There was a time that airplanes soared through the air
Their combustion engines and fiery rocket flare.
They disgorged frenzied passengers
By the millions with their wares
To sell to vacant consumers
Egged on by Capitalist prayers.

Then suddenly, the terrible awful noise died down
At a time when the leaves green were turning a golden brown.
At first there was a sniff and then a throaty cough
And people went from feeling good to very definitely off.
There was no panic, no cry nor even vague concern
Later it was all due to China, that was what we would learn.
Who cares about Africa, it’s just a name and a place on a map
If it fell off the world figuratively does it really create a gap?
If the Amazon, the rain forest, and all the people there
Disappeared overnight, how many people would really truly care?
Then the fish began to die, and the currents changed their course
We realised that instead of Man, Nature was the force.
The sun grew hotter and the days grew dark
The smog and the pollution presaged a future that was stark.

A thousand tomes, each of a million lines
Multiplied ten thousand times
Crimes more deserving of the most terrible fines.
On the one hand, the scales weighed heavily down
God raised his mighty thunderbolt and with a great frown
Was about to strike us from the rich earth
When the scales began to turn, and offered hope of rebirth.

I remember, I was eight, in the churchyard
In the rosy-fingered dawn
I trailed my fingers over tombstone tops
That were almost totally worn
The caw of jackdaw, the bellow of the horn
Caw caw irreverently and yet quite forlorn
I marvelled at the light, the shadows in the trees
The chipping of the wood-pecker
And the things only a child sees.
Beneath the grass were the rotten bones of men
Of tyrants and lords, not worth one man but ten.

The ancient forests, regal, unperturbed grew
To tall and dizzying heights in unpolluted hue
The fauna, once scarce, quickly multiplied
Filled the mountains and plains from each and every side.
The trains were idled, the planes no passengers to ride
We abandoned soggy pizzas and food that was fried.
Tumeric, coriander, cumin and sweet basil
Now seemed more real than the Diazepan pill.

How difficult was it to make curry or even fresh sushi
Without the pressure of an office that was so cushy?
On Wall Street, the City, Dubai and Japan
Capitalism as a story became an also-ran.
By the pond, sitting on the grass growing green and tall
Serenaded by cicadas in the twilight Fall
I sat with my boys gazing at the twinkling stars
Where once we saw a cloudy haze, now a clear view of Mars.

This I recall, I remember well
We thought about stocks and bonds and futures we would sell
From day to day, we traded commodities and all
In our wildest dreams we never thought they’d fall.
In the Bible, they had idols and calves of gold
They had seers that spoke of doom but never that foretold
That one day we would wake up and see our lives unfold.
This was yet another story hitherto untold.

Vicious wars and bloody battles fought
Ploughshares to swords that was what we wrought
The clash of shields, mustard gas and the calling to of arms
A jealous and vengeful God, as sung of in the Bible psalms.
No thing apart from vain god-like man
Would cause this unlikely event which would span
Not one nor two but twenty-thirty years
For once no one to blame but us for this bloody curse.

I dreamt of castles shaped of wood and hewn of rough stone
Not cities and empires built on carcasses of bone.
The sunlight dazzling as upon the driven snow
And verdant sequoia trees as they were wont to grow
For thousands of years rafting to clear and unspoilt skies
Unspoilt by pollution to blight a fiery sunrise.

Am I my brother’s keeper, of Abel asked Cain
For if brothers truly fight, then what would remain?
And God grew sad at all that he had wrought
His lessons and his commandments had all come to nought.
He summoned all his angels and his scales of justice rate
To decide for once and all the weight of human fate.
Up and down the golden scales rose
But on which side would the scales find their final repose?
He weighed up all the evil acts, the terrible actions done by Man
Since driven out of Eden, and time immemorial began
The lies, the cheating, the hatred and vanity
All the curses of every kind, contrived by humanity.
It wasn’t just the fatty food and the terrible things we ate
It was the greed and fervour with which we piled our plate.
Seas roiled and bushfires baked.

We slaughtered ever more cattle to feed
Our insatiable appetite for steak.
The early warning signs were there for all to see
But we sat in our ivory towers eating salmon sandwiches and tea.
Who cares about the hoi polloi and the masses we can’t see
Who cares about the starving in Africa
Or slavery in the South China sea?
Does any of this really matter
If it has no impact on me
I read somewhere about the man who takes the Clapham omnibus
But I do really care even if his life has no impact on us.


Winston Ginsberg

by Winston M Ginsberg
(I, 1981-85)

© 2020 Winchester College

Winchester College Society, Donovan's, 73 Kingsgate Street, Winchester, SO23 9PE
Registered Charity no. 1139000