was developed in America in the late 19th and early 20th century replacing what in reality is such a sacred day The old ways are still with us despite the grip of large corporations, the real reason and respect for this occasion has never been lost.Samhein and its energy has never fully died out and still burns bright. Samhain fires have continued to light up the countryside down the ages., In some areas, ashes from these bonfires were sprinkled on surrounding fields. The day is also  about remembrance and  contemplation. Our ancestors, the blessed dead, are more accessible, more approachable during the time of the dying of the land. A day to commune with the dead and a celebration of the eternal cycle of reincarnation to honor our ancestors  and remember our deceased loved ones.
Some  in revelry and fun today will be dressing up as witches in pointy hats, perhaps forgetting this days roots. and all  those who have been tortured or killed as suspected witches during the centuries of the Burning Times in Europe, in Salem, and elsewhere across the globe.Witches have a long history of being associated with this time of year, primarily because of ritual gatherings at Samhain, the cauldron used as a symbol of the witchs' control over life and death.
 It is worth noting that the word witchcraft  has good and bad meanings in different cultures around the world. A general definition of witchcraft is the changing of everyday events using supernatural or magical forces. Witches, in folklore, and throughout history can be seen as considered outsiders of the human collective. Found in hidden enclaves (covens), or in isolation from society, they straddle the gap between the civil and the wild, the human and the element, and it is they who provoke, attack, agitate, heal and enliven the social order.They have existed in all inhabited continents of the world and across the majority of human societies.
Originating in the Mesopotamian myths of Inanna, in the Hindu stories of Kali, and in the Greek tales of Hecate, the legacy of the witch stretches back thousands of years. These goddesses had the ability to give life and to take it away, and they were worshipped for it. There once was a time when wise women were honored. They were often the keepers of knowledge about folk healing, and they were often spiritual leaders. Paganism – living in sync with nature and observing rituals associated with the seasons – was the prevailing tradition.
The witch however has long been a symbol of fear  not because she can harness forces that transcend this mortal coil, but because she embodies  a powerful femininity free from male influence or ownership. Indeed throughout history the figure of the witch has both challenged and reflected patriarchal narratives about female power.
Then  in Medieval Times, when monotheistic religions gained greater prominence, thereby consolidating belief around an omnipotent male deity, women were cast more frequently as “other,” and as villains. They were women who raised suspicion by amassing too much land, wealth, or influence. They were mothers, sisters, and daughters who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And they were punished for it.Women  who had gained some form of social power was subjected to  patriarchal tests to see whether her heart was pure. For her to be proven to be pure, she had to lose her will to live. Should she fail the  test, by maintaining her struggle to survive, she was shown to be of impure heart. This meant that she was condemned to die for her sins.One particular test was the dunking of witches. If they floated they were guilty of witchcraft, if they sank they were innocent but would have usually drowned anyway.

guilty or dead was the choice given

During the “witch craze,” women’s power became associated with darkness and death, and folk healers were misconstrued and condemned as worshippers of Satan. Well-organized campaigns of tortures like burning, dunking, and the application of thumb screws enforced the suppression of what was by then called heresy. For three centuries of early modern European history, diverse societies were consumed by a panic over alleged witches in their midst between the 14th and 17th centuries, especially in Central Europe. This was a time when many believed in the supernatural and misfortune was thought to be the work of the Devil or his servants. here was a widespread belief in Europe that a strong nation was one that had a uniform religious faith. By consorting with the Devil, "witches" were committing treason and were punishable by courts enforcing anti-witchcraft statutes.
The witches, of course, were nothing like the stereotype of the carbuncled hags shrieking incantations around a cauldron full of devilish potions. They were ordinary people who were often the convenient scapegoats for anything from a death in the village to the failure of crops. Individuals would often have been branded a witch simply after falling out with a neighbour.
Protestant evangelists targeted all magic, claiming that witches were deluded by the devil. The Catholic Church responded in kind. Each side blamed the other for colluding with Satan. This quickly escalated, leading to a number of the most brutal witch hunts in history ,(known as The Burning Times) resulted in  false accusations of heresy and trials and led to massive torture and burnings at the stake, and executions of tens of thousands of victims, about three-quarters of whom were women.  Many question  whether the widespread violence against women and the neglect of our environment today can be traced back to those times.

Some have claimed that as many as nine million people were killed in the name of “witch hunts.” However, there’s a lot of discussion about the accuracy of that number, and some scholars have estimated it to be significantly lower, possibly as few as 200,000.  Still a significantly huge number nevertheless. Hundreds of thousands of women, men and children died due to mass fear, propaganda, politics, and institutions run amok. The Burning Times may actually be viewed as mass hysteria. Plagues, droughts and other natural disasters during these times were often attributed to witchcraft which further fuelled the fear of witches. Witchcraft came to be viewed upon as an unpardonable offence which resulted in capital punishment. Many an innocent woman were condemned due to it. In the past, its often been pointed out that  the European witch hunts targeted women — after all, these poor country girls were simply the victims of the misogynistic societies of their times. However, what is often overlooked is that although overall about 80% of the accused were female, in some areas, more men than women were persecuted as witches.
England's most famous case were the Pendle Witches from Lancashire who were convicted of murdering 17 people in 1612. Their prosecutors argued they had sold their souls to the Devil in return for being able to lame or kill anyone they pleased. The trial was meticulously documented and appeared the following year in book form. Enormous crowds flocked to Lancaster Gaol to watch 10 "witches" - eight women and two men - die on the gallows.
In Scotland, where nearly 4,000 people died during a frenetic period of witch trials between 1590 and 1662, one of the popular types of evidence used against suspects was the Devil's Mark. When his followers made their pact with him, the Devil supposedly left his mark, usually an insensitive spot, upon him or her.
Witch hunting was old by the time Great Britain erupted into the Civil Wars of 1639-1651, but this existential clash between royalists and parliamentarians amid a swirling miasma of sectarianism and suspicion, resulted in a fresh flowering of superstitious barbarity. Behind the frontlines of the conflict in the puritan stronghold of East Anglia, Matthew Hopkins, the self-proclaimed Witchfinder General, and his colleague John Stearne dispatched an estimated 300 people to the gallows between 1644 and 1647 for their alleged covenant with the devil.It was the largest outbreak of witch hunting in English history, a unique product of fear, war, and the breakdown of civil society.
 In 1692, -1693 there were  the cataclysmic events of Salem, Massaschusets  the belief in witches was so commonplace that anything out of the ordinary, from odd weather to a cow’s milk going sour, was explained away as “witchcraft.” In the Puritan colony of Massachusetts Bay, fear of witches was rampant. In 1692, a group of young girls accused three women of working with the devil. The accusations soon multiplied, as those who stood accused would only be saved from hanging if they admitted guilt and provided the names of others who conjured the devil alongside them.Soon paranoia gripped, as people suddenly perceived something so incredibly innocent to be the "devils work." After the girls were accused of being witches, fingers began to be pointed at everyone in the town, everyone was ready to accuse their neighbour or friend, in order to take the focus away from themselves. By the time this  event was over  141 suspects, both men and women, were tried as witches. Nineteen were executed by hanging. One was pressed to death by heavy stones. The town had become so afraid of something that was not to blame, that innocent lives were taken, creating a spread of blame, along with a chaotic panic.

