A Poem To Remember the victims of Peterloo: the struggle for Democracy.

Having been a little quiet here through the heat of August I did think the sestina form offered by Victoria Slotto for Dverse Poets (://dversepoets.com/2019/08/29/) form challenge would suit a historical occasion. Finally, this year in Manchester centre there is a memorial with the names of all those who died there, in St Peter’s Fields 200 years ago, August 16 th.
I’m a little late on posting this but have been busy with a ‘deep’ revision of my novel and enjoying summer nights of music and fiesta here in our rather dry Sierra. There has been a fire about 10 km away from us and my thoughts are also with the Amazon forests. The Brexit mess deepens and darkens and our British Parliament struggles to understand the ‘mythical’ will of the people. There is still deep division. I truly wish we grew up knowing more about working lives and the struggles of our ancestors. Peterloo had become a ‘lost’ story until recently.

August 1819, Manchester, England.

In the August of 1819 the people came
By foot, with bands, with songs of ways to change
The way their lives were bound by others power.
Today, was the day, to make the point and strike.
Starved by the corn tax, not paid for each hour
Spinning cotton,not stopping, till the dark of day.

Under summer’s brightest skies, this was their day.
To St Peters Field, our working families came.
Thousands gathering peacefully until the hour
When Speaker Hunt cried out the need to change.
But the mill owners, the gentry did not like this strike.
And gathered too, together in fear, of working power

The government gave the right to unleash power.
This talk of votes for all must end this day.
How dare these upstarts profits lose by strike.
The police would not control a mob, the cavalry came.
Poor families now would see a darker change,
Struck down by sabres, dead or wounded within an hour.

Who can report and tell the truth about this hour,
When lies are told of violent mobs by those with power?
A newsman’s voice brought forth the truth to change
The way that facts be twisted, turned unto this day.
And with the clarion call for truth to power came,
A guardian rising to fend off the lies that strike

Deep, denial to protect from hurt can strike
200 years and tears ago, until this hour.
We were led to forget the names that came,
To ask for the right to be a part of the power.
They asked for a vote on a bright summer day.
Their loss brought us here but took years to change.

Today our scientists tell us our climate will change.
And children gather in peace, for a future they strike,
For our lives to be green means miss a school day
Do we live near a time of democracy’s dark hour?
While fossil fuels burn they still have the power.
Was it just to extinguish our lives, the cavalry came?

Change is the way as the clock strikes the hour.
Strike like the flash of thunder’s own power.
Or lose all to that day when the cavalry came.

 

Peace gathering in Manchester City Centre with Yoko Ono and many bells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my first attempt at a Sestina….Thank you dVerse for the challenge! And thank you Victoria Slotto for your very clear guidelines. It may have been a bit like sudoku but once I had chosen the end words that could work it slotted into place.

I used notes from Victoriahttps://dversepoets.com/2019/08/15/poetry-form-sestina/

and then below is my working out to fit the form.

Sestina:

A 12th century form consisting of 6 stanzas, each having 6 lines; followed by one tercet (3 line stanza).

BUT!
The end-words of the first stanza’s six lines, must appear as end words in each line of the following stanzas, in a particular prescribed order:

I decided to brainstorm some words about Peterloo and then look at the order scheme to see how to make the story fit. I left out Byron and his poem. This was not printed for fear of a backlash of treason.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Masque_of_Anarchy

But I brought in the Manchester Guardian as this newspaper arose from the tragedy and the attempts to manipulate or deny the truth of witnesses that day.

Peterloo
Manchester…St Peters Fields, protest against corn tax, need for representation, vote,
Strike, gathering of masses, family, child, boys and girls, men and women, working folk, rights,
March, walk, from villages, afar, distance,
Peaceful, listen, cavalry, horses, trample, strike down with sabres, august day, summer, 1819,
200 tears ago, years, dark, injured, maimed
Summer 2019 fires, floods, drip feed apocalypse,
Democracy, divided, power, news, facts

Stanza 1: End-words: Line 1 – change . Line 2 – change Line 3 – power. Line 4 – strike
Line 5 – hourLine 6 – day.

