Know Thy Enemy

I first came across Christopher Logue when, in 1963, a friend played me Red Bird, an EP (an extended play 7 inch record – a format now known only to pensioners and vinyl geeks) of Logue reading some of his very free translations of Pablo Neruda love poems to the accompaniment of jazz from the Tony Kinsey Quintet. Being a rather pretentious youth, I was immediately hooked. But I still am, and it’s still really good.

I met him, just once or twice, five years later when he was on the Editorial Board of the Black Dwarf and I was the production editor. I can’t remember whether his poem Know Thy Enemy was written for Black Dwarf and then produced as one of his poetry posters or the other way round, but we did print it in the second or third edition of the paper. I only wish that I still had the poster – and my old copies of Black Dwarf for that matter.

Know Thy Enemy

Know thy enemy:

he does not care what colour you are

provided you work for him

and yet you do!

he does not care how much you earn

provided you earn more for him

and yet you do!

he does not care who lives in the room at the top

provided he owns the building

and yet you strive!

he will let you write against him

provided you do not act against him

and yet you write!

he sings the praises of humanity

but knows machines cost more than men.

Bargain with him, he laughs, and beats you at it;

challenge him, and he kills.

Sooner than loose the things he owns

he will destroy the world.


But as you hasten to be free

 And build your commonwealth

Do not forget the enemy

Who lies within yourself.


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