Louis MacNeice, ‘Three Poems’, in The Penguin New Writing, ed. John Lehmann (April 1946), pp.38-41.

“The Streets of Laredo”

O early one morning I walked out like Agag,
 Early one morning to walk through the fire
Dodging the pythons that leaked on the pavements
 With tinkle of glasses, and tangle of wire;

When grimed to the eyebrows I met an old fireman
 Who looked at me wryly and thus did he say:
‘The streets of Laredo are closed to all traffic,
 We won’t never master this joker to-day.

O hold the branch tightly and wield the axe brightly,
The bank is in powder, the banker’s in hell,
But loot is still free on the streets of Laredo
And when we drive home we drive home on the bell.’

Then out from doorway there sidled a cockney,
 A rocking-chair rocking on top of his head:
‘O fifty-five years I been feathering my love-nest
 And look at it now - why, you’d sooner be dead.’

At which there arose from a wound in the asphalt,
 His big wig a-smoulder, Sir Christopher Wren
Saying: ‘Let them make hay of the streets of Laredo;
 For a seat in the Lords I will build them again.

Then twangling their Bibles with wrath in their nostril;
 From Dunhill Fields came Runyan and Blake:
"Laredo the golden is fallen, is fallen;
 Your flame will not quench and your thirst will not slake.’

"I come to Laredo to find me, asylum,"
 Says Tom-Dick-and-Harry the Wandering Jew;
‘They tell me report at the first police station
 But the station is pancaked - so what can I do?’

Thus eavesdropping sadly I strolled through Laredo
 Perplexed by the dicta misfortunes inspire
Till one low last whisper inveigled my earhole -
 The voice of the Angel, the voice of the fire:

O late, very late, have I come to Laredo
 A whimsical bride in my new scarlet dress
But at last I took pity on those who were waiting
 To see my regalia and feel my caress.

Now ring the bells gaily and play the hose daily,
 Put splints on your legs, put a gag on your breath;
O you streets of Laredo, you streets of Laredo,
 Lay down the red carpet - My dowry is death.

Note: Laredo is pronounced Lareedo. The tune is cowboy.
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“Slum Song”

O the slums of Dublin fermenting with children
                Wander far and near
The growing years are a cruel squadron
And poverty is a rusty cauldron
                Wander near and far.
The youths play cards by the broken fanlight
                Wander far and near
The Jack looks greasy in the sunlight
As hands will fumble in the moonlight
                Wander near and far.

And the grown man must play the horses
                Wander far and near
Some do better on different courses
But the blacks will remain to draw the hearses
                Wander far and near
The bowsey in his second childhood
                Wander far and near
Thumbs a pipe of peace and briarwood
But lacks a light to relight his manhood
                Wander far and near

Near and far, near and far,
The street-lamp winks, the mutes are here;
Above the steeple hangs a star
                So near and far ... far.

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“Carrick Revisited”

Back to Carrick, the castle as plumb assured
As thirty years ago - Which war was which?
Here are new villas, here is a sizzling grid
But the green banks are as rich and the lough as hazily lazy
And the child’s astonishment not yet cured.

Who was - and am 0 dumbfounded to find myself
In a topographical frame - here, not there -
The channels of my dreams determined largely
By random chemistry of soil and air;

Memories I had shelved peer at me from the shelf.
Fog-horn, mill-horn, corncrake and church bell,
Half heard through boarded time as a child in bed
Glimpses a brangle of talk from the floor below

But cannot catch the words. Our past we know
But not its meaning - whether it meant well.
Time and place - our bridgeheads into reality
But also its concealment! Out of the sea
We land on the Particular and lose
All other possible bird’s eye views, the Truth
That is of Itself for Itself—but not for me.

Whatever then my inherited or acquired
Affinities, such remains my childhood’s frame ...
Like a belated rock in the red Antrim clay
That cannot at this era change its pitch or name -
And the pre-natal mountain is far away.


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