Guest Feature by John Wynn-Jones:
Liberty and Freedom

Dr John Wynn-Jones is well known in WONCA circles and immediate past chair of the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice. During the COVID-19 crisis he has been writing a 'Rural Miscellany' email with poems and resource ideas to help and divert us in this difficult time. In this, the second item of 2021, we publish "Liberty and Freedom" - written by John this month.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”  Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”  Virginia Woolf

“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”  George Orwell (1984)

 “Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.”  Mahatma Gandhi

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”  Jim Morrison

“Better to die fighting for freedom then be a prisoner all the days of your life.”  Bob Marley

“Freedom lies in being bold.”  Robert Frost

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves”  Abraham Lincoln

“Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.  It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.”  Jean-Paul Sartre

“We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”  William Faulkner

I decided to post out a selection of poems based on the idea of Freedom and Liberty. The 60s folksinger Donovan in his song “Colours” sings the lines “Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinking”. This begs the question, what does it mean to each of us individually and more importantly to society in general. We are a gregarious species and at this moment in time with a pandemic ravaging our lives, freedom and liberty may be about being able to spend time with friends, family and meet together with like minded people. However, in what we believe to be an enlightened and civilised world, human beings are still held in modern slavery, people are judged by race, women are still oppressed and people who try to express their views and beliefs are decried, tortured and imprisoned. Freedom and liberty may be a personal goal, but it must also be a humanitarian goal to free all those around the world who’s voices, and lives are constrained against their will. The pursuit of freedom and liberty also comes with responsibilities, to those around us and society in general, as we all have a responsibility to pursue justice and fairness for all. Perhaps the sharing of vaccines around the world may be one of those humanitarian goals that we should think about?

To quote the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”

Victor Marie Hugo (1802-1805)

Victor-Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. During a literary career that spanned more than sixty years, he wrote abundantly in an exceptional variety of genres: lyrics, satires, epics, philosophical poems, epigrams, novels, history, critical essays, political speeches, funeral orations, diaries, letters public and private, as well as dramas in verse and prose. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame . In France, Hugo is renowned for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages). Many of his works have inspired music, both during his lifetime and after his death, including the musicals Les Misérables and Notre-Dame de Paris. He produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime and campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment. Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism serving as a politician as both a deputy and a senator. His work touched upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. His opposition to absolutism and his colossal literary achievement established him as a national hero. He was honoured by interment in the Panthéon.

The poem “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is an anti-war poem but he also he tells us that mankind is preoccupied with war and destined to fight to destruction. He compares man’s folly with beauty and serenity of nature. While “Each man's hand is raised 'gainst his neighbour” “God takes but heed of the flower and that sun, moon, and stars keep their place” The poem finishes with the despair that “Can brother for brother feel hatred as he hears the lark's musical song?” 

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

For centuries past this war-madness 
Has laid hold of each combative race, 
While our God takes but heed of the flower, 
And that sun, moon, and stars keep their place. 

The sight of the heavens above us, 
The bird's nest and lily-like snow, 
Drive not from the brain of us mortals 
The war-thirst, with its feverish flow. 

We love but the field with its carnage, 
And the strife which turns earth into hell; 
And eager for glory, the people 
Would not change the fierce drum for church-bell. 

The vain aspirations of glory, 
With banners and cars of bright gold, 
Draw tears from the widows and orphans, 
As often has happened of old. 

Our natures have changed to brute fierceness; 
'Forward! -- Die!' bursts from each angry throat, 
While our lips seem to mimic the music 
Of the echoing war-trumpet's note. 

Steel flashes, the bivouacs are smoking, 
As with pale brows we eagerly run. 
The thoughtful are driven to madness 
By the flash and the roar of the gun. 

Our lives are but spent for the glory 
Of the kings who smile over our grave, 
And build up a fabric of friendship 
With cement from the blood of the brave; 

While the beats of the field and the vultures 
Come in search of their banquet of hell, 
And they strip the red flesh from the bodies 
That lie stiff and stark where they fell. 

Each man's hand is raised 'gainst his neighbour, 
While he strives all his wrath to excite, 
And trades on our natural weakness 
To inveigle us into the fight. 

'A Russian! Quick! Cut down the villain! 
Put your sword through that murderous Croat! 
How dare they from our men to differ, 
Or venture to wear a white coat!' 

