Monday, 11 July 2011

The love that now forever dares to speak its name



Thirty-four years ago today, the reprehensible Mary Whitehouse won a battle. She succeeded in a private prosecution against the editor and publishers of the then only gay magazine in Britain, Gay News for publishing a poem that she found "blasphemous". The paper's late editor Dennis Lemon was convicted and received a suspended prison sentence. The paper almost closed down due to the £10,000 fine levied by the court.



It is appalling to think that even in the so-called "liberated" 1970s, at the height of the punk and disco era, such archaic legal redress was still possible. It was the very last case of its kind to succeed. Yet it was only in the current century that the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel were abolished by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008!

For better or worse, love it or hate it, here is that offending poem in full:
The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name
by James Kirkup

As they took him from the cross
I, the centurion, took him in my arms-
the tough lean body
of a man no longer young,
beardless, breathless,
but well hung.

He was still warm.
While they prepared the tomb
I kept guard over him.
His mother and the Magdalen
had gone to fetch clean linen
to shroud his nakedness.

I was alone with him.
For the last time
I kissed his mouth. My tongue
found his, bitter with death.
I licked his wound-
the blood was harsh

For the last time
I laid my lips around the tip
of that great cock, the instrument
of our salvation, our eternal joy.
The shaft, still throbbed, anointed
with death's final ejaculation.

I knew he'd had it off with other men-
with Herod's guards, with Pontius Pilate,
With John the Baptist, with Paul of Tarsus
with foxy Judas, a great kisser, with
the rest of the Twelve, together and apart.
He loved all men, body, soul and spirit - even me.

So now I took off my uniform, and, naked,
lay together with him in his desolation,
caressing every shadow of his cooling flesh,
hugging him and trying to warm him back to life.
Slowly the fire in his thighs went out,
while I grew hotter with unearthly love.

It was the only way I knew to speak our love's proud name,
to tell him of my long devotion, my desire, my dread-
something we had never talked about. My spear, wet with blood,
his dear, broken body all open wounds,
and in each wound his side, his back,
his mouth - I came and came and came

as if each coming was my last.
And then the miracle possessed us.
I felt him enter into me, and fiercely spend
his spirit's final seed within my hole, my soul,
pulse upon pulse, unto the ends of the earth-
he crucified me with him into kingdom come.

This is the passionate and blissful crucifixion
same-sex lovers suffer, patiently and gladly.
They inflict these loving injuries of joy and grace
one upon the other, till they die of lust and pain
within the horny paradise of one another's limbs,
with one voice cry to heaven in a last divine release.

Then lie long together, peacefully entwined, with hope
of resurrection, as we did, on that green hill far away.
But before we rose again, they came and took him from me.
They knew what we had done, but felt
no shame or anger. Rather they were glad for us,
and blessed us, as would he, who loved all men.

And after three long, lonely days, like years,
in which I roamed the gardens of my grief
seeking for him, my one friend who had gone from me,
he rose from sleep, at dawn, and showed himself to me before
all others. And took me to him with the love that now forever dares to speak its name.
Thank heavens times have changed!

Read more on the BBC

And with a massive twist of irony, the Number One in the charts on this date in 1977?



You win again, indeed.

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