Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Churchill Series – Oct. 9, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

George Orwell was a socialist who saw public leaders like Churchill as impediments to a society in which economic well-being and opportunity were available to all. But unlike most on the left then and now, Orwell recognized and appreciated Churchill for standing up for democracy and against Stalin's dictatorship as well as Hitler's.

What follows is a poem he wrote in 1943 directly addressing a poet and far leftist, Obadiah Hornbrooke' (aka Alex Comfort), who'd shortly before written his own poem attacking Churchill.

Orwell arranged to have his poem published on June 18, the anniversary of Waterloo.

But you don't hoot at Stalin—that's "not done"—
Only at Churchill; I've no wish to praise him,
I'd gladly shoot him when the war is won,
Or now, if there were someone to replace him.
But unlike some, I'll pay him what I owe him;
There was a time when empires crashed like houses,
And many a pink who'd titter at your poem
Was glad enough to cling to Churchill's trousers.
Christ! how they huddled up to one another
Like day-old chicks about their foster-mother!

I'm not a fan for "fighting on the beaches",
And still less for the "breezy uplands" stuff,
I seldom listen-in to Churchill's speeches,
But I'd far sooner hear that kind of guff
Than your remark, a year or so ago,
That if the Nazis came you'd knuckle under
And peaceably "accept the status quo".
Maybe you would! But I've a right to wonder
Which will sound better in the days to come,
"Blood, toil and sweat" or "Kiss the Nazi's bum".

The poem is found on pg. 299 of Orwell's
Collected Essays (vol. II).