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” CAN SOCIALISTS BE HAPPY?”: WHY DOES UTOPIA NOT WORK?

I have just been reading Orwell’s essay entitled “Can Socialists Be Happy”?” it sounds a challenging title, particularly from a writer of the Left who fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. Interestingly Orwelll was encouraged to ask the question by comparing the writings of Charles Dickens with aContinue reading “” CAN SOCIALISTS BE HAPPY?”: WHY DOES UTOPIA NOT WORK?”

“COMPUTERS CAN WRITE POETRY”: “YES THEY CAN”; “NO THEY CAN’T”.

THis is how the powerful critic F.R. Leavis described the possibility back in 1970 in his essay ““Literarism” versus “scientism”“. I was, I confess, a little amused when, sitting at a formal lunch next to the director of a City Art Gallery, I was told by him, in the tone of saying something very impressive:Continue reading ““COMPUTERS CAN WRITE POETRY”: “YES THEY CAN”; “NO THEY CAN’T”.”

WHAT KIND OF READER ARE YOU?

Quotation from Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Readers may be divided into four classes: 1. Sponges, who absorb all they read, and return it nearly in the same state, only a little dirtied. 2. Sand- glasses who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for getting through the time 3. Strain-bags, who retain merelyContinue reading “WHAT KIND OF READER ARE YOU?”

WORDS TO RE-CHARGE 1: “COMFORT YE , COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE”.

When words are allowed to weaken, they may need to be re-charged. After all language, as well as being out there, is within. When a valuable word becomes softened something is diminished within us: a meaning that might be precious. Take the word ““comfort” or its cognate “comfortable”. We say to “live in comfort” andContinue reading “WORDS TO RE-CHARGE 1: “COMFORT YE , COMFORT YE MY PEOPLE”.”

“APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH”: TWO POETS, TWO MEN, TWO AGES

April is the cruelest month, breeding Lilacs out of dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain, Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow, feeding A little life with dried tubers. Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbargersee With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade, AndContinue reading ““APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH”: TWO POETS, TWO MEN, TWO AGES”

CONSTITUTIONAL REFLECTIONS

Life in the United Kingdom has struck the pause button since it was announced on Friday that the death had taken place of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, married to the Queen for seventy four years. A period of national mourning for eight days has been announced. The existence of the monarchy gives nations theContinue reading “CONSTITUTIONAL REFLECTIONS”

THE JOURNEY TO EMMAUS

St Luke 24. 13-35( KJV 1611) And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three score furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near,Continue reading “THE JOURNEY TO EMMAUS”

EASTER POEMS

The Crucifixion “String him up,” some repoman shouted, (repossessor) He’s a weirdo” “In the bin, in the bin”, Yelled another and grabbed some thorns, Sharp as needles, twisting them round A fresh-cut-thorn branch. He made A wreath and forced it down on his head, The pain piercing his flesh. “Morning vicar”, This comedian said andContinue reading “EASTER POEMS”

FOR PALM SUNDAY : THE DONKEY

The Donkey When fishes flew and forests walked And figs grew upon thorns, Some moment when the moon was blood Then surely I was born. With monstrous head and sickening cry And ears like errant wings, The devil’s walking parody On all four-footed things. The tattered outlaw of the earth Of ancient crooked will, Starve,Continue reading “FOR PALM SUNDAY : THE DONKEY”

“WIST YE NOT…”

Language is not natural but a young child’s love of language, of words, of rhymes, of rhythms seems to be part of who they are, as essential to their development as learning to eat, to walk, or to explore. They absorb the words spoken to them and seek to repeat those words. They are taughtContinue reading ““WIST YE NOT…””

FURTHER THOUGHTS ON PART 3

Coleridge in his young twenties was an active supporter of the anti-slavery movement. Editing a radical newsletter, The Watchman, which argued for anti- slavery legislation and other causes raised by the French Revolution he would go round Bristol Harbour talking to ships’ captains and their crews about their experiences of the slave trade as wellContinue reading “FURTHER THOUGHTS ON PART 3”

SIXTY NOT OUT!

Dear Readers, Sixty not out refers to the number of blogs you can access by scrolling down the blog page. Before this the cut-off point was around thirty. I have found out how to adjust this (it takes me time to learn these things!) so you can now go back to my first steps atContinue reading “SIXTY NOT OUT!”

A POEM FOR ST. VALENTINE’S DAY: “TIME WAS AWAY AND SOMEWHERE ELSE”

THE MEETING-POINT Time was away and somewhere else, There were two glasses and two chairs And two people with the one pulse (Somebody stopped the moving stairs): Time was away and somewhere else. And they were neither up nor down; The stream’s music did not stop Flowing through heather limpid brown Although they sat inContinue reading “A POEM FOR ST. VALENTINE’S DAY: “TIME WAS AWAY AND SOMEWHERE ELSE””

BURNS’ SEASON: TO A MOUSE

To A Mouse. On turning her up in her Nest with the Plough November 1785 Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty Wi’ bickering brattle! (hasty scurrying) I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee, (loath) Wi’ murdering pattle! (a wooden plough-scraper)Continue reading “BURNS’ SEASON: TO A MOUSE”

A RED, RED ROSE.

O my Luve’s like a red , red rose That’s newly sprung in June O my Luve’s like the melodie That’s sweetly played in tune. As fair art thou, my bonie lass, So deep in luve am I; And I will luve thee still, my Dear, Till a’ the seas gang dry. Till a’ theContinue reading “A RED, RED ROSE.”

A ROBERT BURNS POEM FOR BURNS’ DAY: “TO A LOUSE”

To A Louse On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church. Ye ugly,creepan,blastit wonner (wonder) Detested,shunn’d by saunt an’sinner, (saint) How daur ye set your fit upon her- (dare, foot) Sae fine a Lady! (So) Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner (Go) On some poor body. Swith, in some beggar’s haffet squattle: (Away!hair,squat)Continue reading “A ROBERT BURNS POEM FOR BURNS’ DAY: “TO A LOUSE””

CHRISTIAN AND PAGAN : ORIGINS OF FOLK-SONG AND DANCE.

Recently we looked at Christmas carols and wassailing songs and their early development from Medieval times. I drew attention to a wassailing song featured on the Waterson’s album “Frost and Fire”(first released 1965) which has a variety of songs associated with different seasons and rituals of the rural year. This album has very interesting notesContinue reading “CHRISTIAN AND PAGAN : ORIGINS OF FOLK-SONG AND DANCE.”

JOURNEY OF THE MAGI

(READERS PLEASE NOTE: This blog post with minor revisions is being re-published because of problems with website design issues. I apologise to followers who will receive the same post a second time.) Today is the sixth of January, Epiphany, recognised by Christians as the day of the manifestation of Jesus to the Gentiles. It isContinue reading “JOURNEY OF THE MAGI”

QUOTATIONS FOR REFLECTION

In our age when technology is gaining control over life, when material- well being is considered the most important goal, when the influence of religions have been weakened everywhere in the world, a special responsibility lies upon the writer.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn “If a nation’s literature declines, the nation atrophies and decays.” Ezra Pound

A NEW YEAR WASSAILING SONG.

Here is a wassailing song celebrating the New Year. As mentioned in a previous post “Christmas Carols” wassailing was a way of roisterous singing by groups touring the neighbourhood- including the big House- seeking to exchange their music for gifts of mead or beer. The word “wassailing” goes back to Old and Middle English usingContinue reading “A NEW YEAR WASSAILING SONG.”

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY

One of my favourite carols is “The Holly and the Ivy” an old carol which developed in the Christian Middle ages from medieval roots. The holly and the ivy When they are both full grown Of all the trees that are in the wood The holly bears the crown. [Chorus] O the rising of theContinue reading “THE HOLLY AND THE IVY”

CHRISTMAS CAROLS

What would Christmas be without Christmas carols? There is an astonishing range of these. The exquisite, purely religious ones you will hear, for example, on formal occasions, which so many churches celebrate, like Nine Lessons and Carols. There are the favourites you sing lustily out carol singing as you go round doors in cheery groupsContinue reading “CHRISTMAS CAROLS”

PLATO’S CAVE

Look carefully at the above image ( with thanks for this to WikkiMedia) which presents a picture illustrating Plato’s allegory of the cave. Note the hunched figures bound so they look in one direction. They see, point to and talk about reflections on the back wall of a cave. The light reflected is caused byContinue reading “PLATO’S CAVE”