After these tumultuous events  European belief in witches seemed to spontaneously disappear. The Age of Enlightenment, with its emphasis on reason and logic, was beginning in Europe and natural causes began to replace the Devil as the reason behind much of society's ills. By 1736, the Witchcraft Acts in England and Scotland had both been repealed. The same happened on the continent
But  what never died out completely, however, was the demonization of those considered "other," and it is a grim grim paradox of 21st-century life that  persecution  against people accused of sorcery is very much still with us. It resurfaced, along with witch hunting, in postcolonial Africa, as a response to the process of modernization after independence.
The last witch trial in Britain  took place in 1944, when Helen Duban was jailed for claiming to have conjured up the spirit of a dead sailor from the HMS Barham – the sinking of the ship by the Germans was classified information, and the authorities were worried that she might also reveal details of the D-Day landing plans. She was released after nine months, and lived to see the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951.
Even today, we see witch hunts breaking out in different parts of the world among cultures most fearful of change. In recent years, there has been a spate of attacks against people accused of witchcraft in Africa, the Pacific and Latin America, and even among immigrant communities in the United States and Western Europe. Researchers with United Nations refugee and human rights agencies have estimated the murders of supposed witches as numbering in the thousands each year, while beatings and banishments could run into the millions.
For all the surface rationality and modernity of lives everywhere, fear of witches is still widespread, a reminder that ancient superstitions are durable and widespread. Much like xenophobia (fear of foreigners), Wiccaphobia ( fear of witches or fear of witchcraft) is triggerred especially  by the fear of the unknown. What the mind cannot perceive or what it deems as unusual, it fears. The root cause of fear of witches may also be prejudice and stereotypes. In short: witches represent everything that is threatening. Many popular childhood stories have often reinforced beliefs that witches are bad. Today, there are many Churches that continue to teach its members that witches are evil.
Today’s accused “witches” are almost all women, many of them the more outspoken, independent and prosperous women in their communities. Whether victims of simple sexist domination or scapegoats for the old ways in a modernizing society plagued with economic injustice, often they stand for a former way of life, a life more in harmony with nature. Their murder is thus a crime against women and nature, as well as a horrific violation of human rights and religious freedom generally.
Witch hunts lie at the dark heart of Western culture, so much so that they've become synonymous with any kind of vicious, dogged and irrational persecution, takeMcCarthyism in the 1940's for example when a similar paranoia  and hysteria emerged, with federal employees being dragged before loyalty boards on murky charges, their names often cleared only to be charged again and again. Eventually 8,000 employees were forced to resign. At least seven committed suicide. Then the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began investigating communist activity in Hollywood in what critics considered an outrageous infringement of First Amendment rights, labeling the hearings a “witch hunt.” hounding politicians, academics, celebrities, and other public figures while chasing vague rumors of Communist sympathizers. As in Salem, these persecutions moved some to accuse others as evidence of their innocence.
 Later we would see the ritual child abuse panics of the 1980s. No wonder the history of the original European witch hunts of the late 16th and early 17th centuries has become politicized.
The inauguration of the US president, Donald Trump, provoked women’s protest marches around the world, with some banners reading: “Hex the Patriarchy”, “Witches for Black Lives”, and “We are the daughters of the witches you didn’t burn, and we are pissed off.”And recently an  event even took place in October in Brooklyn, New York, to hex supreme court justice, Brett Kavanaugh. The meeting was sold out and the protest made headlines across the world. It is no surprise that, at a time when women’s rights are under increasing pressure in some areas of Western society, that the witch should be used as a feminist symbol of power, both in language and in the claimed reality of witchcraft.
 Then the  the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements led Woody Allen to invoke the spectre of Salem, but with men as accused witches, saying: “You also don’t want it to lead to a witch-hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere, where every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.” In these cases, men are positioning themselves and their peers in the role of witches, but in this scenario the witch is an innocent, a victim.
 Donald Trump feels  persecuted. The most powerful man in the world is always complaining that he’s being treated unfairly. He has whined that no politician in history had ever received worse treatment, and tweeted that there was a witch hunt out to get him.In 2018 alone, Trump has tweeted the term  witch hunt 112 times.  Now, Trump is pretty bad at being president, but he’s an even worse historian. There are plenty of witch hunts in history that are much bigger than anything Trump has yet encountered. A witch hunt involves persecution as well as prosecution, and Trump is not being persecuted.We should remind him  that the Muslim ban is a witch hunt. The perrecution and demonisation of refugees is a witch hunt. And so is calling Mexican immigrants “rapists.”

Intrerestingly today it is male politicians like Donald Trump – and countless others – who still use 'witch' or generally cry 'witch hunt' as a term of vilification against women,  just as their predecessors so often led them. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, Hillary Clinton was repeatedly defined as a witch by Trump supporters: Clinton was “the wicked witch of the Left”, pictured with green skin, pointy hat, and riding a broomstick; her opponents claimed she smelt of sulphur. Aligning her with such stereotypical representations of witchcraft evidenced the power plays at the root of such blatant and public misogyny.
Men are still walking around afraid of women and their power. Hate crimes, sex crimes, domestic violence, glass ceilings,  all are testimony to this legacy of fear. The real witches who  live among us  are still  angry at having to live under patriarchal control, and the measures taken against her are no less real than the past, and raw patriarchal society still seeks to destroy her.
So  today on Samhein, as the more consumerist tradition of Halloween  takes place, along with the stereotypical  images, remember the deeper messages of the day, remember the dead , our loved ones gone before us, honour our sisters, the witches, and all of the other lives who were lost in "the  Burning Times " and celebrate their courage, and be mindful for those who still face persecution for their beliefs.
 Men are still walking around afraid of women and their power. Hate crimes, sex crimes, domestic violence, all are testimony to this legacy of fear. The real witches who  live among us  are still  angry at having to live under patriarchal control, and the measures taken against her are no less real than the past, and raw patriarchal society still seeks to destroy her. Our deepest power is to  learn and grow and talk about our fears out loud, so that we do not repeat  the tragedies of the past, make a conscious effort not to repeat the evil of history, not to repeat the evil of fear.
The air is full of the whispers of our ancestors, loved ones passed, and we remember them holding them close to our hearts. What is remembered lives. Good Samhain to you and yours.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

October: Ten Days That Shook The World

In February 1917, in the midst of bloody war, Russia was still an autocratic monarchy: nine months later, it became the first socialist state in world history. How did this unimaginable transformation take place? How was a ravaged and backward country, swept up in a desperately unpopular war, rocked by not one but two revolutions? Historians have debated the revolution for over a hundred years, its portents and possibilities: the mass of literature can be daunting. But most of us now  know and accept what came next: the Revolution’s nightmare offspring – Stalinist terror and the 20 million dead. No one contests the catastrophe, but there are those, who look back to the events of 1917 and are still haunted by the thought that “it might have been otherwise. It might have been different”.
Sergei Eisenstein’s  powerful testement to his genius, artistry, and ambition, his amazing dramatisation  October — the director’s third feature, after Strike and Battleship Potemkin — was commissioned by the Soviet government to honour the tenth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Eisenstein had nearly unlimited resources placed at his disposal, including the run of Leningrad’s Winter Palace for several months. His startling re-creation of the events of 1917 is both a sweeping historical epic of vast scale and a magnificent monument to his fascination with intellectual montage — the juxtaposition of two disparate images to convey an idea or concept not inherent in either image alone. The film’s most celebrated examples of the technique include a baroque figure of Christ reduced, through a series of successive images, to a primitive idol, and Kerensky, head of the pre-Revolutionary provisional government, compared to a preening mechanical peacock. Such metaphorical experiments met with official disapproval; the authorities complained that October was unintelligible to the masses, and Eisenstein was attacked, for neither the first time nor the last, for “formalism." He was also required to re-edit the work to remove references to Trotsky, who had recently been purged by Stalin. October remains an immensely rich experience.
The film was originally released in 1928 as Oktober in the Soviet Union, and later internationally as Ten Ten Days Shook  The World  borrowing from John Reed's well known classic account of the Revolution. In documentary style, events in Petrograd are re-enacted from the end of the monarchy in February of 1917 to the end of the provisional government and the decrees of peace and of land in November of that year. Lenin returns in April. In July, counter revolutionaries put down a spontaneous revolt, and Lenin's arrest is ordered. By late October, the Bolsheviks are ready to strike : ten days will shake the world. While the Mensheviks  vaciliate an advance guard infiltrates the palace.Antatov Oveyenko leads the attack and declares the proclamation dissolving the provisional government. You can watch this epic masterpiece of world film history below which is rousing, shocking and stunningly visualised.

Thursday, 25 October 2018


(This week  marks the 2 year anniversary of  a makeshift camp known as  the Jungle in Calais, France in 2016. being demolished and people evicted, yet the  the problem and tragedy nevertheless still sadly ongoing.)

Still the language of spin repeating
Still angry choruses releasing,
Still distraught tears raining down
Still lines of division, continue pressing,
Still refugees seek shelter, from fear to freedom
Still forced to flee, poverty and war,
Still abandoning man made tragedies
Still escaping darkness, hope undimmed,
Still not welcome, still told to disappear
Still building walls to keep them out,
Still made illegal, repression continues
Still in desperate search of need,
Still is the night, still is the air
Still logic flies on paths of departure,
Still the beyondness of unknowing
Still the tides keep on flowing,
Still travelling, unravelling threads
Still seeking hands of kindness
Still hoping for depth of understanding
Still offering  the hand of friendship,
Still human imagining tomorrow
Still hoping the world will change,
Still determined, carry on unbroken
Still many mountains to climb,
Still got the future, still got time
Still on the verge of hope,
Still words of truth flying high
Still inspiration calls from mind's eye,
Still displaced, but still surviving
Still the gift of dignity, keeps on calling.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Bandista: Haydi Barikata | To the Barricades | A las Barricadas | Στα οδοφράγματα | Alle barricate

"A las Barricadas" sung in turkish by the musical collective "Bandista". "A las Barricadas" ("To the Barricades") was the anthem of the spanish anarchists during the Spanish revolution and soon became an internationalist anarchist song. The original "A las Barricadas" is sung to the tune of "Whirlwinds of Danger" (based on the song "Varsovonia) which was composed in 1883, by the Polish poet Warclaw Swiercicki , when  he was locked up in prison in Warsaw, at a time when the Polish labour movement was engaged in hard fought struggles. The song was based on a popular Polish theme, and was sung for the first time at the workers; demonstration on March 2, 1885 in Warsaw and popularised and  versioned throughout Europe for the solidarity of the labor movement.
With the name.Triumphal March and subtitle "A las barricadas!", the score was published in November 1922, in the supplement of the magazine Tierra y Liberttad in Barcelona written by Valeriano Orobón Fernández  a Spanish anarcho-syndicalist activist, speaker and author. In Spain, and in exile in France and Germany, who laboured to prepare the anarcho- syndicalist CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo — "National Confederation of Labor")  which was the largest Labour union and main anarchist organisation in Spain, and a major force opposing Francisco Franco's military coup against the Spanish Republic from 1936–1939 for the revolutionary battles to come. He sadly  died of Tuberculosis just weeks before the Spanish Revolution erupted on the 19th July 1936.
A rousing moving anthem, inspiring the working class to answer the call to arms and fight the fascist threat to our essential freedoms. It certainly sends a chill down my spine.
 Despite the revolution in Spain being ultimately defeated, it still provides a glimpse of what could have been and anyone who believes that a better world is possible, should reflect on the inspiring examples and hard lessons of the Spanish Revolution.
What happened in Spain has since been repeated. Currently in Kobane, countless comrades have fallen to defend this city against the fascists, just like the countless comrades who gave their lives to defend the revolution in Catalonia and Spain. The spirit of revolutionary Barcelona  lives on in Kobane, the Rojava and the Kurdish struggle. Carried on the wind, for many solidarity gives strength, and in every city, every town, the cause of freedom will never be conquered . No pasaran
The photo  in the Bandista video is from 18 March 1871 in Paris, France where attempts to remove cannons from Montmartre provoked resistance and the erection of barricades by Parisians that soon transformed the autonomous Paris Commune.

Spanish lyrics

Negras tormentas agitan los aires
nubes oscuras nos impiden ver.
Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte
contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.

El bien más preciado es la libertad
hay que defenderla con fe y valor.

Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.

Negras tormentas agitan los aires
nubes oscuras nos impiden ver.
Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte
contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.

El bien más preciado es la libertad
hay que defenderla con fe y valor.

Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.

En pie el pueblo obrero, a la batalla
hay que derrocar a la reacción.

¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!
por el triunfo de la Confederación.
¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!
por el triunfo de la Confederación.

egras tormentas agitan los aires
nubes oscuras nos impiden ver.
Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte
contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.
El bien más preciado es la libertad
hay que defenderla con fe y valor.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Negras tormentas agitan los aires
nubes oscuras nos impiden ver.
Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte
contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.
El bien más preciado es la libertad
hay que defenderla con fe y valor.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
En pie el pueblo obrero, a la batalla
hay que derrocar a la reacción.
¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!
por el triunfo de la Confederación.
¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!
por el triunfo de la Confederación.

Negras tormentas agitan los aires
nubes oscuras nos impiden ver.
Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte
contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.
El bien más preciado es la libertad
hay que defenderla con fe y valor.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Negras tormentas agitan los aires
nubes oscuras nos impiden ver.
Aunque nos espere el dolor y la muerte
contra el enemigo nos llama el deber.
El bien más preciado es la libertad
hay que defenderla con fe y valor.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
Alza la bandera revolucionaria
que del triunfo sin cesar nos lleva en pos.
En pie el pueblo obrero, a la batalla
hay que derrocar a la reacción.
¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!
por el triunfo de la Confederación.
¡A las barricadas! ¡A las barricadas!
por el triunfo de la Confederación.
 English lyrics: 

Black storms shake the air
Dark clouds blind us
Although pain and death [may] await us
Duty calls us against the enemy

The most precious good is freedom
It must be defended with faith and courage

Raise the revolutionary flag
Which carries us ceaselessly towards triumph
Raise the revolutionary flag
Which carries us ceaselessly towards triumph

Black storms shake the air
Dark clouds blind us
Although pain and death [may] await us
Duty calls us against the enemy

The most precious good is freedom
It must be defended with faith and courage

Raise the revolutionary flag
Which carries us ceaselessly towards triumph
Raise the revolutionary flag
Which carries us ceaselessly towards triumph

Get up, working people, to the battle
[We] have to topple the reaction
To the Barricades! To the Barricades!

