All criticism of me is now hate speech, not “opinion”—
A forced agreement tyranny, for good. A new dominion
where intersectionality has purged the vile before
Their upturned faces paving our safe spaces evermore.

The freedom of your speech comes with responsibility
to hold your tongue in deference to the newspeak true to me.
With progress of your privilege checked, your bigotry reduces
till all that’s left’s your right to meekly stew in your own juices.

The heresy of questioning! An outrage, in the sense
that my rage will choke your reason out until your best defence
becomes a cowed obedience, for then all wars will cease
and you’ll bend the knee in muted fear. A fear renamed as peace.



S.A. Todd lives in the North-East of England, and fell in love with Tennyson as a child, igniting a love of classical poetry in him which persists to this day. A volume of his collected works—‘Deeds And Abstracts – A Poetry Collection’—is available on Amazon.

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The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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15 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Excellent heptameters! And notice that Mr. Todd has introduced feminine rhyme-endings in lines 1 and 2, and 7 and 8.

    His title is very clever — he uses the medical expression “Nil by Mouth” (do not give the patient any oral medication) as a symbolic equivalent for the “woke” propaganda that we cannot say anything that might “hurt” some easily triggered victim of alleged oppression.

    • Steve Todd

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, glad you enjoyed it. This is my first submission to the site, but I certainly don’t intend it to be my last!

      I write a good amount of both free verse (please, hurl not your tomatoes my way) and more structured pieces, depending on the subject matter, but I’m usually a lot more satisfied with the end result on the ones that have ‘proper foundations’ to rest on.

      I often take a few days ruminating over an appropriate title, once the piece is essentially complete – I’ve always considered them an important extra line that can add further background to the intention of the piece.

      The ‘Nil By Mouth’ medical reference was indeed intended to convey the double meaning of ‘do not give the patient anything, they are about to undergo a procedure to ‘fix’ them’ and also being threatened and cajoled into silence.

  2. Margaret Coats

    My favorite expression here is the unusual contraction of “left is” to “left’s” in line 8. It is a bold choice immediately following the usual contraction of “that’s.” But it brings up a new way to say what’s happening here. “Lefts your right,” with reference to the political left and right, is a neat way to say, “silences your views and makes you look as if you were a leftist.”

    • Steve Todd

      Many thanks.

      I’m gratified to see that my intentional dual-use of that contraction hasn’t been lost on the reader!

  3. Paul Freeman

    An anthem on intolerance.

    I particularly liked the line ‘hold your tongue in deference to the newspeak true to me’.

    ‘1984’ is often glibly referenced, so it’s good to see it referenced meaningfully.

    Thanks for the read, Steve.

    • Steve Todd

      Thanks Paul, appreciate the feedback.

      I agree that reference to Orwell can sometimes feel a little bit obvious and lazy in these types of pieces. On balance, I thought the ‘newspeak’ concept just fits so perfectly into the core raison d’etre of the whole thing that to leave it out would feel like deliberately ignoring some ‘low hanging fruit’ in meaning terms.

  4. Yael

    A very fine and meaningful poem. I hope that not only the choir will get to read it, but real sinners who are in need of repentance in this area and who could truly benefit from the information contained therein.

    • Steve Todd

      Glad you enjoyed it, thanks!

      I think anyone in the grip of such ideas is probably beyond the level of basic insight required to acknowledge the validity of anything (or anyone) outside of their own approval bubble.

      The ‘voice’ of the poem is the ‘true believer’ in such things, a willing thrall to a form of blinkered ideological zealotry which holds the free exchange and challenge of ideas, good-faith discourse and a spirit of compromise to all be abhorrent signs of moral weakness.

      To quote the Captain from Cool Hand Luke – “Some men, you just can’t reach.”

  5. David Whippman

    Skilfully written and very topical. The ability to debate politics – without becoming abusive or wanting to shut the other person down – is becoming worryingly rare.

    • Steve Todd

      Appreciate you taking the time to comment David, thanks.

      I think the world of politics would be a better place generally if people remembered to (to borrow a British footballing term here) ‘play the ball, not the man’. To paraphrase the mighty MLK Jr., we still need to learn to disagree without being violently disagreeable.

      With the media and social networks stoking controversy for traffic and profit, what results is a depressingly low-resolution image of the world, an echo chamber where a siege mentality is the new normal and everything you see and hear perfectly confirms your existing biases and conclusions.

      People often throw around kick-the-can statements like ‘society needs to have a conversation about X’ while refusing to accept that real conversation with someone you vehemently disagree with can be a very challenging and deeply uncomfortable experience for both parties. Too many do not listen, they just wait to speak.

      Finding some common ground (however basic, there’s usually some in there somewhere) and not lazily lobbing -ist, -ism or -phobia grenades into the mix at any point might even lead to an outcome which, while perhaps not immediately productive, is at least a good faith step away from the destructive and poisonous status quo.

  6. Sally Cook

    Your excellent delineation of that neatly wrapped fairy tale which has been created to catch anyone who thinks in conventional terms. As you point out, we cannot afford to do that any more. Reason has definitely not prevailede !
    The lessons of “Covid” worked so efficiently that I can’t believe they will not be used again. And I recall the lessons of the crusades, where hysteria was raised to such a pitch that in the end hordes of children were sent off to do battle.
    Bad things are happening every day, and your poem tunes us in to their subtrlties. Thanks very much.

    • Steve Todd

      Thanks for the comment Sally, I’m glad this resonated with you.

      Though it may not feel that way depending on which media is being consumed, the type of views I attempt to spear in my poem are not actually anywhere near as prevalent and all-encompassing in the world as their proponents (and, to be fair, some opponents?) would have us believe. The vast majority of people in the world are just getting on with their lives, oblivious to the mouse roaring.

      In any event, given the identity politics that guides them, it’s only a matter of time before the constant division and sub-division this requires results in their collapse into the social equivalent of a supermassive black hole from which none of them will be able to escape; a beautiful illustration of the ‘crab bucket theory’ in practice.

  7. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Steve, this is an excellently conceived poem that speaks volumes in an age where gagging ‘non-PC’ opinion is rife. I too love the title… what a great play on words. Thank you for this blast of poetic sanity in an ever-increasingly insane world.

    • Steve Todd

      Glad you liked it Susan, thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope to share a lot more of my work here in the coming weeks and months!

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Excellent news, Steve! I look forward to reading more of your fine poetry.

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