Clement Attlee, a politician with a poetic heart!

22 Jan

Some of you may know, others may be surprised (as I was) to learn that the great Clement Attlee was also a poet.

In 1909, he wrote this poem, Limehouse about the area he served as MP for 27 years until 1950.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse, before the break of day,
I hear the feet of many men who go upon their way,
Who wander through the City,
The grey and cruel City,
Through streets that have no pity
The streets where men decay.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse, by night as well as day,
I hear the feet of children who go to work or play,
Of children born of sorrow,
The workers of tomorrow
How shall they work tomorrow
Who get no bread today?.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse, today and every day
I see the weary mothers who sweat their souls away:
Poor, tired mothers, trying
To hush the feeble crying
Of little babies dying
For want of bread today.

In Limehouse, in Limehouse, I’m dreaming of the day
When evil time shall perish and be driven clean away,
When father, child and mother
Shall live and love each other,
And brother help his brother
In happy work and play.

This is a very direct poem addressing the very wretched lives of this part of the world, and as ‘Clem the Gem‘ states, “these are not the words of some prim and paltry lawyer, nor the vainglorious bombast of some posing buffoon.” In an age of apathy where many feel the identikit politicians are ‘all the same’, maybe we need another figure like Attlee, a poetic wordsmith who sought to describe the problems of his day, and by his actions follow up on his words to make positive change.

Many thanks to Mike Paterson and Clem the Gem .



2 Responses to “Clement Attlee, a politician with a poetic heart!”

  1. Clem the Gem January 23, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Many thanks for the ping back Andrew, and I am glad to see we still have aspiring poets within Labour.
    From his student days, poetry was one of Attlee’s passions, particularly that of renaissance Italy – he was fluent in italian, addressing the Socialist International in it. Like your blog, look forward to your next post…

    • anthillel January 23, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Thanks, I do try to write as much poetry as I can! You will like the next post…..a poem about a little thing called the EU 🙂

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