Paddy Pantsdown’s poetical problems

Always worth another airing

The British public was never too impressed with Paddy Ashdown. By turns sanctimonious and silly, Paddy Pantsdown, as the tabloids memorably christened him after an affair, took the Liberal Democrats from 25.4% of the popular vote which their predecessors, the Alliance, won in the election before he took over to 17.8% of the vote in his first election in charge and 17.8% again in his last election in charge. This lack of political achievement hasn’t stopped him sounding off in the wake of the Liberal Democrats worst set of election results since, well, he was in charge.

In the Guardian today Ashdown fulminates against the “regiment of lies” put about by the No to AV campaign and warns, none too ominously it must be said, that

“So far the coalition has been lubricated by a large element of goodwill and trust. It is not any longer. The consequence is that when it comes to the bonhomie of the Downing Street rose garden, that has gone. It will never again be glad confident morning”

You wonder if Ashdown knows where the quote “Glad confident morning” comes from? If he did it’s hard to see why he would use it.

It comes from ‘The Lost Leader’, a poem by Robert Browning excoriating his former idol William Wordsworth for his betrayal of the Liberal cause

Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a ribbon to stick in his coat—
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
They, with the gold to give, doled him out silver,
So much was theirs who so little allowed:
How all our copper had gone for his service!
Rags—were they purple, his heart had been proud!
We that had loved him so, followed him, honoured him,
Lived in his mild and magnificent eye,
Learned his great language, caught his clear accents,
Made him our pattern to live and to die!
Shakespeare was of us, Milton was for us,
Burns, Shelley, were with us,—they watch from their graves!
He alone breaks from the van and the freemen,
He alone sinks to the rear and the slaves!

We shall march prospering,—not thro’ his presence;
Songs may inspirit us,—not from his lyre;
Deeds will be done,—while he boasts his quiescence,
Still bidding crouch whom the rest bade aspire:
Blot out his name, then, record one lost soul more,
One task more declined, one more footpath untrod,
One more devils’-triumph and sorrow for angels,
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!
Life’s night begins: let him never come back to us!
There would be doubt, hesitation, and pain,
Forced praise on our part—the glimmer of twilight,
Never glad confident morning again!
Best fight on well, for we taught him—strike gallantly,
Menace our heart ere we master his own;
Then let him receive the new knowledge and wait us,
Pardoned in heaven, the first by the throne!

Given that the Lib Dems never “loved (Cameron) so”, “followed him”, “honoured him” or, as far as I am aware, “Lived in his mild and magnificent eye” you have to wonder if Ashdown isn’t actually talking about Nick Clegg. Indeed, if this is the starting pistol for a leadership challenge then it may be the first time one has been fired in catalectic tetrameter. If being a party of government doesn’t suit them the role of party of poetry is all theirs.


One thought on “Paddy Pantsdown’s poetical problems

  1. Pingback: Norman Tebbit’s cricket test | Manchester Liberal

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