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Heroes of Comrades’ Hall

Tuesday, 29 May 2018 at 20:44

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.

But firstly, to fulfil the boastful promise,
In my last Book, of SAYING IT WITH POMMIES,
To show I was in earnest when I spoke
And did not Dedicate them as a joke,
And though I could not say just where or when
Was certain they would flounder to my pen
Which never yet in prophecy has failed
And had them counted years before they sailed
And over lands and seas were puffed and floated
To within half a mile of where I wrote it -
Equestrian Muse of our Castilian trails,
Accept this offering (as of votive quails)
Of these three hundred Red-Necks, thrilled and caught
By prophecy, on the live wires of thought,
Brought here to learn why communists feel small
And we so perpendicular and tall
(Like a Cathedral over Comrades’ Hall)
For whom I sent the gay whip-cracking words
To round them up in flabbergasted herds,
And stretched the wire of rhyme, and switched the shock
That numbed the birdsclaws of their noisy flock -
Those scrawny fists, late screwed into a knot,
But now their manual tetanus forgot,
As with grapenuts reddening in their crops,
In Roman fashion, they salute the Wops -
Renouncing all their “Meeting”-gotten valiance,
To crawl before a handful of Italians.

Pommies,a disparaging term like Red-Necks, applied by colonials in South Africaand Australia to sun-baked Brits abroad, but applied more specifically by Campbell here to the International Brigade volunteers.

The passage again refers to the humiliating defeat of the Brigaders at San Mateo, where the communists, for all their bravado in “Meetings” at Comrades’ Hall and the like, were made to feel small and humiliated. They soon forgot the clenched fist and readily gave the Fascist salute to the Italians who rounded them up like cattle. The Italians were from the Italian Corps of Volunteer Troops that supported Franco.

© John Dunn.

home to Tea!

Monday, 28 May 2018 at 21:04

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.

Through its brown palm as through a map of Spain
The Lucky line runs free of worldly gain
Like Tagus through the brown Castilian plain;
Inept the gadgets of the Mode to peddle,
But while a working stirrup is my treadle,
A serviceable implement enough
To rope a Calf or Red-Neck by the scruff
And treat them kindly though they cut up rough;
Whose knot of nerves, by common labour spliced,
The rope and rein for manicure sufficed,
It scorns the scarlet nail-dye of the Left
And only in dexterity is deft,
Too business-like, unladylike a fist
To tantalize a British Communist,
As found the Tomboys of the Summer Schools
At San Mateo rounded up like mules,
As if they came not here to fight and kill
But to some nudist camp of Swedish drill
With semaphores no soldier understands
First clenching fists then throwing up their hands,
And when they’re wearied of their jamboree,
Ask to be bathed and taken home to Tea!

Campbell berates the International Brigaders for their naiveté as well as their ineptitude.

Red-Neck (Campbell’s South African term of abuse for a Brit abroad, quite apart from the Leftist connotations), is mentioned in the same breath as Calf, emphasising the mild ineffectiveness of the Brigaders in the land of bullfighters.

On 13th April, 1938, at San Mateo, International Brigade volunteers faced a humiliating defeat and were easily killed or captured.

The International Brigade is likened to a Bloomsbury summer school jaunt, with all that means in terms of class and inverted sexuality. The volunteers might as well be nudists doing arm-stretching exercises for all the effectiveness they have as a fighting force.

Clenched fists soon turn to the raised hands of surrender. Campbell implies that the Brigaders had no idea of what they were fighting for and that they were treating the serious business of war as though it were a jolly boy scout jamboree.

So there we have it - Campbell’s political opponents - the Left-capitalist nexus presented as homosexual nail-dyed Bloomsbury.

© John Dunn.

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.

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