Soon, I foresee, all the cornershops will go under
crushed by the chains fastened by megamoney.
With sparrowhead sales staff lounging bored,
book superstores will outglare city lights.
Once scholarly codgers yarned about their shelves
where editions published decades before still peeked
-ignorance, now, is insouciant about prices
which then provided small dealers canny margins
when little lefty presses stood some kind of chance
and a slightly-nicked cover could get you a nifty discount.
Johnson would have detested these glitzy mazes
of glib fiction and coffee-table inanities.
In my far youth, we valued public ownership,
and private wealth conducted itself discreetly.
Now it’s consume! in yer face, consume!
Entrepreneurs ettle to bottle the rain.
No one back then dared dispraise engine drivers – mighty
those gods who commanded our trains: and public libraries
were cherished like Pallas Athene’s temples,
which, for us, in effect, they were.
About this poem
Angus Calder’s Horace at Tollcross series uses the ancient Roman poet as a springboard for his own reflections on Edinburgh life. In the original ode, Horace regrets changes in the countryside, how much had become private and careless of the common good, whereas in former days the rule was ‘small private wealth, large communal property’, and citizens were bound to contribute to the beautification of towns, ‘glorious marble to roof the temples’. Horace’s and Calder’s reproofs have lost none of their relevance.