'Dignity' - Megan Robinson

Megan Robinson was a junior Orwell Youth Prize Runner Up in 2019, responding to the theme ‘A Fair Society?’

'Dignity' - Megan Robinson

Two households, both alike in dignity
Both sheltering families
Both of which sleep the same hours
And both of which live the same turn of each day
Each night.
Both of which breathe the same air.
Friends, Romans, countrymen
All come and go through both doors
Which stand just metres from each other.
But between these doors
Slicing
Straight and certain
Through the shared air, which ignores any such containment
Is a line.
Two households, not so alike in dignity
Sheltering separate families,
One fed on rations and crumbs
Sitting on an unkind grey slab of floor,
Another eating the expanse of the world
Spread like glory itself across a surface of cool marble
Rich in every sense.
Each sleeping separate hours,
One resting restlessly
For what seems like just a blink,
On lumpy springs and yellowing fabric
Through which history can be smelt
Damp and musty,
Before waking to another soul-crushing day
Of sweat, grease and blood
Lasting for what seems like one-hundred years.
The other sleeping soundly on crispy cotton sheets
Each body cradled by the soft embrace of a mattress
And on each pillow,
Completely settled,
Lies each head that wears the crown,
Before waking to another comfortable day behind a desk.
Leaving the two young women,
Both of whom are much more fitted to the simpler world next door,
To scrub each glazed and polished tile
Clean
To iron each imperfection
Straight
Orderly in every sense.
Perhaps the air is contained after all
Separated
Strangers, slaves, businessmen
Come and go, but through separate doors
That do not appear correct,
Standing just metres from each other.
So, these two households
Both so opposite in dignity
Stand side by side.
Two old friends
Where one has aged, the other has barely at all.
One’s skin is scarred, wrinkled, sunken
The other’s soft, smooth, clean,
Beautiful in every sense.
Some are born great,
Some achieve greatness
And some have greatness thrust upon them.
Two friends, who though remaining at each other’s side,
Appear so distant,
So out of touch,
So separate.
Social hierarchy, reputation, class.
Competitions, long ago lost and won between them.
Separating them.
Where one was born to greatness,
The other was not.
Two separate worlds with infinite differences:
One poor, the other rich.
One sorry
The other clean of apology
In every sense.
And in every sense dignified.
So utterly, utterly dignified.


The theme for the 2020 Orwell Youth Prize has been announced. For more information, including details on how to enter, visit the Orwell Youth Prize website.

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The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize is an annual programme for 12-18-year olds culminating in a writing prize. Rooted in Orwell’s values of integrity and fairness, the prize and the activities around it introduce young people to the power of language and provoke them to think critically and creatively about the world in which they are living.

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