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Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Sound of Summer

Those who have been waiting for the first day’s play in the Ashes Test Series against Australia were not disappointed. It was so dramatic I had to keep switching the radio off. For some of us, however, the summer game will never have quite the same resonance since John Arlott handed over his microphone for the last time. For thirty years Arlott’s warm Hampshire burr was the very sound of summer. His commentaries were more than about cricket. They were about the very essence of what it is to be human. One of his favourite quotations: “Who knows of cricket who only cricket know?” But many listeners who remember his sharp, rich and humane words may not have been aware of his other contributions to the worlds of poetry and the anti-apartheid movement. Arlott was an accomplished poet whose work reflected the man. But his lasting legacy was that of the radio producer who discovered, developed and provided work for the young Dylan Thomas. John Arlott and Dylan Thomas were great friends and John realised that he had to do everything in his power to keep the poet functioning even to the extent of loaning him money from his own pocket (and which, he later confirmed, was all paid back).
He was brought up in Basingstoke. The family lived in the gatehouse of the Holy Ghost Chapel (in the graveyard of which the unfortunate May Blunden was buried alive - twice). He attended Fairfields School (since the Basingstoke Drama Centre) and worked as a special constable in the town. He was a great connoisseur of fine wine. He later moved to Alresford and, finally, to Alderney where he died. He was a true liberal (with a small “l”) although he did once stand as a Liberal candidate.
John worked for the sporting boycott of South Africa and was instrumental in bringing the Cape Coloured Cricketer Basil d’Oliveira to England.
John Arlott was the greatest sports broadcaster ever, he was a fine poet and an important contributor to the world as a whole. And although he died in 1991 and his last broadcast was as long ago as 1980 we still miss him .
If you want to hear his voice click here and download the brief audio cliphttp://www.radioacademy.org/halloffame/arlott_j/index.shtml

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More Summer Lightning

Whilst I recognised the actual line about Byron in the previous post, I couldn't recall the whole poem. This one is much more the image I was after. Although, who Edward Carpenter was, I quite forgot (I have printed a wickipaedia biography at the end of the poem)

The World-Spirit
By Edward Carpenter (b. 1844)

LIKE soundless summer lightning seen afar,
A halo o’er the grave of all mankind,
O undefin├Ęd dream-embosomed star,
O charm of human love and sorrow twined:

Far, far away beyond the world’s bright streams,
Over the ruined spaces of the lands,
Thy beauty, floating slowly, ever seems
To shine most glorious; then from out our hands

To fade and vanish, evermore to be
Our sorrow, our sweet longing sadly borne,
Our incommunicable mystery
Shrined in the soul’s long night before the morn.

Ah! in the far fled days, how fair the sun
Fell sloping o’er the green flax by the Nile,
Kissed the slow water’s breast, and glancing shone
Where laboured men and maidens, with a smile

Cheating the laggard hours; o’er them the doves
Sailed high in evening blue; the river-wheel
Sang, and was still; and lamps of many loves
Were lit in hearts, long dead to woe or weal.

And, where a shady headland cleaves the light
That like a silver swan floats o’er the deep
Dark purple-stained Aegean, oft the height
Felt from of old some poet-soul upleap,

As in the womb a child before its birth,
Foreboding higher life. Of old, as now,
Smiling the calm sea slept, and woke with mirth
To kiss the strand, and slept again below.

So, from of old, o’er Athens’ god-crowned steep
Or round the shattered bases of great Rome,
Fleeting and passing, as in dreamful sleep,
The shadow-peopled ages go and come:

Sounds of a far-awakened multitude,
With cry of countless voices intertwined,
Harsh strife and stormy roar of battle rude,
Labour and peaceful arts and growth of mind.

And yet, o’er all, the One through many seen,
The phantom Presence moving without fail,
Sweet sense of closelinked life and passion keen
As of the grass waving before the gale.

What art Thou, O that wast and art to be?
Ye forms that once through shady forest-glade
Or golden light-flood wandered lovingly,
What are ye? Nay, though all the past do fade

Ye are not therefore perished, ye whom erst
The eternal Spirit struck with quick desire,
And led and beckoned onward till the first
Slow spark of life became a flaming fire.

Ye are not therefore perished: for behold
To-day ye move about us, and the same
Dark murmur of the past is forward rolled
Another age, and grows with louder fame

Unto the morrow: newer ways are ours,
New thoughts, new fancies, and we deem our lives
New-fashioned in a mould of vaster powers;
But as of old with flesh the spirit strives,

And we but head the strife. Soon shall the song
That rolls all down the ages blend its voice
With our weak utterance and make us strong;
That we, borne forward still, may still rejoice,

Fronting the wave of change. Thou who alone
Changeless remainest, O most mighty Soul,
Hear us before we vanish! O make known
Thyself in us, us in Thy living whole.

Edward Carpenter (29 August 184428 June 1929) was a socialist poet, anthologist, and an early homosexual activist.
Born in Brighton, Carpenter attended Trinity College, Cambridge before joining the church as a curate. He was heavily influenced by the minister at his church, the leader of the Christian Socialist movement. Carpenter left the church in 1874 and became a lecturer in astronomy. During this period, he moved to Sheffield to live fairly openly in a same sex relationship with George Merrill. A visit by E.M. Forster to the couple inspired Forster's novel Maurice. Carpenter was also a significant influence on the author D.H. Lawrence.
In 1883, Carpenter joined the Social Democratic Federation, and in 1885 he left to join the Socialist League. After dabbling in the Labour Church movement, and achieving growing acclaim for his Whitman-esque poetry, he became a founder member of the Independent Labour Party in 1893. His pacifism led him to become a vocal opponent of first the Boer War and then the First World War.
In the 1890s, Carpenter began to campaign against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He strongly believed that sexuality was innate. In 1908, he wrote Intermediate Sex, an important though at the time highly controversial book on the subject.
His groundbreaking 1908 anthology of poems, Iolaus - anthology of friendship was a huge underground success, leading to a more advanced knowledge of homoerotic culture. It went to a second British edition in 1906 and a third edition in 1927. The New York 1917 edition is now available as a free online e-book.
Carpenter was an infuence on photographer Ansel Adams. In his early manhood Adams was... "devoted to the comparative-religious poetry of Edward Carpenter, who had close links with the Theosophical community of Halcyon, in Southern California" (Anne Hammond, Ansel Adams: Equivalent as Expression.).

Summer Lightning (An answer)

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.V. University Journalism.§ 1. Calverley.
THE man in the train has settled habits and views, definite experience of life, its problems and difficulties. The undergraduate changes yearly, and is in the tentative period of youth, though the influence of his school and his restricted atmosphere (in England, at any rate) keep him fairly constant in type. He has much of the freedom of manhood without its responsibilities. For him, life is a comedy, or, at most, a tragi-comedy; he has not begun to understand. He writes, if he writes at all, at leisure, and the product of idle hours beneath the shade, as Horace hints, is not often destined to be remembered beyond the year. Horace, who owed his success largely to a good schoolmaster and the university of Athens, is in tone and form, the ideal poet of university life. He is halfserious, half-sportive, with an exquisite sense of form and metre, and he has more university imitators than a dozen good prose writers can boast. These imitators have a zeal for form due to their reading. The study of the ancient classics gives a sense of conciseness, and a detestation for the mere verbiage which is frequent in ordinary journalism. University journalism thus follows a great tradition, but it does not start a new one.
An anarchic age like the present is inclined to underrate the sense of tradition, which does not, perhaps, foster the most seminal minds; but modern masters of prose and verse have mostly been trained in it, and the maxim, “the form, the form alone is eloquent,” is worth remembering. In particular, the sense of comedy which comes from playing at life has found expression in classical parody and light verse. Here, Cambridge can show a long line of masters whom she has trained, from Prior and Praed to Thackeray, Calverley and J. K. Stephen. Oxford, more in touch with the world, has been more serious and more prolific in prophets, but can claim a first-rate professor of the sportive mood in Andrew Lang. Calverley, however, is the leading master and his inimitable short line has had many disciples:

The wit of smooth delicious Matthew Prior,
The rhythmic grace which Hookham Frere displayed,
The summer lightning wreathing Byron’s lyre,
The neat inevitable turns of Praed,
Rhymes to which Hudibras could scarce aspire,
Such metric pranks as Gilbert oft has played,
All these good gifts and others far sublimer
Are found in thee, beloved Cambridge rhymer. 1

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Garble from Google

I thought I would make lots of money from this site by having a Google Adsense link on my page. At the beginning of the process I was invited to choose an appropriate language for the wording and I selected "English (UK)". The paragraph that followed contained this sentence: "...you'll finally have a way to both monetise and enhance your content pages."
The split infinitive made me shudder enough but it was the "M" word that had me racing for the Escape Button. I thought the whole point of language was to communicate not to cause choking and nausea. I might try again and select Mandarin Chinese to see if that's any more comprehensible.


Hacking about in the undergrowth looking for "Summer Lightning" clues, I happened upon this site. No help in my quest but quite a good appreciation of the man and his works.

Summer Lightning

Summer Lightning
Over the summer I have been re-reading some of the great books by P.G. Wodehouse. It is a great pleasure to renew acquaintances with Psmith, Ukridge Wooster and the rest of them. I hadn’t realised that, in the early days, Wodehouse collaborated with George Grossmith; himself the co-author of one of the great comic books of the English language - “The Diary of a Nobody”.
However, one of the titles in the Blandings series has stuck in my mind and has been nagging away like an old tooth. It is “Summer Lightning” and it’s a quotation but I can’t remember from where. It could be A.E. Housman or Rupert Brooke or even Wordsworth but it just won’t come to mind. I’ve scoured all the reference books I can find and I’ve searched the web but drawn a complete blank. There are one or two modern uses of the phrase but they’re obviously long after Wodehouse. So, anyone got any suggestions?


The TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) 2005 conference in Oxford has just drawn to a close. Did anyone reading this attend? Anything to share?http://www.ted.com/conference/flashpage.cfm?conferenceKey=TG2005