Bombs in Westminster, May 1993


Hushed, through the abbey's vaults the anthems whisper

Stirring with their old familiar notes

This house of faith and home of England's dead

Kings and poets, lords and warriors unknown

Among the stalls, the common seats, the royal stone

A complex mass, the spirit of the people

Trusting to the care of gods somewhere

And to the ancient order of their priests

To hold alive and well the nation's soul.


Raucous, under brooding skies the traffic roars

Sweeping past the old familiar sights

Hunched Churchill gazing on the iron queen

Defenders of their people, life and realm

Whose bronzed and sightless eyes mask deeper vision

Than fashion would prescribe for us or them

If come to life, would flash, and melt and weep

No strength of will today, no mind of clear decision

No hands of courage guide their great ship's helm.


Softly, from the open square the life is cleared

Steering from the old familiar grounds

The precinct once of kings and now of commons

The trade, the talk and traffic stirred

These past few hours, gently dies. 

Tranquility descends, muses call, stillness lies

Birdsong, first for a hundred years, is heard.


Move on! You cannot sit here crafting words!

No Pax Britannia this, no balm, no peace. 

A bag left idly on a bus gives right to fuss

Makes these streets open to command

And we demand them silent, void

Of life or independent thought.


A flimsy yellow cello line contains the world

Restrains our bodies, spirits, minds

'Til no one dares to cross

Or recognize the irony and loss

Of wars recalled in granite that were fought

Their dead, our dead, all dead are dead for nought.


Ordered on, we move beyond the lawn

'til only darkest passions stir 

where Wordsworth hailed the dawn.

But all that mighty beating heart is silent, 

Screaming in my soul this certain wrong:

Fear has frozen to a stone

The great resolve of Britain.


Trusting neither leaders or the future

Remembering neither times or people dead

Their present seen remote through television

And never doubt the sense of orders given

The people go wherever they are led.


The square is sealed, 

Old Ben peals out the hour.

The order is repealed, 

The heart regains its power.

The threat is past, the war––clearly lost.

Life slips back to normal, why bother with the cost.


The strident news will tell us only part:

War has reached the heart of state

Our heart has reached a state of war

The hope for nothing more than to be great

Gave birth to fear, and fear in turn

As always, nurtured hate.


Hushed, in the abbey's vaults the spirits gather

Stirring from their old familiar stones.

 © Philip Knight 2018