Wilfrid Owen's Photographs


When Parnell's Irish in the House
Pressed that the British Navy's cat-
O-nine tails be abolished, what
Shut against them? It was
Neither Irish nor English nor that
Decade, but of the species.

Predictably, Parliament
Squared against the motion. As soon
Let the old school tie be rent
Off their necks, and give thanks, as see gone
No shame but a monument–
Trafalgar not better known.

‘To discontinue it were as much
As ship not powder and cannonballs
But brandy and women' (Laughter). Hearing which
A witty profound Irishman calls
For a ‘cat' into the House, and sits to watch
The gentry fingering its stained tails.

Whereupon . . .
                         quietly, unopposed,
The motion was passed.


Ted Hughes, Collected Poems, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2005.