Rude mechanicals

For the dverse prompt, a poem about division.


From the first city wall, enclosing culture, the arts,

where cathedrals sprang from the earth,

where books were written and illuminated,

the word, the light, the power grew,


and beyond, in the furrowed fields,

in the labour of man beasts and beast men,

the light never shone.


We, in our fields, where there are no schools,

no doctors, where culture is the bar,

the hunt, corrida, the yearly village feast,

watch with sullen faces the shining people

from the big cities swan in their big cars


to watch the unfolding of rustic life,

like a Shakespearean play, waiting to laugh

at our antics, sample the simple life

of pool and restaurant, and the gulf grows

wider than the first fools ever knew.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

30 thoughts on “Rude mechanicals”

  1. Jane I think you’re alluding to the first clowns being shown as bumpkins in tattered clothes, where the message is that the upper crust laughs at the working people struggling to survive? Sharp political commentary here. Is one of the lines here from one of the poems?

    1. I was taking one of the first meanings of the word ‘clown’, a rustic, peasant, uneducated labourer. We’ve added another meaning since, someone to be laughed at.
      In a lot of countries there’s a gulf between town and country, with the wealth and culture accumulated in the cities and very little of any of it filtering down to the countryside. We still have the sophisticated, wealthy city people laughing at the country idiots, but buying up the attractive properties ordinary country people can’t afford, as second homes, where they can enjoy the peace and quiet.
      I didn’t use anything from the poems.

      1. Understood and agreed. The same goes on here, in the country but also in the urban areas that have been populated by the working poor for generations. Now the wealthy want to return to the city and “gentrify” the slums, leaving the poor homeless.

      2. Same here. When we moved to town it was to an area that was considered the pits, between the station and the central market, where all the low life hung out. It was cheap and we got a big house that had been impossible to sell. By the time we moved here, just over ten years later, the affluent middle classes were buying in, shunting the poor out to the suburbs, complaining about the noise and the violence, but hoping, I expect that now nice people lived there something would be done about it.

      3. It was never a house for first time buyers. Far too big for one thing and it needed work doing on it. We had five children and we both worked from home so we filled it but most families would have rattled around in it. It was the area that put ‘nice’ people off and the area was much the same when we left, just attitudes had changed.

      1. Suburbia is purely residential though. You have to leave it for absolutely everything, to buy a loaf of bread, go to the doctor, go to school. And it’s attached to the city with an umbilical cord, where people go to work and to amuse themselves. I don’t know any suburban environments here that are self-contained, but it might be different in Sweden.

      2. They are becoming more self contained when we live in social distancing… baking our own bread… schools are close by and the only people I meet are my neighbors… and we have been told it will stay this way at least until the end of the year… so I assume suburbia will become more and more like separate villages.

      3. I can see that happening if your suburbs have the basic facilities. Most of ours don’t, too many people herded together with nothing to do but get the train to work.

  2. Your research paid off in poetic aces. This does read like a historical footnote, a classical barb. I was going to use “the mechanicals” myself, but went with the Commedia dell’arte instead.

  3. Rustic and simple life to me is lovely but I am a city girl. I can appreciate the deep divide though of economics & financial gains; those with big cars and those working in the field. The last stanza dig deeps, and I doubt we can ever solve the deep divisions among us.

    1. Unless we are completely self-sufficient, we are still dependent on cities and networks of all kinds. Often for country people it means driving miles for what city people have within a five minute walk. We’re going to have to work out a better balance or society is going to explode.

  4. I love the reference to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jane, and that you brought the mechanicals to life in a contemporary setting. The ambiguity of ‘rude’ is often lost on modern audiences. Nothing much has changed since Shakespeare’s time, which is why his work is still relevant. I love the contrast of urban and rural, written and spoken in the first two stanzas, and the play on ‘illuminated’ to highlight (!) the disparity between ‘educated’ city folk and ignorant country folk. The final lines are ominous.

    1. Thanks Kim. We feel the urban/rural divide very acutely. There are no jobs in the countryside so young people still flock to the cities looking for work. Villages die, even small towns, and the urban affluent buy up the nice houses as second homes, use the countryside as a theme park, but spend all their money in the city. It’s creating more and more animosity.

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