Archive for June 5, 2012

The Song of the Happy Shepherd

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on June 5, 2012 by telescoper

A blog post yesterday by Andy Lawrence put the word Arcady into my head, and thus reminded me of this poem by William Butler Yeats, known to his friends as W.B. I’ve actually quoted a bit of this poem before, but now seem to have excuse to post the whole thing; I’ve highlighted the section that reveals Yeats’ opinion of observational astronomers…

The woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.
Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? – By the Rood,
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie.
Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass –
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
No word of theirs – the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.
Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell.
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be.
Rewording in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth.
I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,
With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,
My songs of old earth’s dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.


49 not out

Posted in Biographical, Finance, Politics with tags , , on June 5, 2012 by telescoper

Yesterday having been my birthday – which Her Majesty The Queen kindly declared to be a national holiday – I am now just a year short of a half-century. HMQ has decreed that today is also a national holiday, thus giving me the chance to get rid of my hangover before returning to work a year older on Wednesday.

Fortunately I didn’t have to endure the Queen’s Official party at Buckingham Palace on TV  last night, and instead went to see the fabulous Lady Boys of Bangkok who are in Cardiff all week as part of their UK Tour. They perform in the purpose-built mobile Sabai Pavilion which for this week is situated in Cardiff Bay. Not only did I enjoy the show, I also escaped being hauled up on stage and turned into part of the act. Other members of the audience weren’t so fortunate…

I suspect most of the audience there were also celebrating birthdays or other special occasions, but some were probably just trying to escape from the all-encompassing Jubilee celebrations, of which I’m sure I’m not alone in being completely bored.  So bored, in fact, that I can’t even be bothered to go into the whole Monarchist versus Republican thing.

Still, at least I wasn’t forced to work as an unpaid steward at the stupid river pageant on Sunday, and required to sleep rough under London Bridge, under threat of losing my benefits. Slavery is another fine British tradition.

I think the people who focus on getting rid of the  Monarchy are misguided. Of course it’s an undemocratic and anachronistic institution, but it only has a symbolic status; it doesn’t have any actual power. The real threat to democracy is not the Royal Family, but the rampant capitalism that taken the world’s financial systems to the brink of chaos. Only when we’ve come up with a sensible plan for the world economy in the post-capitalist era – which, in my view, is approaching rapidly – will it be worth making the effort to remove some of the tattered decorations left behind by the old system.

The ongoing financial crisis gripping the world’s economy only exists because governments were persuaded of the need to use taxpayers’ money to underwrite losses in the banking sector. Bankers like capitalism when it comes to making profits, but are happy to fall back on socialism when they make a mess. Now the bankers’ losses have turned into a crippling burden of sovereign debt that could take decades to pay off. And who profits from this? The people who made the mess in the first place.

There is an obvious solution to this problem. A one-off tax of 20% of the accumulated wealth  of the top 10% of the population would raise a staggering £800 billion for the Treasury. This option isn’t even discussed in Parliament because our politicians know their masters wouldn’t like it. And so we go on squeezing ordinary folk and letting the rich off the hook. I don’t think this can go on forever without someone figuring out that we’ve been royally had.