Friday, June 04, 2010

The weekend poem comes a little early

This poet, Arthur Hugh Clough, was one of the great forward-thinkers of the first half of the 19th Century, indeed something of a proto-socialist. This, his best-known work, is said to have grown from his attempt to find consolation and a renewed sense of purpose amid the bitter disillusion that followed the failure of most of the political reform movements which had erupted into 'The Year Of Revolutions' in Europe in 1848. Change is coming; maybe slower than you'd wanted, maybe imperceptibly, maybe not in the way that you'd imagined; but change is coming; change cannot be stopped.

I'd so like to believe that might be true of China today, but I struggle to find any evidence of it.

It's odd how these widespread political convulsions seem to happen every 60 or 70 years (at least, since the dawn of 'the modern age'): 1642, ????, 1776, 1848, 1917, 1989..... I wonder if it's something to do with the human life-cycle: the typical span of three generations, or the typical life expectancy of a man?

I hope we don't have to wait around past the middle of this century to see things change in the way this country is governed. It should be noted that this 70-year cycle seems to be a succession of violent upheavals. I would like to think that such sudden, and potentially catastrophic, shifts in political arrangements could be avoided - or at least ameliorated - by timely and well-managed programmes of reform. But perhaps not; perhaps there's just something about the way our societies work that things have to fall apart once in every lifetime.

The Struggle

Say not the struggle nought availeth,
The labour and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not nor faileth,
And as things have been, things 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.

Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861)

No comments: