We, who in manhood’s dawn have been compelled to care not a damn for life or death, now care less still for the convention of glory and the intellectual apologies for what can never be to us other than a riot of ghastliness and horror, of inhumanity and negation.

– Herbert Read, Naked Warriors, Preface

“The More Things Change . . . ”

On this March evening, recoiling from our worldly scene where the vortices and the vacuums of power currently sustain one another in tacit mutual complicity, and precipitated thus into a “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” mood – within which, presumably, I am not now the only one to find myself once again – it seems apposite to offer, in the place of music alone, instead a balance of it and some few fitting poems of the last century. These, in two cases, are each recited by their makers, as well as, in a third, by three present-⁠day admirers of the poet.

This poetry I do hope is beyond the need of any introduction, and so without further preliminaries, here is, to begin with, Herbert Read’s recitation of his own “To a Conscript of 1940” – available on the Soundcloud page entitled Poets Reading Poetry, which does its good work from London.

Our victory was our defeat.
Power was retained where power had been misused
And youth was left to sweep away
The ashes that the fires had strewn beneath our feet.
To fight without hope is to fight with grace,
The self reconstructed, the false heart repaired.

Next, prolonging the atmosphere of Read’s poem into the contiguous medium of music, is a new piece by Jonnie Allen, the Englishman whose work has previously been featured here on several occasions. In this one, which, not for nothing – its temper is decidedly minor-⁠key – and indeed quite aptly, is entitled “End,” he takes care to unfold the repetition within a feeling into a form that subsequent listenings may well apprehend as increasingly subtle.

The third of tonight’s offerings is an inimitable delivery of “The More Loving One” by W. H. Auden, taken from the same Soundcloud page as was the other poem.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Now, finally, since, or rather, if the world-⁠spectacle one stared at and now pulls away from, does emanate shimmering

through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea

– to invoke an acute poetic rendering of the phenomenon – I should like to add to the usual number of tracks another triad, these being each a recitation of Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et decorum est,” from which those words come, and all three spoken with a bardic-⁠Burnsian cadence, as for this poem in particular the tongue should roll Scots or at least here and there with a trace thereof. Accordingly, the first, supplemented by a few spare sound-⁠effects, is by the Liverpudlian Ken Corish, now resident in Plymouth, the second by a Scotsman from Dundee who’s made his home across the ocean in Orlando, Alasdair Nicoll, and the third by an anonymous woman somewhere in Spain who is known on Soundcloud under the moniker This Is Nymphetamine and in whose voice, somehow or other, a few elements of the accent of Scotland are pleasingly bolstered by some Spanish sounds.