'I slay fellow-creatures, and go on 
My life's path. What glory like mine? 
Their crime is most black and most heinous,— 
They live on the right of the Rhine.' 

'For Rosbach and Waterloo, vengeance!' 
The cry maddens the heart and the brain; 
Men long for the fierce glow of battle 
And the blood that is poured forth like rain. 

In peace we could drink from the fountains, 
Or calmly repose in the shade, 
But our brethren in battle to slaughter 
Is a pleasure which never will fade. 

The lust for blood-spilling incites us 
To rush madly o'er valleys and plains; 
The vanquished are crying in terror, 
And are clasping our swift horses' manes. 

And yet I ask sometimes in wonder, 
As I wander the meadows among, 
Can brother for brother feel hatred 
As he hears the lark's musical song? 


Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson was a British poet. He was the Poet Laureate during much of Queen Victoria's reign and remains one of the most popular British poets. Although decried by some critics as overly sentimental, his verse soon proved popular and brought Tennyson to the attention of well-known writers of the day, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  More than any other Victorian-era writer, Tennyson has seemed the embodiment of his age, both to his contemporaries and to modern readers. In his own day he was said to be—with Queen Victoria and Prime Minister William Gladstone—one of the three most famous living persons, a reputation no other poet writing in English has ever had. As official poetic spokesman for the reign of Victoria, he felt called upon to celebrate a quickly changing industrial and mercantile world with which he felt little in common, for his deepest sympathies were called forth by an unaltered rural England; the conflict between what he thought of as his duty to society and his allegiance to the eternal beauty of nature seems peculiarly Victorian. Even his most severe critics have always recognized his gift, probably unequalled in the history of English poetry.

In this early poem by Tennyson, he portrays freedom as a goddess that is handed down from the heavens and describes her influence gradually spreading over the world. While freedom was content to rejoice in her own sphere, fragments of her voice were carried by the wind down to mankind. Once her voice has been heard in fragments by man, freedom decided to mingle with mankind and part by part, reveal her face to man. The poem concludes with a call to freedom, asking that she illuminate our lives.

Of Old Sat Freedom on the Heights

Of old sat Freedom on the heights, 
The thunders breaking at her feet: 
Above her shook the starry lights: 
She heard the torrents meet. 

There in her place she did rejoice, 
Self-gather'd in her prophet-mind, 
But fragments of her mighty voice 
Came rolling on the wind. 

Then stept she down thro' town and field 
To mingle with the human race, 
And part by part to men reveal'd 
The fulness of her face— 

Grave mother of majestic works, 
From her isle-altar gazing down, 
Who, God-like, grasps the triple forks, 
And, King-like, wears the crown: 

Her open eyes desire the truth. 
The wisdom of a thousand years 
Is in them. May perpetual youth 
Keep dry their light from tears; 

That her fair form may stand and shine, 
Make bright our days and light our dreams, 
Turning to scorn with lips divine 
The falsehood of extremes! 

Of Old Sat Freedom on the Heights by Alfred Lord Tennyson


Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

Helen Hunt Jackson was an American poet and writer who became an activist on behalf of improved treatment of Native Americans by the United States government.

She was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, to academic Calvinist parents but was orphaned as a child and raised by her aunt. Jackson was sent to private schools and formed a lasting childhood friendship with Emily Dickinson. At the age of 21, Jackson married Lieutenant Edward Bissell Hunt and together they had two sons. Jackson began writing poetry only after the early deaths of her husband and both sons.

Jackson published five collections of poetry, including “Verses” and “Easter Bells” as well as children’s literature and travel books. Frequently in poor health, she moved to Colorado on her physician’s recommendation and married William Sharpless Jackson there in 1875.

Moved by an 1879 speech given by Chief Standing Bear, Jackson wrote “A Century of Dishonor” an exposé of the rampant crimes against Native Americans, which led to the founding of the Indian Rights Association. In 1884 she published Ramona, a fictionalized account of the plight of Southern California’s dispossessed Mission Indians, inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

In “Freedom”, Jackson takes up the abolitionist cause during the American Civil War. She speaks of how freedom is not always free. Its central theme is that freedom even in a free man has to be earned by learning the right and wrong ways of society. As a whole, the poem differentiates youth from age whilst still following the theme of freedom.



