Tony Harrison

(1937 - / Leeds / England)

National Trust - Poem by Tony Harrison

Bottomless pits. There's on in Castleton,
and stout upholders of our law and order
one day thought its depth worth wagering on
and borrowed a convict hush-hush from his warder
and winched him down; and back, flayed, grey, mad, dumb.

Not even a good flogging made him holler!

O gentlemen, a better way to plumb
the depths of Britain's dangling a scholar,
say, here at the booming shaft at Towanroath,
now National Trust, a place where they got tin,
those gentlemen who silenced the men's oath
and killed the language that they swore it in.

The dumb go down in history and disappear
and not one gentleman's been brough to book:

Mes den hep tavas a-gollas y dyr

(Cornish-)
'the tongueless man gets his land took.'


Comments about National Trust by Tony Harrison

  • Susan Williams (2/23/2016 3:47:00 PM)


    He jumps right into his argument.. by giving us a picture of the dreadful abuse of a convict. This convict is used for measuring the depth of a shaft: If that's not bad enough, he writes Not even a good flogging made him holler! ”. The poem then shifts to scholars.
    The convict could not protest against the action of “stout upholders of our law and order” and Harrison links his situation to the situation of the tin-miners of Cornwall whose language was stolen and who were coerced to join the National Trust. The people of Cornwall were tongueless not just because their language was stolen but also because no scholar spoke for them just as no scholar wrote about the convict. The historical annals we have are written by the privileged. Harrison uses the story of the convict and of the people of Cornwall as an instance of the abuse of people “by those with the power to control the means of collective expression and self-definiton”. Thus the title of the poem does not stand only for a business entity but also for the trust that scholars and the ruling class betrayed by degrading the lower class. {https: //is.muni.cz/th/85668/ff_b/BA_Major_Thesis-Bakalarska_Diplomova_Prace.pdf]
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  • (2/23/2016 9:17:00 AM)


    Toungless man gets his land took. So true. (Report) Reply

  • Mohammed Asim Nehal (2/23/2016 3:07:00 AM)


    Nice poem, thanks for sharing... (Report) Reply

  • Edward Kofi Louis (2/23/2016 12:35:00 AM)


    But to learn first. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • (10/15/2005 3:48:00 PM)


    Webmaster: check spelling in lines 1 and 14 please (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, October 15, 2005



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