Phil Vernon

The European Research Group celebrates the passage of The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act, 2020 1

It has been wisdom, ever since the first,
to keep the mean between the two extremes
of too much stiffness, too much easiness.

For, where a change has been made of things established 
(no evident necessity so requiring) 
inconveniences have thereupon ensued,

many times more and greater than the evils
intended to be remedied by such change.
So on the other side, 

the Forms being in their nature indifferent 
it is but reasonable that changes should be made, 
yet so the frame and order stand unshaken, 

notwithstanding all assaults (by such 
as have greater regard to their fancies and interests, 
than duty) 

by which mischievous purposes 
came the late unhappy confusions, 
we are not willing here to remember. 

But when happy Restoration seemed probable,
those who usurped powers 
to render the people disaffected, 

saw themselves in point of interest concerned:
Pamphlets were published,
the old Objections mustered up, 

with the addition of new ones, 
more than formerly had been made, 
to make the number swell.

We have endeavoured to observe 
the moderation used in former times,
and of the Alterations proposed, we have rejected 

all of dangerous consequence or frivolous and vain; 
but such as seemed requisite or expedient, 
we have assented to.

And here we profess to the world that the Law 
does not contain any thing contrary to Word or Conscience, 
or not fairly defensible 

if it shall be allowed 
such just and favourable construction 
as in common Equity ought to be allowed.

Our aim therefore was to do that which 
might most tend to Peace and Unity, 
cutting off occasion of cavil or quarrel.

And having thus endeavoured 
to discharge our duties in this weighty affair—
although we know it impossible to please all,

nor can expect that factious, peevish, and perverse spirits 
should be satisfied with any thing done  
by other than themselves—

yet we have good hope, 
that what is here presented, and has been 
with diligence examined and approved, 

will be also well approved 
by sober, peaceable, and 
conscientious England.

1 This erasure poem is based on the Preface to The Book of Common Prayer, issued in 1662 after a civil war fought partly over the wording of that book. Apart from erasing some words, the only other changes made were to update usage (e.g. ‘hath’ to ‘has’.) UK readers may wish to read it in the voice of Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP.

Flights, Issue Eight, March 2023