What freeman knoweth freedom? Never he 
Whose father's father through long lives have reigned 
O'er kingdoms which mere heritage attained. 
Though from his youth to age he roam as free 
As winds, he dreams not freedom's ecstacy. 
But he whose birth was in a nation chained 
For centuries; where every breath was drained 
From breasts of slaves which knew not there could be 
Such thing as freedom,--he beholds the light 
Burst, dazzling; though the glory blind his sight 
He knows the joy. Fools laugh because he reels 
And weilds confusedly his infant will; 
The wise man watching with a heart that feels 
Says: "Cure for freedom's harms is freedom still."


Emily Dickenson (1830-1886)

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was an American poet from Amherst, Massachusetts. She led a secluded and quiet life but her poetry reveals her great inner creativity.

She wrote a very large number of poems (over 1,800) but fewer than a dozen of her poems were published while she was alive. Most of her work was discovered after her death and published by her friends. Today her poetry is rightly appreciated for its immense depth and unique style. Emily Dickinson is widely regarded as one of the greatest female poets.

In this poem she tells us that the soul is not constrained by the "mortal Bone," but is instead, like the eagle, a creature of flight and freedom. It can "divest" itself of the body and "gain the Sky." It is the "bolder" of the two Bodies. Unlike your flesh body, it cannot be hurt by saws, scimitars, or even torturers' tools. It cannot even be bound; it can simply fly away. The topic of the separation of the body and the soul was a constant theme in Emily Dickinson’s poems
In this and other poems about consciousness, she demonstrates a tension between liberty and captivity. There was a general feeling at the time that consciousness was a form of captivity but she questions this in the last line of the poem.

No Rack can torture me 

No Rack can torture me-
My Soul-at Liberty-
Behind this mortal Bone 
There knits a bolder One-

You cannot prick with saw-
Nor pierce with Scimitar-
Two Bodies-therefore be-
Bind One-The Other fly-

The Eagle of his Nest 
No easier divest-
And gain the Sky 
Than mayest Thou-

Except Thyself may be 
Thine Enemy-
Captivity is ConsciousnessSo's 

No Rack can torture me: A choral piece A choral piece performed by Brighton Festival Chorus and the City of London Sinfonia, inspired by their own experience of living with Parkinson's

Emma Lazarus (1849–1887)

Emma Lazarus was born in New York City to a wealthy family and educated by private tutors. She began writing and translating poetry as a teenager and was publishing translations of German poems by the 1860s. Her father privately printed her first work in 1866 and the next year, her first collection, Poems and Translations, appeared from a commercial press. Lazarus was one of the first successful and highly visible Jewish American authors. She advocated for Jewish refugees and argued for the creation of a Jewish homeland before the concept of Zionism was in wide circulation.

The New Colossus was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883 to raise funds for the Statue of Liberty (completed in 1886), the poem was later engraved on the lower pedestal of the statue in 1903. The statue written about by Lazarus would become one of the most famous symbols of freedom in America, especially significant to immigrants just arriving at New York Harbour and beholding this "land of the free" for the first time.

After her death, the scope of Lazarus’s life and career was obscured by the fame of “The New Colossus.” There have been recent attempts to revitalize scholarship and interest in her work, including a volume of selected poems from the Library of America and a biography

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand 
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame 
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name 
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand 
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command 
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. 
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she 
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

 The New Colossus - Emma Lazarus


Langton Hughes (1902-1967)

James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry, He was a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of black intellectual, literary, and artistic life that took place in the 1920s in a number of American cities, particularly Harlem. He sought to honestly portray the joys and hardships of working-class black lives. As he wrote in his essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” “We younger shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or we are beautiful. And ugly too.”

In “Freedom” he suggests that democracy will never come on this Earth for him. Not today, tomorrow, or ever. He feels that he has as much right as a citizen to own land just as the next person does. ... The author is saying that there is an injustice in democracy and that not everyone gets it.


Freedom will not come
Today, this year
            Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
            To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
            Is a strong seed
            In a great need.
            I live here, too.
            I want my freedom
            Just as you. 

Langston Hughes' Freedom read by Cilléin Mc Evoy


e.e. Cummings (1894-1962)

Edward Estlin Cummings, often styled as e e cummings, as he is attributed in many of his published works, was an American poet, painter, essayist, author, and playwright. He wrote approximately 2,900 poems, two autobiographical novels, four plays, and several essays.