For the triumph of the Confederation
To the Barricades! To the Barricades!
For the triumph of the Confederation

Turkish lyrics: 

Haydi barikata, haydi barikata!
Ekmek, adalet ve özgürlük için (x3)
Yek, dü, se, car!

Kara fırtınalar sarsıyor göğü,
Kara bulutlar kör eder gözleri.
Ölüm ve acı beklese de bizleri,
Onları yenmek için yürümeliyiz.
Ve en değerli varlığımız özgürlük,
Cesaret ve inançla savunmalıyız.

Haydi barikata, haydi barikata!
Ekmek, adalet ve özgürlük için (x2)

Kalplerimizde, kardeşlerimizle,
Tüm dünyada büyüyor direniş.
Haydi barikata, haydi barikata!
Ekmek, adalet ve özgürlük için (x2)

Kalplerimizde, kardeşlerimizle,
Tüm dünyada büyüyor direniş.
Haydi barikata, haydi barikata!
Ekmek, adalet ve özgürlük için (x6)

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Remembering Aberfan

At 9.15am on the morning of this day in 1966 the small Welsh mining community of Aberfan was changed forever, and torn apart, when thousands of tons of waste from a coal tip poured down a hillside and engulfed a school and several homes, killing 144 people – 116 of them children.
The pupils at Pantglas Junior School  between the ages of seven and 10 were sitting down to their last lesson before half term, having returned to their classrooms after morning assembly.Within minutes, more than a hundred of them were dead - buried alive by an avalanche of coal waste that swept through their village.
Waste material from the nearby Merthyr Vale colliery – known as ‘spoil’ – had been deposited on the slopes of Mynydd Merthyr, a broad ridge of high ground above the village containing numerous underground springs, for around 50 years.Unusually heavy rain had caused the waterlogged spoil to come loose and run down the hillside at increasing speed.  In a matter of seconds, over 40,000 cubic metres of slurry smashed into the side of the school, filling classrooms with a wall of mud and rocks as deep as 10 metres in places.
Hundreds of villagers rushed to the scene, some mothers frantically clawing at the mud and waste with their bare hands in a desperate attempt to find any survivors. Miners from local collieries arrived in their droves to help dig through the rubble, but no survivor was recovered after 11am.
By the following day, 2,000 emergency service workers and volunteers were involved in the rescue operation, of whom many had worked continuously for over 24 hours; despite this, it was nearly a week before all the bodies were recovered.
Many believed at the time  that with nationalisation the uncaring, exploitative attitudes of the private mine owners  had been got rid off. Not only did the NCB act like a private corporation, despite the enormity of the disaster,  the chairman of the NCB Lord Robens in total arrogance chose to go ahead with his investiture as Chancellor of the University of Surrey rather than travel to Aberfan, and when he finally reached the site, he denied that anything could have been done to prevent the disaster. He told the press "natural unknown springs" had brought down the tip. Shamefully Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson refused Robens' resignation.
As this horror was felt around the world, ( people from all over world contributed £1.75 million to the disaster fund – an extraordinary amount of money in the 1960s), it became even more poignant as news emerged of previous warnings and previous slides that had been brushed aside. The National Coal Board (NCB) had been repeatedly been warned to move the slag heaps to a safer location, because they were also close to natural underwater springs. Did the NCB have the decency to acknowledge their blame, to bow their head in shame, like hell no, but we were to  learn sadly far too late that the NCB was ostensibly a capitalist organisation more concerned with profit than lives. The Davies tribunal by the government at the time at least recognised that :-
 " Blame  for the disaster rests upon  the National Coal Board. The legal liabilities of the National Coal Board to pay compensation for the  personal injury ( fatal or otherwise) and  damage to property is incontestable and uncontested." 
 Unbelievably, the Charity Commission opposed the plan for a flat rate of compensation to the bereaved families, instead suggesting that for payment to be made, parents should have to prove that they had been ‘close’ to their dead children, and were thus ‘likely to be suffering mentally’.
Meanwhile, Aberfan villagers lived in fear that tip no.4 and tip no.5 situated above tip no.7 might start to slide as well. The NCB refused to pay to remove them, and the Labour government wouldn’t make it pay. Instead the money was taken from the disaster fund – an act later described as unquestionably unlawful by charity law experts.
‘Like the Hillsborough victims,’ said Felicity Evans on Radio 4, ‘the people of Aberfan were let down by the very institutions that owed them a duty of care, and just like at Hillsborough those institutions sought to obstruct the search for truth and the solace it might provide.’
And, as with Hillsborough, justice was a long time coming. More than three decades later the Charity Commission apologised, and a Labour Government eventually paid back to the Disaster Fund the money taken from it in 1966 by the NCB.
Today we remember the people of Aberfan, their collective loss, a community that is still profoundly affected by this disaster. Sadly there is very  little to remind visitors of  this tragic disaster, just an abstract memorial garden in the village and the childrens section in the graveyard. The sores and wounds of this gross injustice, one that should never have happened, are forever stored in the collective feelings of the people of Wales. Lest we forget, the lessons of Aberfan, that still hold a profound relevance today. They touch on issues of public accountability, responsibility, competence and transparency. Aberfan was a man-made disaster. This is a fact that often needs underlining. There was nothing “natural” about it, nothing freakish about the geology of Aberfan, nothing uniquely unforeseeable about the deadly slide. It happened because of a mix of negligence, arrogance and incompetence for which no individual was punished or even held to account.
Leon Rosselson wrote the following  song ‘Palaces of Gold’ in response to news of the disaster at Aberfan. It appeared on his 1968 album A Laugh, a Song, and a Hand-Grenade:

If the sons of company directors,
And judges’ private daughters,
Had to got to school in a slum school,
Dumped by some joker in a damp back alley,
Had to herd into classrooms cramped with worry,
With a view onto slagheaps and stagnant pools,
Had to file through corridors grey with age,
And play in a crackpot concrete cage.

Buttons would be pressed,
Rules would be broken.
Strings would be pulled
And magic words spoken.
Invisible fingers would mould
Palaces of gold.

If prime ministers and advertising executives,
Royal personages and bank managers’ wives
Had to live out their lives in dank rooms,
Blinded by smoke and the foul air of sewers.
Rot on the walls and rats in the cellars,
In rows of dumb houses like mouldering tombs.
Had to bring up their children and watch them grow.

In a wasteland of dead streets where nothing will grow.
I’m not suggesting any kind of a plot,
Everyone knows there’s not,
But you unborn millions might like to be warned
That if you don’t want to be buried alive by slagheaps,
Pit-falls and damp walls and rat-traps and dead streets,
Arrange to be democratically born
The son of a company director
Or a judge’s fine and private daughter.

