Millionaires from the New World with nothing else to do
Wander the Old World like wandering Jews;
Call here to buy wooden shoes,
Pieces of cheap porcelains,
Costly geegaws and Malacca canes;
Call here to learn without learning anything new:
Some more than once to ride the familiar round
And when they leave nothing
Follows them but the sound,
The emanation of their own unsatisfied craving,
Their desire uncrowned.
Nowadays monarchy and democracy
Are mere appellatives for mediocracy,
So’s the aristocracy
Of wealth: these millionaires,
What numskulls they must be
Who are unawares of their own idiocy.
Unwittingly they come, unobserving see
The same wares they did leave behind at home,
To meet foreign jeers,
To see tigers and snakes in Singapore
And drink Tiger Beers.
But our tigers have grown timorous
And dare not come forth to meet the amorous
Whimsicality of the rich visitor.
So to the Ponggol Zoo she goes
To meet the living tigers, snakes and armadillos:
Or dead tigers guarding garish advertisement panels;
Or Raffles Museum to stare at stupid animals.
Singapura Lion City
Wafting odours to the nose
And dust flying to the face
Is a sweatingly hot and disgusting place.
And everywhere about the place float noises,
Being another hideous race
Humming, droning, ringing, banging,
Buzzing, drowning, hooting, clanging:
Babel never heard so many voices.
Here the Time flies,
Like clouds in the skies,
Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, before your eyes,
Saving twenty minutes’ sunlight,
In a perpetual summer clime,
Wasting the tick-tack-tick
Of the windscreen-wiper on a rainy night
And electric light
When it’s dark at seven nick.
Night the undertaker with pockpit mug
Bury the dead alive
Bury the living dead with the motley crowd,
Murder at the crossways in the Gardens
At one, at two and three and four:
I hear, I see, I know;
Slaughter on the highways and the byways,
Massacre of holy innocents,
Killing foetus in its mother’s womb:
We have outheroded Herod
And outpilated Pilate
And must reap as we have sown;
We will curse and weep our concrete gods unknown.
Cradles of dead culture
Herculaneum, Pompeii and Ur of Chaldees,
Shansi, Mohenjo Daro and Persepolis,
Which the lakes and lavas will cover
Yet for centuries:
For I want my caskets back again
Buried in the centres of transitoriness –
London, Paris, New York, Shanghai, Tokio –
Buried in whirlpools of bloody barbarism –
Berlin, Vienna, Sarajevo
And Marseilles and Mexico.
By Francis P. Ng