Friday, 19 December 2014

The Teacher's Monologue

The room is quiet, thoughts alone
   People its mute tranquility:
The yolk put off, the long task done, -
   I am, as it is bliss to be,
Still and untroubled. Now, I see,
   For the first time, how soft the day
O'er waveless water, stirless tree,
   Silent and sunny, wings its way.
Now, as I watch that distant hill,
   So faint, so blue, so far removed,
Sweet dreams of home my heart may fill,
   That home where I am known and loved:
It lies beyond: yon azure brow
   Parts me from all Earth holds for me;
And, morn and eve, my yearnings flow
  Thitherward tending, changelessly.
My happiest hours, ay! all the time,
   I love to keep in memory,
Lapsed among moors, ere life's first prime
   Decayed to dark anxiety.

Sometimes, I think a narrow heart
   Makes me thus mourn those far away,
And keeps my love so far apart
   From friends and friendships of to-day;
Sometimes, I think 'tis but a dream
  I treasure up so jealously,
All the sweet thoughts I live on seem
   To vanish into vacancy:
And then, this strange, coarse world around
   Seems all that's palpable and true;
And every sight and every sound
   Combines my spirit to subdue
To aching grief; so void and lone
   Is Life and Earth - so worse than vain,

The hopes that, in my own heart sown,
   And cherished by such sun and rain
As Joy and transient Sorrow shed,
   Have ripened to a harvest there:
Alas! methinks I hear it said,
   'Thy golden sheaves are empty air.'
All fades away; my empty home
   I think will soon be desolate;
I hear, at times, a warning come
   Of bitter partings at its gate;
And, if I should return and see
   The hearth-fire quenched, the vacant chair;
And hear it whispered mournfully,
   That farewells have been spoken there,
What shall I do, and whither turn?
   Where look for peace? When cease to mourn?

'Tis not the air I wished to play,
   The strain I wished to sing;
My wilful spirit slipped away
   And struck another string.
I neither wanted smile nor tear,
   Bright joy nor bitter woe,
But just a song that sweet and clear,
   Though haply sad, might flow.

A quiet song, to solace me
   When sleep refused to come,
A strain to chase despondency
   When sorrowful for home.
In vain I try; I cannot sing;
   All feels so cold and dead;
No wild distress, no gushing spring
   Of tears in anguish shed;

But all the impatient gloom of one
   Who waits a distant day,
When, some great task of suffering done,
   Repose shall toil repay.
For youth departs, and pleasure flies,
   And life consumes away,
And youth's rejoicing ardour dies
   Beneath this drear delay;

And patience, weary with her yoke,
   Is yielding to despair,
And Health's elastic spring is broke
   Beneath the strain of care.
Life will be gone ere I have lived;
   Where now is Life's first prime?
I've worked and studied, longed and grieved,
   Through all that rosy time.

To toil, to think, to long, to grieve, -
   Is such my future fate?
The morn was dreary, must the eve
   Be also desolate?
Well, such a life at least makes Death
   A welcome, wished-for friend;
Then, aid me, Reason, Patience, Faith,
   To suffer to the end!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Charlotte Bronte

All men, taken singly, are more or less selfish, and taken in bodies, they are intensely so. The British merchant is no exception to this rule: the mercantile classes illustrate it strikingly. These classes certainly think too exclusively of making money; they are too oblivious of every national consideration but that of extending England's - that is, their own - commerce. Chivalrous feelings, disinterestedness, pride in honour, is too dead in their hearts. A land ruled by them alone would too often make ignominious submission - not at all from the motives Christ teaches, but rather from those Mammon instils. During the late war, the tradesmen of England would have endured buffets from the French on the right cheek and on the left; their cloak they would have given to Napoleon, and then have politely offered him their coat also, nor would they have withheld their waistcoat if urged; they would have prayed permission only to retain their one other garment, for the sake of the purse in its pocket. Not one spark of spirit, not one symptom of resistance, would they have shown till the hand of the Corsican bandit had grasped that beloved purse; then, perhaps, transfigured at once into British bulldogs, they would have sprung at the robber's throat, and there the would have fastened, and there hung, inveterate, insatiable, till the treasure had been restored. Tradesmen, when they speak against war, always profess to hate it because it is a bloody and barbarous proceeding. You would think, to hear them talk, that they are peculiarly civilised - especially gentle and kindly of disposition to their fellow-men. This is not the case. Many of them are extremely narrow and cold-hearted, have no good feeling for any class but their own; are distant, even hostile, to all others; call them useless; seem to question their right to exist; seem to grudge them the very air they breathe, and to think the circumstance of their eating, drinking, and living in decent houses quite unjustifiable. They do not know what others do in the way of helping, pleasing, or teaching their race; they will not trouble themselves to inquire. Whoever is not in trade is accused of eating the bread of idleness, of passing a useless existence. Long may it be ere England really becomes a nation of shopkeepers!

- Shirley pp.127-8 (Wordsworth ed. 1993, originally written 1849)

Friday, 30 March 2012

Lyrical Ballads

'It is the honourable characteristic of Poetry that its materials are to be found in every subject which can interest the human mind. The evidence of this fact is to be sought, not in the writings of Critics, but in those of Poets themselves. ...'

'Readers accustomed to the gaudiness and inane phraseology of many modern writers, if they persist in reading this book to its conclusion, will perhaps frequently have to struggle with feelings of strangeness and awkwardness ...'

'Readers of superior judgement may disapprove of the style in which many of these pieces are executed. It must be expected that many lines and phrases will not exactly suit their taste. It will perhaps appear to them, that wishing to avoid the prevalent fault of their day, the author has sometimes descended too low, and that many of his expressions are too familiar, and not of sufficient dignity. It is apprehended, that the more conversant the reader is with our elder writers, and with those most successful in modern times who have been the most successful in painting manners and passions, the fewer complaints of this kind he will have to make.'

Monday, 31 October 2011

Alexandre Dumas

in prosperity prayers seem but a mere assemblage of words, until the day when misfortune comes to explain to the unhappy sufferer the sublime language by which he invokes the pity of Heaven!

"...There are the learned and the knowing. Memory makes the one, philosophy the other."
"But cannot one learn philosophy?"
"Philosophy is not to be learned; it is the combination of sciences acquired by the genius which applies them. Philosophy - it is the dazzling cloud on which Christ placed his foot to mount into the heavens."

- The Count of Monte Cristo

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Silence is the perfectest herald of joy; I were but little happy, if I could say how much.

- Claudio, Much Ado About Nothing II.1 282-3

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Paul Foot

Very few, if any, Poplar councillors of 1921 were revolutionaries, however. They wanted to change their world by the means provided for them by the 1918 Representation of the People Act, through the ballot box. But they were not prepared to sit passively by while their power as elected councillors was whittled away by the economic system and the judges and regulators imposed not by ballot but by ancient prejudices and reactionary laws.
The real meaning of Poplarism is the use by elected representatives of their democratic power to challenge laws and customs that restrict democracy. The Poplar councillors not only used that power. They used it at least to some extent successfully, and for that they could never be forgiven

- The Vote: How it was Won and how it was Undermined, 2005:260

George Lansbury

The workers must be given tangible proof that Labour administration means something different from capitalist administration.'

- Quoted in The Vote: How it was Won and how it was Undermined, Paul Foot. 2005:259

We have got nothing by being passive and quiet, and we are going to be passive and quiet no longer.

- Quoted in The Vote: How it was Won and how it was Undermined, Paul Foot. 2005:260