I end this post with a poem I wrote a few years ago

Cofiwch Aberfan/ Remember Aberfan

On October 21 1966

a ticking timebomb of slurry

left a community scarred

angels laughter forever lost

buried deep in the wounds of history

my nation mourns with anger 

bitterness and shame

after the spoils of injustice

drowned a community in coal

left generations in ruin

our tears keep on flowing

never ever  forgiving. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Lost in Occupation: How Google Maps is erasing Palestine

click to enlarge

A Palestinian rights organisation 7amleh - The Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media have released a new report entitled " Mapping Segregation -Google Maps and the Human Rights of Palestinians showing how Google Maps is putting the lives of Palestinians in danger by "contradicting Google's responsibilities under international human rights frameworks" and perpetuating a narriative that "serves the interests of the Israeli government". In particular, it focuses on Google Maps' representation of geography and political boundaries in Israel and the occupied territories, including Google's use of conditions and roadmap.
In its report, 7amleh, which describes itself as a "non-profit organisation aimed at enabling the Palestinian and Arab civil society to effectively utilise the tools of digital advocacy through professional capacity building, defending digital rights and building influential digital media campaigns", has shown how what seems to be a simple leaning towards Israeli bias actually has a huge impact on Palestinians.
The report looked at four main aspects in which Google is complicit in erasing Palestine from the map: the erasure of Palestinian villages under Google Maps, the legal implications of Google's actions, the way route planning can put Palestinian lives in danger and the implication of the terminology Google uses.
There is a clear discrepancy of the visibility of Palestinian villages and Israeli villages on Google Maps, according to 7amleh. Palestinian villages in the Naqab/Negev desert are made nearly invisible, unless they are being searched for by someone who already knows exactly where the village is, according to the report.
 "Google Maps does not contain the search term" Palestine "and rarely contains the names of Palestinian areas not recognized by Israel, while containing names and locating illegal Israeli settlements without any problems. The maps also neglect to express hundreds of roadblocks, permanent flight points and air traffic controls, and as Israel has done on the West Bank, violates the Palestinian right to free movement. Consequently, the Google Maps routes are for Israeli and illegal Israeli settlers and may be dangerous to Palestinians. "
Other examples the report highlighted is the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, following US President Donald Trump's controversial decree and the erasure of Palestinian cities from maps. Palestine is called on Google Maps in accordance with the resolution of the UN General Assembly in November 2012 and that, on the basis of Resolution 181 from the United Nations General Assembly.Google Maps contains all "unidentified" Palestinian villages in the first layer on their maps and gives the same degree of detail when representing Palestinian villages in area C.
In accordance with Article 49 in the Fourth Geneva Convention and Article 55 of the Hague Regulations, Google Maps must refer to and distinguish illegal Israeli settlements within the West Bank.It is important to clearly refer to areas A, B and C on the West Bank on Google Maps and to map all movement restrictions and restricted streets.
The State of Palestine was recognised  by 136 of the 193 member United Nations General Assembly( UNGA) in 2012, but has never been labelled as such on Google Maps. Israel is not only identified as a country, but Jerusalem, which was granted international status in UNGA resolution 181 and remains a final status issue, is marked as its capital. While a West Bank label does exist, Israeli  settlements, there appear as if they are located inside Israel. Meanwhile Palestinian villages unrecognised by Israel, both in the occupied territories and within the Green Line are either misrepresented  or entirely left out, while the names and locations of Israeli settlements are clearly noticeable. Even relatively small Jewish Israeli communities appear on the map, but Palestinian villages are only visible when extremely, almost intentionally, zoomed in on.
Unlike other cities or villages, Bedouin communities in the Negev, which existed  before Israel was established, are marked by their tribal designation, rather than the actual names of their villages. Considering that these villages are under the constant threat of demolition by Israeli authorities, their misrepresentation or omission from the map becomes "a method  of enforcing the eradication of unrecognisd Palestinian villages," the report argues.
The report concludes that in addition to biased mapping, 7amleh says Google prioritizes Israeli citizens when offering routes. The map ignores the segregated road system in Israel-Palestine and the resulting movement restrictions, such as checkpoints and road blocks, that affect Palestinians. For example, to navigate from Bethlehem to Ramallah, all routes suggested by Google Maps require crossing from the West Bank to Jerusalem, and then back to the occupied territories. This is only possible for people with Israeli IDs or foreign passports. It is illegal for Palestinians to access Israeli-only roads, which usually connect settlements, and the consequences of doing so may include arrest, delays, detention and confiscation of cars. Combined with Google Map's refusal to display internationally recognised borders, Palestinian villages and cities, this endangers the lives of the Palestinians and approves the Israeli state story that contradicts international law.
Google should take care over this issue, in such a politically sensitive region and correct their mistakes, people see maps as a lot more than just a collection of data points, furthermore this is putting lives at risk. As technology advances, online maps are crucial for instant and easy route planning. For Palestinians, however, using Google Maps could get them killed.
Ultimately, Google is one of the largest sharks for people to acquire information. They know this and they are using their power irresponsibly.Google's unofficial  motto is 'don't be evil' - but Google at this moment in time is complicit in the Israeli government's erasure of Palestine.

To read full report go here

And please consider signing following petition to ask Google to stop erasing Palestine.

Mapping Segregation

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Oscar Wilde - The Ballad of Reading Gaol

