Stroud Scarlet

Colouring the Globe Stroud Scarlet Red


You can see the strange fruits of slavery
In classical, elegant, Clifton:
All ship-shape and Bristol fashion,
Honey-stone Age of Enlightenment,
Reason, proportion and symmetry –
But not even those straight lines
Can hide the triangles of trafficking,
Empire, expansion and aggrandisement;
And whether trade followed the flag
Or flag followed trade is immaterial
To the story of capital expansion,
In the 18th century’s Grand Tour,
When Britannia Ruled the Waves,
Thanks to press-ganged jolly Jack Tars,
Stroud Scarlet, Uley Blue and Berkeley Yellow.
Watch those explorers canoeing Canada,
Trading Stroud Scarlet with the Iroquois,
When fair exchange was no robbery
For the Hudson Bay Company,
Or for the East India Company too;
See that Stroud Scarlet cloth,
Stretched out on tenterhooks in our fields,
Eventually shipped down to West Africa,
Its folds concealing any human cargo.
Admire General Wolfe and his red coats,
Up there on the steps of Quebec,
A few short years after riding down
Stroud Scarlet weavers in the streets and fields:
“Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves,
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.”