Marionette Divorce (The Present Condition of Russia)

The enemy masses at ballet practice -

In this new theatre of red Madonnas,

military poetry is seen dimly glimmering
through the exquisite hostility of war.

This poetry has erred towards
emblems of superficial pathos.
In short, the crowns of industry are
white men, old to art
waltzing away together
on sticks of delicate beauty. 

Fifty thousand people
under the artistic impulse.
Constantly drunk on pomp.

A mathematical infant
suckling her sister children.

The intellect of Russia untouched
by the dogma of iron flags
or the endurance of ecstasy


There’s a risk of evolution
amongst some fiery artists.
Dark figures gesticulating impulses.
Signals for magic.

Notes – All words in the above poem (including the title) are taken from the text of The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism by Bertrand Russell, George Allen & Udwin Ltd. 1920. Part I, The Present Conditions of Russia, Chapter IV, "Art and Education."

Original text at Project Gutenberg.

This article appears in Red Wedge Issue One: "Art + Revolution." A copy can be purchased at our shop.

Winston Plowes is an award-winning poet in Calderdale, England. More of his work can be found at his website.