TO THE LANCASTER JURORS
(in the trial of the Birmingham Pub Bombers)
Colin A. Coode,
June – August 1975
(with apologies to Omar Khayyam)
Alas ! For Bombers in the Bowl of Night
Have set the Clock that put Old Brum to flight;
And Power, Hunter, McIlkenny, Hill
And Walker vanish Northward out of sight.
Callaghan, when Dusk’s Left Hand was in the sky,
Heard Tongues of Pain within the Tavern cry:
“Begone, ye evil ones that brake the Cup:
For Young Life’s Liquor in its Cup is dry.”
But lately, by the Tavern door agape,
Came stealing through the Dusk an awesome Shape
Bearing a Parcel in his Anger, and
He made us taste the Bullet in the Nape.
And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
The Tavern bowed their heads below the Door:
“Ye know how little time they had to stay,
And, once departed, may return no more.”
Lo, some we loved, the loveliest and the best,
(Both Time and Fate upon them darkly prest)
Had drunk their Cup a Round or two before.
Then, twenty-one swept horribly to Rest.
Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie;
Sans Arm, sans Hand, sans Finger – and sans End.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Twelve in Lancaster did soberly frequent
Castle and Court, and heard great Argument
About it and About; but evermore
Came out by the same Door as in they went.
There was a Door to which they found no Key:
There was a Vail past which they could not see:
That endless Talk went on, and on, and ON –
It seemed – and little understood by Thee and Me.
With them the seed of Wisdom did we sow,
And with submissions labour’d it to grow:
But this was all the Harvest that they reap’d :-
“We came like Cattle, and like Sheep we go !”
The Judge’s Finger writes, and having writ
Moves on, nor all our Advocacy and Wit
Shall have it back to cancel half a line;
Nor all our Skill wash out a Word of it.
Here with a Summing-up within the Brain,
A mass of Papers read again – AGAIN;
The Jury’s sobbing in the wilderness –
A Wilderness of biting Doubt and Pain.
“Into this seething Bowl did we adjourn,
Our Brains the secret Truth of All to learn;
And Ear to Ear we murmur’d “While you sit,
Think ! For once sent out you must at last return !”
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Listen again. One noonday at the Close
Of August’s second week, the Judge arose,
And in that Jury Room we stood alone,
Like a clay Population sat in rows.
And, strange to tell, among our Earthen Lot,
Some could articulate, while some could not:
And suddenly one more impatient cried –
“Which are the Plotters, pray, and whose the Plot ?”
Then said another - “Surely not in vain
My Body from my Normal Life was ta’en,
That those who subtly made me take this Oath
Should bring us back to try the Thing again ?
Indeed, indeed, all Diligence before
We swore – but were we sober when we swore ?
And then - and then came Counsel’s speeches long,
And all apieces our poor Patience tore.”
Ah, Friend ! Could Thou and I, with Faith, aspire
To grasp this sorry Evidence entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits – and then
Remould it nearer to our Heart’s Desire ?
[The trial arose out of the deaths of 21 people in
a Birmingham pub as a result of a bomb, suspected to have been planted
by Irish terrorists. The trial was moved to Lancaster to avoid local bias.
All the accused were convicted but subsequently released on appeal because
of evidence of police brutality while in custody.]
Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise
To talk: one thing is certain, that Life flies;
One thing is certain,and the Rest is Lies;
The Flower that once has blown forever dies.
They say that London and the South do keep
The Courts where Judges of Assize drank deep.
But Beeching, that Great Wrecker – the Wild Ass –
Stamp’d on their necks, while they lay fast asleep.
[A reference to the Beeching Commission which merged
the Oxford Circuit with the Midland Circuit, and replaced Assizes by Circuit