October 16th marks the anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest Irish writers Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde who was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1854. His father William Wilde was a successful surgeon who founded St.Marks Opthalmic Hospital, entirely at his own personal expense, to treat the city's poor. Oscar's  mother. Jane Francesca Elgee, was a poet who was closely associated with the Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848.
Wilde was a bright and bookish child and attended the Portora Royal School at Enniskillen. He won the schools  prize for the top classics student in each of his last two years, as well as second prize in drawing in his final year. Upon graduating in 1871, Wilde was awarded the Royal School Scholarship to attend Trinity College in Dublin. At the end of his first year at Trinity, in 1872, he placed first in the school's classics examination and recieved the college's Foundation Scholarship the highest honour awarded to undergraduates. After this Wilde went to further study at Magdalen College in Oxford, he became involved in the aesthetic movement, a theory of art and literature that emphasized the pursuit of beauty for its own sake, rather than to promote any political or social viewpoint. He  graduated with honors in 1878.
A popular society figure known for his wit and flamboyant style, he published his own book of poems in 1881 and spent a year lecturing on poetry in the United States,While not lecturing, he managed to meet with some of the leading American scholars and literary figures of the day, including Henry Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Walt Whitman. Wilde especially admired Whitman. “There is no one in this wide great world of America whom I love and honor so much,” he later wrote to his idol.
Upon the conclusion of his American tour, Wilde returned home and immediately commenced another lecture circuit of England and Ireland that lasted until the middle of 1884. On May 29, 1884, Wilde married a wealthy Englishwoman named Constance Lloyd. They had two sons: Cyril, born in 1885, and Vyvyan, born in 1886. A year after his wedding, Wilde was hired to run Lady's World, a once-popular English magazine that had recently fallen out of fashion. During his two years editing Lady's World, Wilde revitalized the magazine by expanding its coverage to "deal not merely with what women wear, but with what they think and what they feel. The Lady's World," wrote Wilde, "should be made the recognized organ for the expression of women's opinions on all subjects of literature, art and modern life, and yet it should be a magazine that men could read with pleasure."  After moving to London to pursue his literary career. Beginning in 1888, Wilde entered a seven-year period of furious creativity, during which he produced nearly all of his great literary works.
In 1891, he published Intentions, an essay collection arguing the tenets of aestheticism, and that same year, he published his first and only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The novel is a cautionary tale about a beautiful young man, Dorian Gray, who wishes (and receives his wish) that his portrait ages while he remains youthful and lives a life of sin and pleasure.Though the novel is now revered as a great and classic work, at the time critics were outraged by the book’s apparent lack of morality. Wilde vehemently defended himself in a preface to the novel, considered one of the great testaments to aestheticism, in which he wrote, “an ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style” and “vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.”
Among Wilde's  other best-known works,  Lady Windermere's Fan (1892), a play about a divorced woman driven to self-sacrifice by maternal love; The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), a play about the courtships of two young English men; and his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), about a handsome young man who sells his soul to the devil.
Politically, Wilde is now primarily is seen as a symbol of the gay rights movement, the best known symbol of the cruelty of a Victorian era which saw him imprisoned, broken and dead at 46.
That means that his broader attempt to contribute to political thought has been largely forgotten. Yet Wilde was also a Socialist, if of an unusual kind, a Fabian anarchist whose ideal was that "socialism itself will be of value because it leads to individualism",his own socialist anarchism was set out fully in his 1891 tract, The Soul of Man under Socialism which I previouly posted here
disobedience, rebellion, and resistance to the decrees of authority were central  tenets of Wilde's thoughts. and formed the basis of his own individual code. Combined with his interests in radical politics and his sympathy with women's struggle to assert their individual rights, and his distrust  of all forms of government influence, and control, still resonates with us today.
Although married with two children, and around the same time that he was enjoying his greatest literary success, Wilde commenced an affair with a young man named Lord Alfred Douglas. On February 18, 1895, Douglas’s father, the Marquis of Queensberry, who had gotten wind of the affair, left a calling card at Wilde’s home addressed to “Oscar Wilde: Posing Somdomite,” a misspelling of sodomite. Although Wilde’s homosexuality was something of an open secret, he was so outraged by Queensberry’s note that he sued him for libel. The decision would subsequently ruin his life.
When the trial began in March, Queensberry and his lawyers presented evidence of Wilde’s homosexuality, then illegal in England, homoerotic passages from his literary works, as well as his love letters to Douglas were presented,that quickly resulted in the dismissal of Wilde’s libel case and his arrest on charges of “gross indecency.” Wilde was convicted on May 25, 1895. after being found guilty of gross indecency, and sentenced to two years with hard labour On 20 November 1895. Wilde was transferred from Wandsworth Prison to Reading Gaol, In its heyday, prisoners at Reading Gaol were subject to constant observation and surveillance. Through isolation, humiliation, and complete silence, the prison snuffed out the messy humanity of living and with these efforts broke the spirit of its prisoners and Wilde was no exception.
Wilde emerged from prison in 1897, physically depleted, emotionally exhausted and flat broke. He went into exile in France, where, living in cheap hotels and friends’ apartments, though was still visited by many of his  loyal friends and  briefly reunited with Douglas. His wfe, Constance, continued to support him with a financial support too for some time after his release.
Despite his ordeal Wilde started writing again, becoming an advocate of prison reform , displaying,  his disgust at prison regimes and conditions which are highlighted in his two letters to the editor of the Daily Chronicle and more memorably in his poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol  published in 1898. Due to Wilde’s notoriety, it could not be issued under his name. The first edition, issued on 13 February 1889, of 800 copies sold out in a week;  the second edition of 1000 copies sold just as quickly. The third edition, of 99 numbered copies ‘signed by the author’ was issued along with a fourth edition of 1,200 unsigned set. It wasn’t until the 7th edition, which appeared 16 months after the first edition, that Wilde’s name was added below C.3.3. (although, if you had purchased the signed third edition, you knew very well who the author was)
Within its lines Wilde undoubtedly bequeathed some of the most evocative accounts we have of prison life, emphasising the cruelty and stupidity of the prison regime. He stressed the terrible plight of children confined in prison as well as the horrors of the separate system, which kept prisoners alone in their cells for up to 23 hours of the day. His second letter to the Daily Chronicle, published in 1898, claimed that the present prison system ‘seems almost to have for its aim the wrecking and the destruction of the mental faculties. The production of insanity is, if not its object, certainly its result.’ Wilde also described how he had found his salvation in prison through the sympathetic awareness and pity prompted by ‘looking at the others’. Seeing the unhappiness of other prisoners, he claimed, excited his pity, and ‘broke his obsession’ with his own fate.
The poem begins with the story of a Guardsman who was in Reading with Wilde, who was hung for the murder of his wife. The poem, in an old-fashioned ballad form, gradually moves from telling the story of the condemned man to a more general identification with prisoners as a whole. In the same year as Wilde's poem was published, a new Prison Act was passed, calling for more humane conditions and the abolition of hard labour.  Wilde died on the 30th November 1900 of meningitis at the age of 46, but continues to touch peoples hearts long after his passing, and through the lasting legacy of his stories, the world is a better place because he was in it.
Thankfully we now live in a more enlightened age when it comes to sexual orientation, and though  Wilde was posthumously pardoned for his convictions in 2017, when the UK government’s Turing Law (named after the British Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing) exonerated more than 50,000 men who had been convicted of crimes for homosexuality that no longer exist, still  many   across the globe are still punished and actually  killed because of whom they happen to fall in love with, in some countries, it’s still illegal, so we as  people should  continue to remain mindful of this oppression and persecution. For this reason, we must keep in mind precisely what is at stake when we find ourselves confronting those who police others in the name of morality. and the homophobia and the hatred and fear of homosexuality that must continue to be questioned.

The Ballad of Reading Gaol -  Oscar Wilde

(In memoriam
C. T. W.
Sometime trooper of the Royal Horse Guards
obiit H.M. prison, Reading, Berkshire
July 7, 1896)


He did not wear his scarlet coat,
For blood and wine are red,
And blood and wine were on his hands
When they found him with the dead,
The poor dead woman whom he loved,
And murdered in her bed.

He walked amongst the Trial Men
In a suit of shabby grey;
A cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay;
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every drifting cloud that went
With sails of silver by.

I walked, with other souls in pain,
Within another ring,
And was wondering if the man had done
A great or little thing,
When a voice behind me whispered low,

Dear Christ! the very prison walls
Suddenly seemed to reel,
And the sky above my head became
Like a casque of scorching steel;
And, though I was a soul in pain,
My pain I could not feel.

I only knew what hunted thought
Quickened his step, and why
He looked upon the garish day
With such a wistful eye;
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.

He does not die a death of shame
On a day of dark disgrace,
Nor have a noose about his neck,
Nor a cloth upon his face,
Nor drop feet foremost through the floor
Into an empty space.

He does not sit with silent men
Who watch him night and day;
Who watch him when he tries to weep,
And when he tries to pray;
Who watch him lest himself should rob
The prison of its prey.

He does not wake at dawn to see
Dread figures throng his room,
The shivering Chaplain robed in white,
The Sheriff stern with gloom,
And the Governor all in shiny black,
With the yellow face of Doom.

He does not rise in piteous haste
To put on convict-clothes,
While some coarse-mouthed Doctor gloats,
and notes
Each new and nerve-twitched pose,
Fingering a watch whose little ticks
Are like horrible hammer-blows.

He does not know that sickening thirst
That sands one's throat, before
The hangman with his gardener's gloves
Slips through the padded door,
And binds one with three leathern thongs,
That the throat may thirst no more.

He does not bend his head to hear
The Burial Office read,
Nor, while the terror of his soul
Tells him he is not dead,
Cross his own coffin, as he moves
Into the hideous shed.

