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Lay for the Day
17th October


1725: John Wilkes is born in London.
Wilkes was a strikingly ugly man and a brilliant talker, the very type of the 18th-century wit and rakehell; a member of the Hell-Fire Club, a composer of obscene poetry and scurrilous pamphlets. His repartee was inspired: when the Earl of Sandwich told him laughingly that he would either die of the pox or on the gallows, Wilkes shot back: "That depends, my lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your princples.”
He became a figurehead for popular opposition to the government and agitation for civil rights from the late 1760s to the early 1780s, and repeatedly challenged and bested the powers of the day with the backing of passionate public support. In those years the slogan “Wilkes and Liberty!” was the rallying cry of the London mob. Though he was apparently neither idealist nor altruist, the battles he won – for example, for freedom of the press – were of general benefit. It seems he took on the authorities mainly for the hell of it.

 

Ructions [see it on YouTube]

Get some serendipity,
You’ll need your nous and gumption.
You won’t survive stupidity
When there’s going to be a ruction.

God help those who help the rest
And devil take the careless.
You’re gonna need nine yards of luck
To get you through this chaos.

Trigger fingers itchy
Just beyond the razor wire.
Check out what’s coming down,
It looks like friendly fire.

Ructions tonight,
You can hear the city howling.
Ructions tonight all right,
You can feel the panthers prowling.

Knock until your knuckles break
And shout until your purple.
Though you keep the dead awake
You’ll never wake some people.
Welcome to the slamming door,
It needs no introduction.
Streets are bare,
Something’s in store.
There’s gonna be some

Ructions tonight,
You can feel the city stirring.
Ructions tonight all right,
You feel the panthers purring.

Hear the dog pack bark
Around Our Lady of the Needle.
She fills the bowl up to the brim,
Says, Settle down now, children.

Kiss goodbye serenity,
You’ll need your guile and cunning.
From here to eternity
Let’s make silent running.

Ructions tonight,
You can feel the city stirring.
Ructions tonight all right,
You feel the panthers purring.

Ructions tonight.
Ructions tonight all right.

 

Words and music by The Children
from Equals

 

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar