In the latest issue:

The American Virus

Eliot Weinberger

The Home Life of Inspector Maigret

John Lanchester

Story: ‘Have a Seat in the Big Black Chair’

Diane Williams

The Last Whale

Colin Burrow

In Beijing

Long Ling

Princess Margaret and Lady Anne

Rosemary Hill

At the Movies: ‘Arkansas’

Michael Wood

Ruin it your own way

Susan Pedersen

At Home

Jane Miller

Good to Think With

Helen Pfeifer

Poem: ‘Muntjac’

Blake Morrison

The Inequality Engine

Geoff Mann

Short Cuts: In Tripoli

Jérôme Tubiana

Coetzee Makes a Leap

Christopher Tayler

At Auckland Castle: Francisco de Zurbarán

Nicola Jennings

Drain the Swamps

Steven Shapin

Diary: In the Isolation Room

Nicholas Spice

Why the barbarians kept us waitingPeter Porter
Close
Close
Vol. 15 No. 17 · 9 September 1993
Poem

Why the barbarians kept us waiting

Peter Porter

171 words

They knew they were some kind of a solution
But wouldn’t risk their legendary horses,
Battle wagons: they’d read about pollution,
High-rise slums and poisoned watercourses.

To keep their army healthy they ran races
On plains and let our cameramen record them –
Nightly the same professional drained faces
Fronted clips on TV and deplored them.

Their Great Khan broadcast from his tented city
His moderate ambitions while Supremos
Wrote for Sunday Papers and the witty
Juniors at the FO shredded memos.

This westward surge while seeming so dramatic
Required another horde pressing behind them.
Perhaps therefore our fear was automatic,
The need for devils showed us where to find them.

The Stock Exchange, the markets and the churches
Couldn’t resist an ‘Après moi’ prediction,
The think-tanks called for cross-the-board researches
And sad colloquiums defined our fiction.

Time might insist each was the other’s Other,
The building-up and running-down of power,
But brother’s empathy can offer brother
Only the fact of death and not its hour.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences