Ned Ludd

(submitted by Karl Patten)

This little poem is not intended to affront anyone or to assail the project of radical blogs. It simply presents a minority opinion, expressed with a concern for language.William Blake (a contemporary of Ludd’s) is behind it, who made “dark satanic mills” a familiar term. But Blake also said “without contraries is no progression” and “opposition is true friendship” and even “the tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction,” though I hold no wrath or wisdom. And one should always be aware of Socrates’ notion of the gadfly.

The immediate inspiration is, of course, Wordsworth’s sonnet “Milton thou should be living at this hour,” in which he sees England as a fen and yearns for a return of Milton’s powerful, clear language to cut through the fetid swamp. Wordsworth was another contemporary of Ludd’s, so I guess I’m dating myself at about 1800. So be it.

I do not intend to offer this as a blog, just something for lunch.


Ned Ludd, by God, destroyed
The stocking-frames
By shooting his boot
Into their turning, turning.

Tormented by the foreman
To faster, faster, faster
Spin, Ned Ludd threw awry
The wool-works, unwound
Them to full stoppage.

Saboteur Ludd’s my man,
Wrecker of the spinning
Of the system, provides
Us outstretching hopes.

Never, never process one.
Each has a body, a thickness,
A feel rough on the palms,
That’s lost on green screens
Clacked out in square letters.

How can words breathe
In those machines?

Idiot boy perhaps, we need
You now. You’re not a god,
But smashing stocking-frames
Instructs us how to act:

Make fuses blow, pull plugs,
Scramble wires, twist red
To yellow, both to blue,
Unhook the jacks,
Put boot to screen,
Unscrew or screw up
Whirring, grinning machines.

from Spaces and Lines
by Karl Patten


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