Give me back my land by Vivien Foster
Like gypsies but without their history
We find ourselves encamped within this wood
Uncertain who will chase us from its shade.
We tattered squatters - we, the dispossessed
Like Clare's old friends, his 'quiet pilfering race'
We now shall learn that charity stops at home
While we from homes are driven without a thought
By those who, having much, would have much more.
'Improvements!' say the gentry 'Greater yields!'
Corn ricks grow many, but the labourers, few.
Bent under debt, still paying for a war
With someone overseas we never saw,
The country shouts for corn, the hedges fall
And 'Profit!' cry the fence posts by our path.
Injustice stalks the farms and takes our wage.
I've heard brave souls protest and argue change
But slow as honey dripping from a spoon
The lawyers talk their talk and dip their pens.
I dreamt last night, as rain dripped on our heads
Of all my family harvesting the fields
The gleanings taken home to make our bread,
The rich and tasty stew of coney meat
Filling our bellies, wife and children too!
And then, to darken all the golden glow
Of that, our village life so safe and snug
Came whirling arms of metal, moving fast,
Ripping the corn from out our calloused grip.
Bare, all the fields, and closed the farming tracks
No place for people now, machines do all.
And then I woke and knew a sharp despair
To see my children hungry, wife in fear.
Enclosure like a subtle greedy tide
Has washed farm labourers out of history
And I who walked a village-worth of acres
Am plodding, homeless, down a strange highway
To put my wife into - as good as prison -
My children I shall see but once a week.
I grew a country's food, by invitation
And now am destitute - wake up, great nation!
After the Napoleonic Wars Britain had a National Debt twice the size of its GDP. Landowners were enclosing any available land to grow corn for export and profit, at the same time using new machinery like the threshing machine to till and harvest larger fields. The Poor Laws were being changed to stem the tide of unemployed seeking help.
Vivien lives in Peterborough and is a member of more than one poetry group including Poets United. This local group, for more than a decade, has furnished Peterborough with its Poets Laureate. It also provides performance poets who read their own work at events such as the Heritage Festival, the Whittlesey Straw Bear celebrations and commemorative events at the Museum and local schools. Vivien writes tongue-in-cheek observations on modern life, poems inspired by fantasy themes or historical events. One day she will succeed at writing a sestina, if she can unplug the phone and the internet.