After the Third War

agriculture cereal clouds countryside
Photo by David Bartus on

After the Third War

            (in reply to John Priestley’s Summer Day’s Dream)

Take your modern world away,
We have no need for it at all.
We grow our food in nature’s way,
And she shall fill our barns come Fall.
So drive your cars and tractors hence,
We have no fuel to fill their tanks.
Our horses make a lot of sense,
And need no complicated cranks.

My friends, you wish for isolation,
That is clear:
You shun all outside integration,
Shun its news and stimulation,
Make your parishes your nation
Year on year.
But when you lose the progress spark
It always leads to Ages Dark –
You long to gag and leave behind
The sharp and seeking human mind,
All out of fear.

And whence will come the steel and clay
That won’t be found within your chalk ?
When all your ploughshares rust away,
I hope it’s not too late to talk.
I guess your way,
I guess your way must heaven seem
When Summer days are all a dream,
But our advance,
But our advances must prevail
When Winters bite and harvests fail.

For if you doubt our modern age,
Then do not shun us, but engage !
And if you have a better way,
Then spread the word and save the day !
Don’t mutter to yourselves with glee
Oh Lord, what fools these mortals be !

Your modern world will not be missed –
We have our God and have our seers.
We do not need your scientists,
Your doctors or your engineers.
We have some books, we have some plays,
And old guitar or homemade fife;
We paint and act and sing our days,
And have no need for modern life.

My friends, you wish for simple pleasures,
That is clear:
Finding in your simple measures
Honest tasks and homespun leisures.
All bestowing rustic treasures
Year on year.
But shrugging off our salaries
Will also lose our galleries,
By shunning our committee fights,
You lose our films and city lights,
All out of fear.

And whence will come the medicine
That won’t be found within your herbs ?
Before the pestilence can win,
Pray let your Eden be disturbed !
We’ll still be here,
We’ll still be here by south and north,
To take you back and bring you forth.
So look for us,
So look for us by east and west,
If you should quit your priestly quest.

For if our modern world offends,
Pray do not hope for dreams, my friends
For fairies will not feed the poor,
Nor kill the germs nor mine the ore.
So grab the future, all she’s worth,
And put a girdle round the Earth.

This is a little-remembered play of Priestleys, edging into science-fiction while at the same time imagining a rural idyll that rejects modernity, with plenty of references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream thrown in.

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