THE TOWER OF BABEL

I here use the King James ( or Authorised) version of the story: “And the whole earth was of one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said to one another,Continue reading “THE TOWER OF BABEL”

THE EOLIAN HARP

This is one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s early conversation poems, first written in 1795. The address is to his young married wife, Sarah. The Eolian Harp (or Aeolian, from Aeolus the Greek god of wind) was devised as an outdoor wind instrument played into sound by currents of air. The sounds enable the poet toContinue reading “THE EOLIAN HARP”

WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU GOD DOES NOT EXIST QUESTION IF HE MEANS GOD OR DOES HE REALLY MEAN THE DEMIURGE?

Suddenly God-or the demiurge- has entered the conversation! The exciting thing about running this blog-post is I have ideas as to where I might like to take them but nothing is pre-determined. It is all a rather exciting journey. I did somewhere early on promise an evolving series. If we have evolved towards God thatContinue reading “WHEN SOMEONE TELLS YOU GOD DOES NOT EXIST QUESTION IF HE MEANS GOD OR DOES HE REALLY MEAN THE DEMIURGE?”

“THE BODY OF GOD”

Here are two further “Last Poems” of D. H. Lawrence on the subject of the demiurge: DEMIURGE They say that reality exists only in the spirit that corporal existence is a kind of death that pure being is bodiless that the idea of form precedes the form substantial. But what nonsense it is! as ifContinue reading ““THE BODY OF GOD””

THE IMAGINATION OF GOD

Shortly before D. H. Lawrence died his medical specialist stated, “an ordinary man with those lungs would have died long ago; but with a real artist no normal prognosis is ever sure; there are other forces involved”. (D. H Lawrence Penguin Critical Anthologies ed. H. Coombes 1973). His friend, Aldous Huxley, writes of him: “HeContinue reading “THE IMAGINATION OF GOD”

CORRESPONDENCE : ON “GOD SAID ” LET NEWTON BE.”

Replies to my blog-posts are very welcome. The following written is a very thoughtful and well-argued response to my most recent post. I add a reply. Further contributions are welcome. “Thanks, Alan, for a well written and argued piece, ably outlining the development of an important process of enquiry and understanding in the realms ofContinue reading “CORRESPONDENCE : ON “GOD SAID ” LET NEWTON BE.””

THE MAKING OF “GENIUS”.

LOOKING AT THE WORD “ROMANTIC (3) So great a genius was Shakespeare that the very word “genius” had to be adapted in meaning to account for him. That is quite a fact so please read the first sentence again to make sure you have taken it in! For earlier meanings I refer again to ourContinue reading “THE MAKING OF “GENIUS”.”

“Enjambment! Or would You Prefer the French Version, Sir?”

Is there a word the sound of which-whether uttered correctly or incorrectly -makes you wince? In French -for me, “enjambement” is not like that. It is rather such a sweet sounding, elegant intonation. I love to hear it pronounced by a good French speaker. And I , in turn, attempted, in my rudimentary French toContinue reading ““Enjambment! Or would You Prefer the French Version, Sir?””

GUEST POST: A WELCOME RETURN TO THE SONGWRITER WHO CONTAINS MULTITUDES.

A Review of Bob Dylan’s Album “Rough and Rowdy Ways” by Duncan C. Eddie. Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016. There was considerable debate and discussion around whether he ought to have received such an esteemed award. Is he not primarily a songwriter and musician? Singer Patti Smith went onContinue reading “GUEST POST: A WELCOME RETURN TO THE SONGWRITER WHO CONTAINS MULTITUDES.”

“THERE WAS A BOY”

This poem was initially written as a separate one and then was later incorporated in “The Prelude” (Book5), the long autobiographical poem in twelve books, which Wordsworth subtitled “Growth of a Poet’s Mind” The work in these early books, as in this poem here, follows Wordsworth’s early development and his boyhood love of Nature inContinue reading ““THERE WAS A BOY””

MARY SHELLEY’S “FRANKENSTEIN”: THE CREATION MYTH DEVELOPED BY CULTURAL MARXISM.

