Figures of Grey – Owen Dearman, age 16

Winner of the Orwell Youth Prize 2015: Year groups 9, 10, 11

This is a fictional elegy based upon a civilisation where the politicians have complete control. The people cannot escape from the dictatorship, as they are unable to identify that they have no freedom or independence.


Populations rebel against the imperial cause,
Held back by the seven seas of authority.
Hopelessly bound by oaths of serenity;
Which preserve them in an orderly ring;
Around a parliamentary catalyst of distrust and sin.
Sculpted effigies of amethyst and bronze;
Mounted on barricades of chiselled stone,
Enveloped by bleak shacks of poverty and pain,
That form the basis of the intimidating citadel.
In which the great antechamber of senators lies.

Five figures installed in a gold plated chamber;
Robed in fossilised frocks of slave-traded-cotton.
Blond cowlicks poking from beneath;
Impeccable coils of artificial grey.
Blanched mahogany thrones with poached ivory tusks;
Support frail yet caressed humanoid frames.
As they navigate the laws of the land;
For they are Judge, Jury and Executioner.
Secluded behind patrols and walls of stone;
Protected from those whom they are protecting.

Figures of grey who hold the key;
To the previous, now and of yet to come.
Voyaging across scribed seas of scrolls,
Passing laws for the peasants to abhor.
Unknown to anyone but themselves;
To conserve honour and dignity among thieves.
For regeneration occurs only after demise;
Of which is a distant future, thought and mostly hope.
Kingdoms and acreage half-heartedly controlled;
By contrasting obituaries of five personnel.

Established as a deterrent of evils;
Executing the procedures of the lands.
Nameless beings maintain law and order;
Diverged into centuries of corruption and fraud.
Veils of suppression decide the fates,
Of the oppressed and discontented.
Five beings without compassion,
Holding the fort with no mercy;
Operating behind a mistruth of nostalgia.
Of which the commonality have been fabricated.

Dense clouds of indecision stagnate above greyscale heads,
Ignorant to the suffering outside their haven.
Where daylight drifts from east to west;
Masked by welcome battlements of armament.
The only illumination formed by molten wicks;
Steadily decaying beyond their perception.
Expressions unseen behind moulded facades;
So one’s thoughts are clearly readable by only oneself.
Outcome arrive by the forces of chance;
Tragically unsuitable for the mundane.

Time perseveres as the only certainty,
With no progress made, inside the Stronghold;
Obscuring the poverty, that plagues the populace,
Who have no voice.
Fed with no sustenance but obloquy instead.
As they perish under the harsh rule,
Which keeps them obedient but comatose.
Their only chance for liberty;
Lies in an uprising, a reverie, against the omnipotent.
But is it better with the devil they know, than the one they don’t?

Few are temerarious, to oppose the Gods;
Who blanket the realms in a bed of fiction.
Insurgence as hopeless as the prevailing tyranny;
As balanced as Lilliputians against a Siren.
And as likely as a hero to appear and banish the Draconian.
So the destitute plough onwards,
Forlorn and in vain; as the tides of revolt recede.
With the legislators still fixed, in endless discussions;
Of taxes and levies to be asserted,
For the ignorant to obey or face their wrath.

Figures of grey who hold the key,
Hold the futures of the entirety.
Sleeping lions who are not to be roused,
In case repercussions plunge on those housed.
Unconquerable forces that subdue those of nature,
A dynasty of trepidation has burgeoned forever;
Endless and nefarious and wholly outlandish,
Its embrace over all will never relinquish.
And with the people oblivious to the sly nuclei;
It is impossible for the mortals to exploit the lie.