In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Parrot Addenda


Since the Summer of 2018, I have been writing a series of stanzas in rhyme royal, mostly on the subject of Brexit.

Each has been written as a separate item, rather than as part of a longer poem. They were produced in response to, and often very soon after, various events and announcements that occurred during the weeks concerned, in connection with Brexit’s mind-numbing progress through each day – day after day of intricate insanity in order to arrive at yet more of the same.

Each separate stanza went up here on this blog – and on my facebook timeline – almost immediately after it was written. They can all still be found on this site, each in its singularity.

But I have also put them together in chronological order and with footnotes and an afterword. That collection of them, kept up to date, can be found on the right of the home page of this blog, under this same title – “Parrot Addenda.” 

After I had written several of the stanzas, I included a a lovely public poems by Michael Rosen, called “These are the Hands.” It was written in 2008 to celebrate the NHS. There are various fairly obvious reasons for its inclusion. Some explanation is given in the footnotes. But I also saw it as some kind of interval and refreshing contrast. 

Incidentally, the term “rhyme royal” describes an old English verse form, introduced by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century. It consists of stanzas of seven lines each, five beats to a line. And the rhyme scheme is as follows : ababbcc. Easy.

Chaucer himself used this verse form and in the next century, so did John Skelton in his long satire “Speak, Parrot.” (I have made my own short and contemporary version, part “translation,” of this extraordinary poem and later shortened it further into an audio-visual version, set in the top of a tower – the Tyndale Monument above North Nibley. For both versions, see the right hand column of the home page, here. Obviously, “Parrot Addenda” makes direct and constant reference to Skelton’s “Speak, Parrot” and – much less directly – to the work and life of William Tyndale. The two men were pretty well contemporaries).

Rhyme royal did not stop with Skelton.  Shakespeare used it for one of his poems and so did Wordsworth. Later still, both Yeats and WH Auden wrote poems which used this form.

Thank you to my friend Roger Chaffin for suggesting the idea of delivering myself via rhyme royal stanza !