He was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As one of the most innovative poets of his time, Cummings experimented with poetic form and language to create a distinct personal style. A typical Cummings poem is spare and precise, employing a few key words. Some of these words were invented by Cummings, often by combining two common words. He also revised grammatical and linguistic rules to suit his own purposes, using such words as “if,” “am,” and “because” as nouns, for example, or assigning his own private meanings to words. Despite their non-traditional form, Cummings’ poems came to be popular with many readers. Cummings decided to become a poet when he was still a child. Between the ages of eight and twenty-two, he wrote a poem a day, exploring many traditional poetic forms. By the time he was in Harvard in 1916 and modern poetry had caught his interest. He began to write avant-garde poems in which conventional punctuation and form were ignored.

“[as freedom is a breakfastfood]” is typical of e e cummings’ eccentric style. The meaning appears obscure and each reading gives one a different view. It has been suggested that this poem was triggered by the plight of so many fellow countrymen during the Great Depression. The poem is full of nonsense lines and is reminiscent of Lewis-Carroll in the way that he flips ideas on their heads.

He presents the world in a topsy-turvy way with “Hatracks grow into peach trees, mountains create molehills, fingers are toes, and courage is fear”. In each verse, he repeats a single thought: “long enough and just so long”. At the end of all the nonsense, he comes up with a wonderful statement, “but love is the sky and i am for you just so long and long enough”

There is a constant theme of the shortness of time. “Tomorrow will not be too late;” the future is coming, coming quick. Perhaps he is telling us that truth really is stranger than fiction. Whatever, the more I read this poem, the more I love it, despite the fact that I don’t fully understand it!


[as freedom is a breakfastfood] 

as freedom is a breakfastfood
or truth can live with right and wrong
or molehills are from mountains made
—long enough and just so long
will being pay the rent of seem
and genius please the talentgang
and water most encourage flame

as hatracks into peachtrees grow
or hopes dance best on bald men’s hair
and every finger is a toe
and any courage is a fear
—long enough and just so long
will the impure think all things pure
and hornets wail by children stung

or as the seeing are the blind
and robins never welcome spring
nor flatfolk prove their world is round
nor dingsters die at break of dong
and common’s rare and millstones float
—long enough and just so long
tomorrow will not be too late

worms are the words but joy’s the voice
down shall go which and up come who
breasts will be breasts thighs will be thighs
deeds cannot dream what dreams can do
—time is a tree(this life one leaf)
but love is the sky and i am for you
just so long and long enough



Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Dorothy Parker was an American poet, writer, critic, and satirist based in New York; she was best known for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th-century urban foibles. Like so many funny folk, ‘Dottie’ Parker was a woman of gloomy depths, and she used her sharp tongue to keep people at a distance, even as she spun comedy from her misadventures. She was also fond of self-dramatisation. A petite, almost fragile figure, her lethal wit marked her out from the start. Her break came when she sent a poem, “Any Porch”, to the charismatic editor of Vanity Fair, Frank Crowninshield. She soon progressed from caption writer at Vogue to staff writer at Vanity Fair, eventually becoming the magazine’s drama critic. In 1920, that same legendary wit got her fired when she couldn’t resist a wisecrack at the expense of actress Billie Burke, wife of one of the magazine’s biggest advertisers. Despite appearing somewhat frivolous and disrespectful, she had a deep social conscience and left her entire estate at her death to Martin Luther King.

“Now at Liberty” is a humorous breakup poem in her distinctive style. The poem speaks for itself.

Now at Liberty

Little white love, your way you've taken; 
Now I am left alone, alone. 
Little white love, my heart's forsaken. 
(Whom shall I get by telephone?) 
Well do I know there's no returning; 
Once you go out, it's done, it's done. 
All of my days are gray with yearning. 
(Nevertheless, a girl needs fun.)

Little white love, perplexed and weary, 
Sadly your banner fluttered down. 
Sullen the days, and dreary, dreary. 
(Which of the boys is still in town?) 
Radiant and sure, you came a-flying; 
Puzzled, you left on lagging feet. 
Slow in my breast, my heart is dying. 
(Nevertheless, a girl must eat.) 

