The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Do away with it all, then. At no matter what cost, start in to alter it. Never mind about wages or industrial squabbling. Turn the attention elsewhere. Pull down my native village to the last brick. Plan a nucleus. Fix the focus. Make a handsome gesture of radiation from the focus. And then put up big buildings, handsome, that sweep to a civic centre. And furnish them with beauty. And make an absolute clean start. Do it place by place. Make a new England. Away with little homes! Away with scrabbling pettiness and paltriness. Look at the contours of the land, and build up from these, with a sufficient nobility. The English may be spiritually or mentally developed. But as citizens of splendid cities they are more ignominious than rabbits. And they nag, nag, nag all the time about politics and wages and all that, like mean narrow housewives.

From "Nottingham and the Mining Country" (1929)

There's a lot wrong with this in all sorts of ways, but by gum, when his blood's up, he's impressive; and the cadence of the final sentences is magnificent. Easy to see why he travelled so much - one of those Englishmen who found it difficult to remain in England. (There have been one or two Scots like that, too.) He makes me think of Orwell, without Orwell's skill, insight or precision, but with more raw passion.


At 17 April 2006 at 14:47 , Blogger Yvonne said...

Had somebody close to him died when he wrote that, do you think?

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

-- W.H. Auden

At 18 April 2006 at 21:35 , Blogger The Silver Eel said...

Well, maybe so, but I get the impression from what I've read so far that England in general just ticked him off - the climate, the pettiness, the absence of glamour, of exuberance. Pre-rock 'n' roll. He does curmudgeonly pretty well.


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