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Directness, rightness

Friday, 25 May 2018 at 22:00

Flowering Rifle on Dr John Dunn. A recent journey through Andalusia reminded John Dunn of Spanish Civil War poet - Roy Campbell.

John Dunn continues to read the opening to Campbell’s epic poem, Flowering Rifle.

Yet see this smuggled Right hand that I bring
The lightest feather moulted from the wing
Of our great Victory, spread from star to star,
With thunder-hackled mountains in her car,
Which all the way from Portugal to France
She inspans in her thundering advance,
Changing their fiery teams at every stage,
For new ones filled with with ever-towering rage,
And loosing these in turn to drink and gaze
The peace-calm waters and the flowery ways,
Till, last and most superb, the Pyrenees,
Snorting a fiery steam around their knees,
Shall trail her spoor of villages set free
Through waving cornfields to the Midland Sea.
By this light hand, this feather of her wing,
Had you but cared to watch the careless thing -
Just by the mere direction it was blown
This war was long predicted and foreshown -
Directness, Rightness, has that airy power,
Anticipating victory to the hour:
While Leftness fails in all, as it befell
When Strachey prophesied at Teruel.

Campbell employs the feather metaphor to show the way the wind was blowing from the start, that is, towards an inevitable Rightist victory, with its relentless advance spanning the whole of Spain, right up to the final liberation of the Pyrenean villages. The prediction had a Divine inevitability about it, in contrast to the ill-judged prophesies of well funded establishment figures such as John Strachey.

Eton educated Strachey was the paid secretary of the World Committee Against War and Fascism. He was employed by Gollanz as the commissioning editor of the Left Book Club, later to be favoured with a cabinet position in the post-war Labour Government.

Following the early Republican victory at Teruel, Strachey over-enthusiastically predicted a Red victory.

© John Dunn.

open Right

Thursday, 10 May 2018 at 21:16

Flowering Rifle on Dr John Dunn. John Dunn resumes a reading of the opening to Roy Campbell’s epic poem, Flowering Rifle.

The plains and valleys fought upon our side
And rivers to our Victory were allied
That (loosed to whelm us and the land)
Were parted like Red Seas on either hand:
Our comrades’ blood, still conscious in their veins,
Headed the waves away with curling manes,
And swerving on both sides to let us free,
Galloped them foaming headlong to the sea -
In death still present, hand upon the reins,
Such friendship links us riders of the plains.
Nor can a clenched left fist create or fight
With the calm patience of the open Right
Nor help a needy comrade, as we see
Each time they leave their wounded, when they flee,
When to remove their numbers to the rear
Might sow the grey, demoralizing fear.

Divine intervention in support of the just cause is conflated with the superior use of topography, notably the rivers, which to the Rightists were ‘allied’. This is possibly a reference to the opening of dams as a weapon of war at the decisive Battle of Ebro by Franco’s forces. Be that as it may, lost comrades swept away to the sea are lauded, by Campbell, as heroes. The galloping riders of the plains conjures up the Reconquista knights of old.

The symbolic clenched fist reappears and is associated with the Leftist’s failings in creativity, patience and valour, in contrast to the side of the open palmed salute, which succeeds in all these attributes.

Salutes are used symbolically to compare the closed, constricted and sinister nature of the Left, with the open, honest endeavour of the Right.

© John Dunn.


Sunday, 6 May 2018 at 21:55

Prieto on Dr John Dunn. John Dunn continues a reading of the opening to Roy Campbell’s epic poem, Flowering Rifle.

Fat Prieto

So in Red Spain they're fighting side by side
By common desperation both allied,
Both indispensable and no more strange
Than the unhealthy hide is to the Mange-
But on our side such itches cannot grow
Since, with us, the whole Donkey had to go!
For though with lies your hearing they belabour
There’s is the Capital as ours the Labour-
As fat Prieto boasted with a grin
“The Rights are penniless, and cannot win.”
But nature’s elements, except for gold,
Will shun the Yiddisher’s convulsive hold,
And it’s an axiom that mere eyesight yields-
Grass hates to grow on communistic fields!

And so Campbell exposes the political dichotomy of the Spanish conflict. On the one side is the symbiotic relationship between international finance and communism, as foul and mutually necessary as that between anunhealthy hide and mange; that which the Rightist cause would rid Spain of by disposing of the whole Donkey.

Whilst Indalecio Prieto, Spanish Socialist Party and Soviet Stooge, boasts of his support from international finance in comparison with the ‘penniless’ state of the Rightists, Campbell unmasks the face behind the Leftist cause, claiming his own side’s freedom from its ‘convulsive hold’, a dependency which, in the grassless metaphor, leaves the Leftist cause dry and barren of life.

The reference to Prieto as fat echos the 'snug fat bourgeois’ reference earlier in the poem. (See Parlour for lawless thrills in Blog)

© John Dunn.

Parlour for lawless thrills

Saturday, 5 May 2018 at 22:26

Charlestone on Dr John Dunn.

John Dunn continues a reading of the opening to Roy Campbell’s epic poem, Flowering Rifle.

As doomed anachronisms, Sire and Son,
Capitalist and Communist make one,
The scrawny offspring and the bloated sire
Sentence by nature to the same hot fire;
So in red Bloomsbury the two are tied
Like gangsters to be taken for a ride-
Smug rebels to society, the tame
Charaders in a dreary parlour game,
Where breaking crockery gives a lawless thrill
And Buffaloes each smug suburban Bill,
Where the Left Fist will pelt you from the fence,
But when you lift a hand in self-defence,
Although it scorns the bourgeois law and state,
Off to the lawyers takes the broken pate,
And at the first sign of lifted quirt
Will cling its Mother Grundy by the skirt-
From every communist you can unsheath
The snug fat “bourgeois” creeping underneath,
And every Babbit is a foxes’ hole
From which a scrawny “comrade” snarls for dole!

The critical point made by Campbell in this passage is that capitalism and communism are two sides of the same coin. This is not about the Right and Left as we know it today, in reality liberal v liberal.

To emphasise the point, he turns once more to the effete and decadent pranksters of red Bloomsbury, whose jolly crockery-breaking rebellions against authority serve to mask the snug fat “bourgeois” values that they uphold.

When attacked, these reds turn to the bourgeois state and law as their true home and protector, once more emphasising a sinister symbiosis.

© John Dunn.

Sterile perversity

Friday, 4 May 2018 at 21:17

Flowering rifle on Dr John Dunn. A recent journey through Andalusia reminded John Dunn of that poet of the Spanish Civil War - Roy Campbell.

John Dunn continues to read the opening to Campbell’s epic poem, Flowering Rifle.

The fungus that still by decaying grows:
Sleep’s Aegis, save when dealing dirty blows:
Like the raised claw-bunch of an ancient stork:
With cork-screwed fingers, like a crumpled fork,
In a rheumatic ecstasy of hate
Clenched at the world, for being born too late;
This weary fist infests the world entire
As common in the palace as the byre,
As limply fungoid in the idle rich
As when it toadstools from a ditch,
Or, friend to every cause that rots or fails,
Presides in Bloomsbury with tinted nails;

Campbell continues to merge images of the clenched fist, in all its constricted distortion, with sub-human, fungoid life that feeds parasitically off decay.

By no means exclusively a working class phenomenon, the image of Leftist parasitism is conflated with the idle rich. In particular, Cambell picks out the Bloomsbury Set in all its homosexual and sterile perversity.

© John Dunn.

Political dichotomy

Thursday, 3 May 2018 at 21:21

Flowering rifle on Dr John Dunn. A recent journey through Andalusia reminded John Dunn of that poet of the Spanish Civil War - Roy Campbell.

John Dunn continues to read the opening to Campbell’s epic poem, Flowering Rifle.

The weed of Life that grows where air is hot
With “Meetings” for its aspidistral pot:
That leaves its labour to the hammering tongue
And grows, a cactus, out of hot-house dung:
A manual head-ache, fastened on a fist,
And fed with fumes of foul carbonic mist:
A vegetable cramp: a bolted clam
Whose grudging doors on life and daylight slam:
The “No” to life translated as “I Am,”
A Life-constricting tetanus of fingers
Under whose sign an outworn Age malingers,
While from its back the nails eat slowly through
For communists out-fakir the Hindu,
And hanker for stagnation thrice as vast
Where all must starve beneath the lowest Caste;

Strange to many in our own age, where Left v Right in reality means liberal v liberal, in his 1939 poem Cambell continues to define the only politicaldichotomy that counts. The stone is turned and he throws light upon the opposition, the other, the holder of the raised clenched fist.

Choose the clenched fist and sub-human forms will thrive in a climate from which the oxygen necessary to human life has been excluded.

The clenched fist veils a tetanus of fingers, redolent of the filmy filth, disease, decay and stagnation of the Hindus.

Undertheclenched fist, all will be reduced to an existence in the putrefaction and squalor of the lowest Caste - there to starve.

© John Dunn.


Wednesday, 2 May 2018 at 22:01

Flowering Rifle on Dr john Dunn. A recent journey through Andalusia reminded me of that poet of the Spanish Civil War - Roy Campbell.

These are the opening lines of Campbell’s gigantic epic poem, Flowering Rifle. About the Spanish Civil War yes, but also about the eternal struggle.

Against the bogus prophets of the Day
Chained to Corruption, Failure, and Decay,
What can I do but take the trampled sand,
Diestro by the Rightness of my hand,
Whose opening Palm, of Victory the sign,
Branched from the mesa with the Bread and Wine
By the same toil engendered as the grain
With many a million more, the Might of Spain,
With palms of triumph foresting the day
To wave the golden harvest on its way,
O which strong millions, strictly contraband,
I introduce this sample to a Land
Where all the sweet emoluments are thrown
To that snug, sinister, and bungling drone,
The fist-shut Left, so dextrous with the dirk,
The striker, less in battle than from work:

The open palm of the Right is contrasted with the closed fist of the Left.

The open palm is expanded into an image of openness, honest labour, spirituality and fecundity.

Cambell is so respectful of these qualities, that he almost feels ashamed to smuggle in his own literary labours in support of the Rightist cause

Neverthless, in this mood of contrition, he allies himself, and humbly offers his labours, to the cause of life.

In contrast, the closed fist serves well as the dark, constricting, airless image of that to which he is opposed in all its parasitical sterility.

© John Dunn.

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