Arts and Culture

Four Revolutions. Or technological progress, in a poem

The sun is seen rising behind a skywheel in Korla, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, November 10, 2015.

Image: REUTERS/China Daily

Brian Bilston
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Arts and Culture

Brian Bilston, the "unofficial poet laureate of twitter" is writing a series of poems on the theme of The Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is the fourth and final poem.

Four Revolutions


I wandered lonely as a clown

And climbed the steep slopes of a hill,

But as I started coming down

I saw a dark mechanic mill;

And a water wheel of such brute power,

Turning golden wheat to flour.

It filled the air with thunderous noise,

The earth it shook as if with fear.

The trees did tremble at its voice,

No creature dared to venture near.

I watched in awe the grain be ground,

The wheel of progress turning round.


Here are the wheels gliding over the track,

And this is the train heading forwards and back,

Snaking in slowly to each station stop

Where its doors slide open to cafes and shops,

Or to jobs in the city, starting at nine

(Twelve minutes late. There were leaves on the line).

And holidaymakers cram into carriages

With honeymoon couples from Whitsuntide marriages.

And there in the dark comes the rumbling freight,

Past ghostly platforms where not a soul waits,

Taking coal to the south or mail to the north,

Never pausing for breath, set firm on its course.

And elsewhere the cars, much lighter of load,

Speeding and coasting and crawling on roads,

Jostling with buses as they head into town,

Wary of lorries as they put their foot down,

And the wheels, all the wheels, on tarmac and track,

Taking us forwards, taking us back.


A web was spun,

and from it hangs

a hundred and one,

five thousand, ten million, more,

a googleplex

Will I

of bits of text,

and pics and flicks,

to browse, arouse, refer, reveal,

if it were not for

the spinning of this wheel.

Will I ever

What’s the quickest way to Marble Arch?

What are the eleven accepted species of larch?

What’s the chemical equation for photosynthesis?

Where can I buy some cheap Springsteen tickets?

Will I ever be

Behind this wheel

that makes me glower,

is the power

to save lives, win arguments,


Will I ever be free

expand the contents

of our brains,

titillate, bemuse, corrupt,

put ourselves in touch

with others.

Will I ever be free of this

What is the best way to get rid of a wart?

How do I make a Napoleon torte?

What’s the life expectancy of a seal?

Which civilization invented the wheel?

What are the main causes of human suffering?

Will I

Will I ever

Will I ever be

Will I ever be free

Will I ever be free of this

Will I ever be free of this buffering?

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Related topics:
Arts and CultureFourth Industrial Revolution
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