Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Cultural Death of a People

Our British correspondent Seneca III, who has contributed three previous essays in this space, returns after a long hiatus with a meditation on the state of poetic appreciation in the Sceptr’d Isle.

The Cultural Death of a People
by Seneca III

In England, on a day when an ideologically fascinating Nobel has been awarded to another native born (possibly, that is) American, some poll or other (as reported in The Times, Friday 9th October) has produced a list of this Nation’s Favourite Poets in order thus:

1. T.S. Eliot
2. John Donne
3. Benjamin Zephaniah
4. Wilfred Owen
5. Philip Larkin
6. William Blake
7. William Butler Yeats
8. John Betjeman
9. Dylan Thomas

T. S. Eliot? T. S. Eliot? At the top of the list, ahead of Donne! Heresy! Even if you haven’t tried ‘The Waste Land’ or ‘Four Quartets’, the following example of his impenetrable, turgid, pretentious, and possibly plagiaristic outpourings (I understand this one mercifully never made it into print, thanks to a discerning editor) will give you the flavour:

Full fathom five your Bleistein lies
Under the flatfish and the squids.
Graves’ Disease in a dead Jew’s eyes!
Where the crabs have eat the lids

Now this and his published verse — his dramatic output is another matter — may or may not be great poetry, for ‘greatness’ is subjective, in the eye of the beholder, and value judgements can vary wildly with or without a Nobel Prize. Yes, Eliot, American born, English nationalised (what an odd reversal in Laureate nativity that is) was awarded the literature Prize in 1948, but I am not here to take issue with that as I must turn in morbid fascination and address the implications of the list of the ‘Nation’s Favourite Poets’.

Dunce To continue… could it be that Eliot, this arrogant academic, tongue in cheek, once condescendingly churned out ‘Cats’ in order to patronise the proletariat and by so doing inadvertently provided Andrew Lloyd Webber with a nice little earner that has enabled this singular work to be imprinted indelibly upon public taste at the expense of all other poetic works?

My guess is yes, because a recent survey of Primary School teachers in this country found that 58% of them could not name one or more English Poets, which certainly begs the question “where has our culture gone?” and I would suggest there is a simple answer: the abject failure of our Marxist-Socialist education system, dedicated as it is to reducing everyone to the level of the lowest common denominator, has caused public culture to become a function solely of ‘Indoctrination by Media’. If not, what else could explain the other abomination in this list?

Benjamin Zephaniah? Benjamin Zephaniah? At number three! A drivelling Rasta ‘Dub Poet’*! Classified immediately behind Donne and ahead of Owen, Blake, Yeats and Thomas! Unbelievable! Try this excerpt from one of Benjamin’s contributions to English literature, from “Talking Turkeys”:
- - - - - - - - -
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas
’Cos turkeys just wanna hav fun
Turkeys are cool, turkeys are wicked
An every turkey has a Mum.
Be nice to yu turkeys dis christmas,
Don’t eat it, keep it alive,
It could be yu mate, an not on your plate
Say, Yo! Turkey I’m on your side.
I got lots of friends who are turkeys
An all of dem fear christmas time,
Dey wanna enjoy it, dey say humans destroyed it
An humans are out of dere mind,
Yeah, I got lots of friends who are turkeys

And if this rates number three in any poll conducted outside of a ‘Nersery Skool’, I’m a turkey as well.

It’s madness, madness I say, and it can be nothing more than deconstructionist, delusional social engineering designed to bring about cultural extinction through political correctness. The elevation of this doggerel above centuries of poetic superlatives is but another example of how an imposed ‘Mea Culpa Syndrome’ is utilised to drown reality in a tub of faux righteousness.

Subliminal though it is, the truth lies in the supposition, implied by the accolade ‘Nation’s Favourite Poets’, that the gentle, pastoral tranquillity of Gray, the gritty, imperialistic rhyme and meter of Kipling, the flowing verse of Longfellow that gifts the human tongue with a prescient life of its own, the sweeping, mythical grandeur of Coleridge are no more, and that they have all been superseded by the patois of a semi-literate murderer of the English language.

