BRENDAN BEHAN’S FIRST POEM

RED ENVOY

I bring no songs of rolling drums

Of pennons flying gaily

I sing of filth and dirty slums

Gaunt man with hunger crazy

Canticles, not of virtue bright, nor holy austere lives.

I chronicle consumption’s blight

And the haggard face of wives

Who gaze on children, pale and wan

Who see no flowers nor hear birds song.

I see no beauty rave in dreams of justice, unto those

Who keep the wheels of old earth moving

And oil them with their woes

Of burning towns and brimstone red

A phoenix from the ashes dead

Our city, truth and justice wed arise.

I see this old bad order die

In a great swift blaze of fire

A structure, clear and mighty high

Born in its funeral pyre

Worker, know the world’s for thee

Were thou to raise the servile knee

From off the ground.

Brendan Behan.

Published in The Daily Worker in 1939, when Behan was 16.