A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
They who in folly or mere greed
Enslaved religion, markets, laws,
Borrow our language now and bid
Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.
It is the logic of our times,
No subject for immortal verse –
That we who lived by honest dreams
Defend the bad against the worse.
Written in 1943. From The Complete Poems of C. Day Lewis.
Cecil Day Lewis (1904 – 1972) was an Anglo-Irish poet and the Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1968 until his death in 1972. He also wrote mystery stories under the pseudonym of Nicholas Blake. He was the father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis and documentary filmmaker and television chef Tamasin Day-Lewis.
In his youth, Day Lewis adopted communist views, becoming a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain from 1935 to 1938, and his early poetry was marked by didacticism and a preoccupation with social themes. In 1937 he edited The Mind in Chains: Socialism and the Cultural Revolution. In the introduction, he supported a popular front against a “Capitalism that has no further use for culture”. He explains that the title refers to Prometheus bound by his chains, quotes Shelley’s preface to Prometheus Unbound and says the contributors believe that “the Promethean fire of enlightenment, which should be given for the benefit of mankind at large, is being used at present to stoke up the furnaces of private profit”. In the 1940s, he became disillusioned with communism and renounced his earlier views.