Little white love, I hailed you gladly; 
Now I must wave you out of sight. 
Ah, but you used me badly, badly. 
(Who'd like to take me out tonight?) 
All of the blundering words I've spoken, 
Little white love, forgive, forgive. 
Once you went out, my heart fell, broken. 
(Nevertheless, a girl must live.) 

Now at Liberty sung by Amy Elizabeth Wheeler and accompanied by Kristie Born


Bob Dylan (1941)

Bob Dylan is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. He is regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture for more than 50 years. He was born in Duluth, Minnesota and was heavily influenced by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard & Buddy Holly. He is one of my heroes, his music and his influence has charted my life as it has for so many other people. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016.

Chimes of Freedom is classic early Dylan. Like most of his songs, this is intensely personal. This is featured on the album “Another Side of Bob Dylan” (1964). This isn't a protest song. It's about the freedom we all wish we had but know we probably never will. Not freedom in a political sense, but in a personal sense. The kind of freedom that effects every moment of every day. The song is a tribute to freedom at its essence, the undefinable freedom, and the deep desire for it. In the face of catastrophe and tragedy, “..we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing”. There is hope!

Chimes of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

In the city’s melted furnace, unexpectedly we watched
With faces hidden while the walls were tightening
As the echo of the wedding bells before the blowin’ rain
Dissolved into the bells of the lightning
Tolling for the rebel, tolling for the rake
Tolling for the luckless, the abandoned an’ forsaked
Tolling for the outcast, burnin’ constantly at stake
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the mad mystic hammering of the wild ripping hail
The sky cracked its poems in naked wonder
That the clinging of the church bells blew far into the breeze
Leaving only bells of lightning and its thunder
Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind
Striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind
An’ the unpawned painter behind beyond his rightful time
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Through the wild cathedral evening the rain unraveled tales
For the disrobed faceless forms of no position
Tolling for the tongues with no place to bring their thoughts
All down in taken-for-granted situations
Tolling for the deaf an’ blind, tolling for the mute
Tolling for the mistreated, mateless mother, the mistitled prostitute
For the misdemeanor outlaw, chased an’ cheated by pursuit
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Even though a cloud’s white curtain in a far-off corner flashed
An’ the hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting
Electric light still struck like arrows, fired but for the ones
Condemned to drift or else be kept from drifting
Tolling for the searching ones, on their speechless, seeking trail
For the lonesome-hearted lovers with too personal a tale
An’ for each unharmful, gentle soul misplaced inside a jail
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Starry-eyed an’ laughing as I recall when we were caught
Trapped by no track of hours for they hanged suspended
As we listened one last time an’ we watched with one last look
Spellbound an’ swallowed ’til the tolling ended
Tolling for the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

Chimes of Freedom: Bob Dylan & Joan Baez

Doy A

I don’t know anything about Doy A and can find nothing about her online.

I do know that this prose poem was written in 2020. It follows the same theme that Emily Dickinson describes earlier where you can be in two places at the same time. The physical presence is in a different place to where the heart may be. In this poem the poet explains that love has gone wrong, the physical presence remains in the relationship but in many ways, she left a long time ago. She tells us that “The mind is so strong that it allows one to endure great suffering through unwavering willpower” She compares her situation to a wrongly incarcerated prisoner living in hope that “one day, their truth will come out and their liberty served that empowers them”. She finishes saying “This is how I feel. This is how I'm still alive”.



I did not know this was possible: to be in 2 places at the same time. I am here, still here but my heart is elsewhere. I am here, staying here but my heart's packed up and left a long time ago. My body sleeps with him at night but I look the other way. I have looked the other way and lied to myself for years and years, blinded so foolishly by a love so strong it ruined me. The truth is always the hardest pill to swallow, but I need to face my demons and the secrets I've kept if I want to move on. I am in 2 places at the same time. First, I am where I have to be-- a place that beckons me to stay and be strong and forgive over and over again. Second, I am where I hope to be-- a place of peace and contentement and if I'm lucky, maybe joy. The mind is so strong that it allows one to endure great suffering through unwavering willpower. How do wrongly incarcerated persons survive decades in prison? It is the idea of freedom and faith in justice that keeps them sane and alive. It is the hope that one day, their truth will come out and their liberty served that empowers them. This is how I feel. This is how I'm still alive.