Poem in Progress

progress is a journey

Poem in Progress


Progress is such an Old-Fashioned Word,

don’t you think?

It seems to come from another Age,

belong with words & ideas like Phrenology

and Eugenics

and “White Man’s Burden“..

dusty Memes from way back

when the British Empire

was a thing.

Image result for progress & technology in british empire. image

Progress then was like a shiny,

brass locomotive boiler

and the Future was just a Destination

at the end of the Brighton Line,

all you needed to get there

was a ticket

and the right accent.

But their Modernism was still just following

the ancient Roman Roads.

Image result for steam punk  and railwayimage

Of course after WWII the Yanks

bought out the whole “Progress” thing,

and gave it a make-over and an American accent.

(footnote; the occasional German accent

was allowed in the sciences,

as a nod to all those Nazi scientists

they’d acquired after the war)

Now the Brass was replaced by

gleaming Stainless Steel & Aluminium,

mighty skyscrapers crashing into skies

filled with reports of Flying Saucers

advertising the Future possibilities of Progress.

Sure you say, maybe the Romans made better concrete,

but they didn’t invent cars..or planes

or any of the myriad of our glorious

technological toys! So THAT’s Progress

in the Modern Age for you!

Image result for Progress pictures

Well, I warned, be careful, nothing ages faster

than Modernism,

while the Romans were the most technologically advanced Society of their Times, and though it is true

that they may not have spent

a lot of energy on Research & Development,

I am reminded, at this point in the poem,

of a little anecdote about the Emperor Tiberius,

which, while Apocryphal, may still be illuminating.

Image result for tiberius emperor image

Seems a Craftsman came to the Emperor

with a bowl made of a new type of unbreakable glass

that he’d invented. Now people wouldn’t have to

replace broken bowls and crockery all the time.

All those clay amphorae to transport oil & wine

that get used once then have to be thrown away?

The ones I’d make could be used again and again.

Image result for broken roman amphorae

The Emperor thanked the Craftsman

for bringing his invention to his attention,

and questioned him carefully

as to whether he’d shared the Secret of his Invention

with anyone else..a colleague perhaps? Family?

No-one, the ingenious Craftsman assured Tiberius,

the secret was known to him alone.


Naturally at this point Tiberius immediately had the man arrested and executed as a danger to the State.

Later the Emperor explained his a motives to a minion,

and this whisper eventually reached the ears of Suetonius, Gossip Columnist for a Century worth of Caesars;

“This invention would have put thousands of hard-working, industrious citizens out of work to make one man rich.

I want my sheep shorn, not skinned,

the crafty Emperor quipped.


As I said, this story may be Apocryphal,

(I seem to recall a very similar tale

about a Chinese Emperor

and some dude who invented a new type of plow),

and indeed, even pointless,

but the political class’s preoccupation with jobs

seems reassuringly familiar..

Image result for Progress pictures

The Romans didn’t invent the Internet“,

trolls a voice at the back of the room.

“Yeah,” I respond, “well neither did you.”

“Like 95% of the population

you’re just a monkey mashing at the buttons

of a dumbed down interface,

of a technology you can neither understand nor explain,

re-create, repair or maintain”.

“A medieval peasant had more understanding & control

over the elements of their world

than today’s pixelated proletariat!

Do you call that Progress!?” I pontificate,

and at this point the poem

just sort peters out.

Like I said, it’s a work in Progress..


Image result for Progress pictures



The Reverend Hellfire is a practised Performance Poet,

Secretary of the Kurilpa Institute of Creativity Inc.,

 an Ordained Minister of the Church of Spiritual Humanism,

and so forth and so on.

“Top o’ the Charts, Ma..Top o’ the Charts!”


~ by reverendhellfire on March 1, 2020.

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