It does make one wonder if there was actually a poll in the first place, or did an obscure collection of Chatterati and liberal academics sit around a table and make it all up until one of them went pale with fright and screamed out “They’re all white males, they’re all white males! Where’s the Ethnic for Marx’ sake, we gotta have an Ethnic or the Thought Police will lock us up and throw away the key!”

Well, perhaps not. Perhaps it was a carefully selective, targeted poll that, whilst being no substitute for one that included at least some people with a free mind, would certainly produce the desired multicultural result.

Who knows? I certainly don’t and The Times doesn’t say, but I do have my suspicions, particularly in view of the remarkable coincidence with the circumstances in which the latest Nobel Peace Prize was awarded. Ho-hum!

*Dub Poetry (surely an oxymoron?) is ‘Rap’ without backing music — think about it.


Papa Whiskey said...

Those who have truly taken their place among the English poets will be remembered long after such silly polls are forgotten. Besides such as William Shakespeare and Gerard Manley Hopkins, their ranks will include Richard Thompson, the musician who penned these lyrics:

Woods of Darney

I found your picture in a corporal's pocket
His cold fingers still pressed it to his chest
Sniper's bullet took his eyes and his breath away
Now he lies out in the forest with the rest

You looked shy in your grandmother's wedding dress
Feet set wide like a farm girl stands
Too young to love and too young to lose
In a cracked picture frame in a dead man's hands

I kept it with me for the luck, for the magic
Maybe fate wouldn't strike in the same place twice
But something stirred and I dared to dream of you
And I knew I'd look for you if I should survive

Whe we stood down at last it was easy to find you
And mine was the shoulder you cried on that day
Just an old comrade doing his duty
Bringing the news from the woods of Darney

When I showed you the picture, perhaps I felt jealousy
As your tears welled up with each reminisce
And my hands may be rougher and my tongue may be coarser
But I knew I could give you a love good as his

Now we lie in the darkness together
Often we lie without speaking this way
As you stare in the dark do you see your young corporal
Who never came back from the woods of Darney

Is it him that you see when we make love together?
Is it him that you see when war fills the sky?
Was he there as you stood in your grandmother's wedding dress
As we made our own vows, you and I?

Now the bugle calls, they say this is the big one
A curse on the life of a soldier, you say
But don't you know that's a soldier's small comfort
For the bugle to sound, and to hear, and obey

And I'll carry your picture, the one that he carried
I'll wear your innocence and take my chance
On a frozen field, in a far-flung war
To win back what we lost in a field in France

And it's many a soldier who goes into battle
Your corporal and I, we just hear and obey
Perhaps we'll lie in the darkness together
With your love to bind us, in the woods of Darney

Ursus Maritimus said...

Waste Paper
Howard Philips Lovecraft

Out of the reaches of illimitable night
The blazing planet grew, and forc'd to life
Unending cycles of progressive strife
And strange mutations of undying light
And boresome books, than hell's own self more trite
And thoughts repeated and become a blight,
And cheap rum-hounds with moonshine hootch made tight,
And quite contrite to see the flight of fright so bright
I used to ride my bicycle in the night
With a dandy acetylene lantern that cost $3.00

Anonymous said...

TS Eliot wasn't fit to lick Lovecraft's boots.

Sean O'Brian said...

"Say not the struggle naught availeth"
Arthur Hugh Clough.

SAY not the struggle naught availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal'd,
Your comrades chase e'en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!

Cato said...

We live in barbaric, unmusical, non-poetic times, where the illiterati dominate, and therefore where crudity and extravagance are lionized over elegance and subtlety.

And so every barbaric, unmusical, non-poetic doggerelista is proclaimed to be an arbiter elegantiae, instead of an ululating canis purgamenti.

Anonymous said...

I'm dumbfounded! No 3. I will look up some more of his, er, writting.