He does not stare upon the air
Through a little roof of glass:
He does not pray with lips of clay
For his agony to pass;
Nor feel upon his shuddering cheek
The kiss of Caiaphas.


Six weeks our guardsman walked the yard,
In the suit of shabby grey:
His cricket cap was on his head,
And his step seemed light and gay,
But I never saw a man who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky,
And at every wandering cloud that trailed
Its ravelled fleeces by.

He did not wring his hands, as do
Those witless men who dare
To try to rear the changeling Hope
In the cave of black Despair:
He only looked upon the sun,
And drank the morning air.

He did not wring his hands nor weep,
Nor did he peek or pine,
But he drank the air as though it held
Some healthful anodyne;
With open mouth he drank the sun
As though it had been wine!

And I and all the souls in pain,
Who tramped the other ring,
Forgot if we ourselves had done
A great or little thing,
And watched with gaze of dull amaze
The man who had to swing.

And strange it was to see him pass
With a step so light and gay,
And strange it was to see him look
So wistfully at the day,
And strange it was to think that he
Had such a debt to pay.

For oak and elm have pleasant leaves
That in the springtime shoot:
But grim to see is the gallows-tree,
With its adder-bitten root,
And, green or dry, a man must die
Before it bears its fruit!

The loftiest place is that seat of grace
For which all worldlings try:
But who would stand in hempen band
Upon a scaffold high,
And through a murderer's collar take
His last look at the sky?

It is sweet to dance to violins
When Love and Life are fair:
To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes
Is delicate and rare:
But it is not sweet with nimble feet
To dance upon the air!

So with curious eyes and sick surmise
We watched him day by day,
And wondered if each one of us
Would end the self-same way,
For none can tell to what red Hell
His sightless soul may stray.

At last the dead man walked no more
Amongst the Trial Men,
And I knew that he was standing up
In the black dock's dreadful pen,
And that never would I see his face
In God's sweet world again.

Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other's way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.

A prison wall was round us both,
Two outcast men we were:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.


In Debtors' Yard the stones are hard,
And the dripping wall is high,
So it was there he took the air
Beneath the leaden sky,
And by each side a Warder walked,
For fear the man might die.

Or else he sat with those who watched
His anguish night and day;
Who watched him when he rose to weep,
And when he crouched to pray;
Who watched him lest himself should rob
Their scaffold of its prey.

The Governor was strong upon
The Regulations Act:
The Doctor said that Death was but
A scientific fact:
And twice a day the Chaplain called,
And left a little tract.

And twice a day he smoked his pipe,
And drank his quart of beer:
His soul was resolute, and held
No hiding-place for fear;
He often said that he was glad
The hangman's hands were near.

But why he said so strange a thing
No Warder dared to ask:
For he to whom a watcher's doom
Is given as his task,
Must set a lock upon his lips,
And make his face a mask.

Or else he might be moved, and try
To comfort or console:
And what should Human Pity do
Pent up in Murderers' Hole?
What word of grace in such a place
Could help a brother's soul?

With slouch and swing around the ring
We trod the Fools' Parade!
We did not care: we knew we were
The Devil's Own Brigade:
And shaven head and feet of lead
Make a merry masquerade.

We tore the tarry rope to shreds
With blunt and bleeding nails;
We rubbed the doors, and scrubbed the floors,
And cleaned the shining rails:
And, rank by rank, we soaped the plank,
And clattered with the pails.

We sewed the sacks, we broke the stones,
We turned the dusty drill:
We banged the tins, and bawled the hymns,
And sweated on the mill:
But in the heart of every man
Terror was lying still.

So still it lay that every day
Crawled like a weed-clogged wave:
And we forgot the bitter lot
That waits for fool and knave,
Till once, as we tramped in from work,
We passed an open grave.

With yawning mouth the yellow hole
Gaped for a living thing;
The very mud cried out for blood
To the thirsty asphalte ring:
And we knew that ere one dawn grew fair
Some prisoner had to swing.

Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And each man trembled as he crept
Into his numbered tomb.

That night the empty corridors
Were full of forms of Fear,
And up and down the iron town
Stole feet we could not hear,
And through the bars that hide the stars
White faces seemed to peer.

He lay as one who lies and dreams
In a pleasant meadow-land,
The watchers watched him as he slept,
And could not understand
How one could sleep so sweet a sleep
With a hangman close at hand.

But there is no sleep when men must weep
Who never yet have wept:
So we - the fool, the fraud, the knave -
That endless vigil kept,
And through each brain on hands of pain
Another's terror crept.

Alas! it is a fearful thing
To feel another's guilt!
For, right within, the sword of Sin
Pierced to its poisoned hilt,
And as molten lead were the tears we shed
For the blood we had not spilt.

The Warders with their shoes of felt
Crept by each padlocked door,
And peeped and saw, with eyes of awe,
Grey figures on the floor,
And wondered why men knelt to pray
Who never prayed before.

All through the night we knelt and prayed,
Mad mourners of a corse!
The troubled plumes of midnight were
The plumes upon a hearse:
And bitter wine upon a sponge
Was the savour of Remorse.

The grey cock crew, the red cock crew,
But never came the day:
And crooked shapes of Terror crouched,
In the corners where we lay:
And each evil sprite that walks by night
Before us seemed to play.

They glided past, they glided fast,
Like travellers through a mist:
They mocked the moon in a rigadoon
Of delicate turn and twist,
And with formal pace and loathsome grace
The phantoms kept their tryst.

With mop and mow, we saw them go,
Slim shadows hand in hand:
About, about, in ghostly rout
They trod a saraband:
And the damned grotesques made arabesques,
Like the wind upon the sand!

With the pirouettes of marionettes,
They tripped on pointed tread:
But with flutes of Fear they filled the ear,
As their grisly masque they led,
And loud they sang, and long they sang,
For they sang to wake the dead.

'Oho!' they cried, 'The world is wide,
But fettered limbs go lame!
And once, or twice, to throw the dice
Is a gentlemanly game,
But he does not win who plays with Sin
In the secret House of Shame.'

No things of air these antics were,
That frolicked with such glee:
To men whose lives were held in gyves,
And whose feet might not go free,
Ah! wounds of Christ! they were living things,
Most terrible to see.

Around, around, they waltzed and wound;
Some wheeled in smirking pairs;
With the mincing step of a demirep
Some sidled up the stairs:
And with subtle sneer, and fawning leer,
Each helped us at our prayers.

The morning wind began to moan,
But still the night went on:
Through its giant loom the web of gloom
Crept till each thread was spun:
And, as we prayed, we grew afraid
Of the Justice of the Sun.

The moaning wind went wandering round
The weeping prison-wall:
Till like a wheel of turning steel
We felt the minutes crawl:
O moaning wind! what had we done
To have such a seneschal?

At last I saw the shadowed bars,
Like a lattice wrought in lead,
Move right across the whitewashed wall
That faced my three-plank bed,
And I knew that somewhere in the world
God's dreadful dawn was red.

At six o'clock we cleaned our cells,
At seven all was still,
But the sough and swing of a mighty wing
The prison seemed to fill,
For the Lord of Death with icy breath
Had entered in to kill.

He did not pass in purple pomp,
Nor ride a moon-white steed.
Three yards of cord and a sliding board
Are all the gallows' need:
So with rope of shame the Herald came
To do the secret deed.