Between the eighties and nineties I was not much involved with academic life. When I returned to teach Open University students a course on “Approaches to Literature” I was surprised to discover that a novel I had thought to be on the periphery of literary focus had become a central part of the curriculum. Earlier,Continue reading “MARY SHELLEY’S “FRANKENSTEIN”: THE CREATION MYTH DEVELOPED BY CULTURAL MARXISM.”

“WHAT IS IT TO BE A ROMANTIC?”: PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING?

We have been looking at Romanticism in general and some aspects of pre-romanticism ( the picturesque, the sublime etc) and the history of “romantic” as a word. We shall be looking at various examples of Romantic poetry and prose and asking questions as to its continuing influence on us today. But here is another angle:Continue reading ““WHAT IS IT TO BE A ROMANTIC?”: PHILOSOPHICALLY SPEAKING?”

“HIM WHO FIRST DESCRIBED WHAT PICTURESQUE BEAUTY WAS”: JANE AUSTEN AND WILLIAM GILPIN (2)

Marianne’s sensitivity to the beauty of the landscape (see post “Jane Austen and the Picturesque”) shows her feeling for the picturesque, a pre-Romantic era concept, that developed in popularity through the eighteenth century. That it is a fashionable tendency is due largely to the work of William Gilpin(1724-1804). Gilpin distinguishes picturesque beauty from natural beautyContinue reading ““HIM WHO FIRST DESCRIBED WHAT PICTURESQUE BEAUTY WAS”: JANE AUSTEN AND WILLIAM GILPIN (2)”

THE PRODIGAL SON AND JACOB AND ESAU

Both stories present characters whose repentance is expressed as fear they will be given their just desserts, both form prudent schemes for escaping censure, both demonstrate a surprising reception expressing generous love

WHILST BROWSING: A NOTE ON DOSTOEVSKY’S DEMONS

“In the nineteenth century Russia under the influence of their progressive parents, a generation of educated young people was convinced of the illegitimacy of the Tsarist regime. Dostoevsky’s “Demons” (1871) is a vivid chronicle of the tragic and farcical process by which progressive liberals discredited traditional institutions and unleashed a wave of revolutionary terror. NotContinue reading “WHILST BROWSING: A NOTE ON DOSTOEVSKY’S DEMONS”

POPPIES

I love the time of year-mid May- when poppies first appear in our garden. I remember them so often as I passed them in fields scattered among the wheat on the road between North Berwick and Edinburgh. Here is a poem on poppies. Poppies You are not simple indiscretions at a summer fete shunned byContinue reading “POPPIES”

MAKING THE NOVEL ROMANTIC

From Charlotte Bronte responding to G. H. Lewes (respected Victorian critic to become George Eliot’s partner) who had recommended her to read Jane Austen. I got the book (ie. Pride and Prejudice) and studied it. What did I find? An accurate daguerrotyped portrait of a commonplace face; a carefully fenced garden with neat borders andContinue reading “MAKING THE NOVEL ROMANTIC”

SPIRIT OF PLACE

On the morning of a fine June day, my first bonny nursling, and the last of the ancient Earnshaw stock, was born. We were busy with the hay in a far away field, when the girl that usually brought our breakfasts came running an hour too soon, across the meadow and up the lane, callingContinue reading “SPIRIT OF PLACE”

INTRODUCING WUTHERING HEIGHTS

What kind of novel is Wuthering Heights? I ask because the novel blends so many different possibilities within its composite whole. It is a passionate love story of a never consummated relationship that dominates the whole story-even though the heroine dies well before the end and consummation is sought by her lover after death ;Continue reading “INTRODUCING WUTHERING HEIGHTS”

RESURRECTION

MARINA Quis hic locus,quae regio,quaemundi plaga What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands What water lapping the bow And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog What images return O my daughter. Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning Death Those who glitter with the glory ofContinue reading “RESURRECTION”

THE JOURNEY TO EMMAUS

St Luke 24. 13-35( KJV 1611) And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about three score furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near,Continue reading “THE JOURNEY TO EMMAUS”

GOOD FRIDAY

“The wounded surgeon plies the steel That questions the distempered part; Beneath the bleeding hands we feel The sharp compassion of the healer’s art Resolving the enigma of the fever chart. Our only health is the disease If we obey the dying nurse Whose constant care is not to please But to remind of ourContinue reading “GOOD FRIDAY”


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