Working out Stanza 1 was the most important as these words will now have to form the following patterns for next 6 stanzas. And the  ending three lines of the 7 th which must use all. Below is how I used numbers to guide me through this.

Stanza 1.
1. came

2. change
3.power.
4.strike.
5.hour
6.day.

Stanza 2. 6,1,5,2,4,3

6.Under summer’s brightest skies, this was their day.
1.To St Peters Field, our working families came.
5. Thousands gathering peacefully until the hour
2. When Speaker Hunt cried out the need to change.
4. But the mill owners, the gentry did not like this strike.
3. And gathered too, together in fear, of working power.

Stanza 3Stanza 3: 3, 6, 4, 1, 2, 5
3. The government gave the right to unleash power.

6. This talk of votes for all must end this day.
4. How dare these upstarts profits lose by strike.
1.The police would not control a mob, the cavalry came.
2. Poor families now would see a darker change,
5 Struck down by sabres, dead or wounded within an hour.

Stanza 4 Stanza 4: 5, 3, 2, 6, 1, 4

5. Who can report and tell the truth about this hour,
3. When lies are told of violent mobs by those with power?
2 A newsman’s voice brought forth the truth to change
6 The way that facts be twisted, turned unto this day.
1 And with the clarion call for truth to power came,
4 A guardian rising to fend off the lies that strike

Stanza 5Stanza 5: 4, 5, 1, 3, 6, 2
4.Deep, denial to protect from hurt can strike

5 200 years and tears ago, until this hour.
1 We were led to forget the names that came,
3To ask for the right to be a part of the power.
6They asked for a vote on a bright summer day.
2 Their loss brought us here but took years to change.

Stanza 6
2 Today our scientists tell us our climate will change.
4.And children gather in peace, for a future they strike,
6 For our lives to be green means miss a school day
5 Do we live near a time of democracy’s dark hour?
3 While fossil fuels burn they still have the power.
1 Was it just to extinguish our lives, the cavalry came?

Line 1…2, 5 Change….hour….
Change is the way as the clock strikes the hour.
Strike like the flash of thunder’s own power.
Or lose all to that day when the cavalry came.

 

Sent from my iPhone

24 thoughts on “A Poem To Remember the victims of Peterloo: the struggle for Democracy.”

    1. Thanks,hope all well with you in the Holler. We are close to running out of water and this is where three great rivers start off from. Still getting a bit of tropical rain at end of day, so hope keeps happening.

      Like

  1. A wonderful topic, given due weight and gravity by your account, and all too aptly tied into present-day matters. A mighty effort!

    I think, in verse 3, ‘profits lose’ in the context of the whole line is an unfortunate inversion. I had to stop for a minute and work out the meaning. And it seems tome there must be a more straightforward way t say it which would not compromise your versification.

    Apart from that small point, I think it’s powerful and pertinent.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This brings to mind the protest ballads of the last century, which seem to be in short supply these days. But the same need (and greed) prevails, now as then. It seems that the hard lessons must be learned over and over and over…(K)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You were right–this form does work well to recount an historical event. I’m embarrassed to say that, if I had been taught about Peterloo, I’d forgotten it. It’s so important to keep such events alive for they are what creates the world as we know it today. It reminds me a bit of the Boston Tea Party here in the states. Your sestina flows well without apparent struggle to make it all “fit” together. Brava.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Victoria, I was at first alarmed by the length of the form and I have set myself the challenge to this each month! However, it came at the August memorial events. Not sure Peterloo has been on UK curriculum and even in Manchester not really brought to mind until the memorial with names went up this year.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciate learning about this although the knowledge makes me angry and sad at the same time. I like the way you deconstructed your sestina, which could be helpful for someone struggling to write one. Good job on your sestina!

    Liked by 1 person

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