We were as men who through a fen
Of filthy darkness grope:
We did not dare to breathe a prayer,
Or to give our anguish scope:
Something was dead in each of us,
And what was dead was Hope.

For Man's grim Justice goes its way,
And will not swerve aside:
It slays the weak, it slays the strong,
It has a deadly stride:
With iron heel it slays the strong,
The monstrous parricide!

We waited for the stroke of eight:
Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
For the best man and the worst.

We had no other thing to do,
Save to wait for the sign to come:
So, like things of stone in a valley lone,
Quiet we sat and dumb:
But each man's heart beat thick and quick,
Like a madman on a drum!

With sudden shock the prison-clock
Smote on the shivering air,
And from all the gaol rose up a wail
Of impotent despair,
Like the sound that frightened marshes hear
From some leper in his lair.

And as one sees most fearful things
In the crystal of a dream,
We saw the greasy hempen rope
Hooked to the blackened beam,
And heard the prayer the hangman's snare
Strangled into a scream.

And all the woe that moved him so
That he gave that bitter cry,
And the wild regrets, and the bloody sweats,
None knew so well as I:
For he who lives more lives than one
More deaths than one must die.


There is no chapel on the day
On which they hang a man:
The Chaplain's heart is far too sick,
Or his face is far too wan,
Or there is that written in his eyes
Which none should look upon.

So they kept us close till nigh on noon,
And then they rang the bell,
And the Warders with their jingling keys
Opened each listening cell,
And down the iron stair we tramped,
Each from his separate Hell.

Out into God's sweet air we went,
But not in wonted way,
For this man's face was white with fear,
And that man's face was grey,
And I never saw sad men who looked
So wistfully at the day.

I never saw sad men who looked
With such a wistful eye
Upon that little tent of blue
We prisoners called the sky,
And at every careless cloud that passed
In happy freedom by.

But there were those amongst us all
Who walked with downcast head,
And knew that, had each got his due,
They should have died instead:
He had but killed a thing that lived,
Whilst they had killed the dead.

For he who sins a second time
Wakes a dead soul to pain,
And draws it from its spotted shroud,
And makes it bleed again,
And makes it bleed great gouts of blood,
And makes it bleed in vain!

Like ape or clown, in monstrous garb
With crooked arrows starred,
Silently we went round and round
The slippery asphalte yard;
Silently we went round and round,
And no man spoke a word.

Silently we went round and round,
And through each hollow mind
The Memory of dreadful things
Rushed like a dreadful wind,
And Horror stalked before each man,
And Terror crept behind.

The Warders strutted up and down,
And kept their herd of brutes,
Their uniforms were spick and span,
And they wore their Sunday suits,
But we knew the work they had been at,
By the quicklime on their boots.

For where a grave had opened wide,
There was no grave at all:
Only a stretch of mud and sand
By the hideous prison-wall,
And a little heap of burning lime,
That the man should have his pall.

For he has a pall, this wretched man,
Such as few men can claim:
Deep down below a prison-yard,
Naked for greater shame,
He lies, with fetters on each foot,
Wrapt in a sheet of flame!

And all the while the burning lime
Eats flesh and bone away,
It eats the brittle bone by night,
And the soft flesh by day,
It eats the flesh and bone by turns,
But it eats the heart away.

For three long years they will not sow
Or root or seedling there:
For three long years the unblessed spot
Will sterile be and bare,
And look upon the wondering sky
With unreproachful stare.

They think a murderer's heart would taint
Each simple seed they sow.
It is not true! God's kindly earth
Is kindlier than men know,
And the red rose would but blow more red,
The white rose whiter blow.

Out of his mouth a red, red rose!
Out of his heart a white!
For who can say by what strange way,
Christ brings His will to light,
Since the barren staff the pilgrim bore
Bloomed in the great Pope's sight?

But neither milk-white rose nor red
May bloom in prison-air;
The shard, the pebble, and the flint,
Are what they give us there:
For flowers have been known to heal
A common man's despair.

So never will wine-red rose or white,
Petal by petal, fall
On that stretch of mud and sand that lies
By the hideous prison-wall,
To tell the men who tramp the yard
That God's Son died for all.

Yet though the hideous prison-wall
Still hems him round and round,
And a spirit may not walk by night
That is with fetters bound,
And a spirit may but weep that lies
In such unholy ground,

He is at peace - this wretched man -
At peace, or will be soon:
There is no thing to make him mad,
Nor does Terror walk at noon,
For the lampless Earth in which he lies
Has neither Sun nor Moon.

They hanged him as a beast is hanged:
They did not even toll
A requiem that might have brought
Rest to his startled soul,
But hurriedly they took him out,
And hid him in a hole.

They stripped him of his canvas clothes,
And gave him to the flies:
They mocked the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes:
And with laughter loud they heaped the shroud
In which their convict lies.

The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
By his dishonoured grave:
Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
That Christ for sinners gave,
Because the man was one of those
Whom Christ came down to save.

Yet all is well; he has but passed
To Life's appointed bourne:
And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn


I know not whether Laws be right,
Or whether Laws be wrong;
All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

But this I know, that every Law
That men have made for Man,
Since first Man took his brother's life,
And the sad world began,
But straws the wheat and saves the chaff
With a most evil fan.

This too I know - and wise it were
If each could know the same -
That every prison that men build
Is built with bricks of shame,
And bound with bars lest Christ should see
How men their brothers maim.

With bars they blur the gracious moon,
And blind the goodly sun:
And they do well to hide their Hell,
For in it things are done
That Son of God nor son of Man
Ever should look upon!

The vilest deeds like poison weeds,
Bloom well in prison-air;
It is only what is good in Man
That wastes and withers there:
Pale Anguish keeps the heavy gate,
And the Warder is Despair.

For they starve the little frightened child
Till it weeps both night and day:
And they scourge the weak, and flog the fool,
And gibe the old and grey,
And some grow mad, and all grow bad,
And none a word may say.

Each narrow cell in which we dwell
Is a foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death
Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
In Humanity's machine.

The brackish water that we drink
Creeps with a loathsome slime,
And the bitter bread they weigh in scales
Is full of chalk and lime,
And Sleep will not lie down, but walks
Wild-eyed, and cries to Time.

But though lean Hunger and green Thirst
Like asp with adder fight,
We have little care of prison fare,
For what chills and kills outright
Is that every stone one lifts by day
Becomes one's heart by night.

With midnight always in one's heart,
And twilight in one's cell,
We turn the crank, or tear the rope,
Each in his separate Hell,
And the silence is more awful far
Than the sound of a brazen bell.

And never a human voice comes near
To speak a gentle word:
And the eye that watches through the door
Is pitiless and hard:
And by all forgot, we rot and rot,
With soul and body marred.

And thus we rust Life's iron chain
Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
And some men make no moan:
But God's eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper's house
With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
His soul of his soul's strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
Became Christ's snow-white seal.


In Reading gaol by Reading town
There is a pit of shame,
And in it lies a wretched man
Eaten by teeth of flame,
In a burning winding-sheet he lies,
And his grave has got no name.

And there, till Christ call forth the dead,
In silence let him lie:
No need to waste the foolish tear,
Or heave the windy sigh:
The man had killed the thing he loved,
And so he had to die.

And all men kill the thing they love,
By all let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Reading Gaol  when Wilde was incacernated