Monthly Archives: October 2016

Matthew Arnold’s London

Victorian poet Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) was a friend of Wordsworth and decidedly cultured, there was plenty of social criticism in his work.

East London

‘Twas August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
In Spitalfields, look’d thrice dispirited.

I met a preacher there I knew, and said:
“Ill and o’erwork’d, how fare you in this scene?”–
“Bravely!” said he; “for I of late have been
Much cheer’d with thoughts of Christ, the living bread.”

O human soul! as long as thou canst so
Set up a mark of everlasting light,
Above the howling senses’ ebb and flow,

To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam–
Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night!
Thou mak’st the heaven thou hop’st indeed thy home.

West London

Crouch’d on the pavement, close by Belgrave Square,
A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied.
A babe was in her arms, and at her side
A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.

Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there,
Pass’d opposite; she touch’d her girl, who hied
Across, and begg’d, and came back satisfied.
The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.

Thought I: “Above her state this spirit towers;
She will not ask of aliens, but of friends,
Of sharers in a common human fate.

“She turns from that cold succour, which attends
The unknown little from the unknowing great,
And points us to a better time than ours.”


Pliny On Heckling

In Book 6, letter 15 Pliny the Younger (61-113AD) writes to Voconius Romanus about a heckle at a poetry reading.

To Romanus

You have missed an extraordinary scene, and so did I, but the story reached me just after it had happened. Passienus Paulus, a Roman knight, of good family, and a man of peculiar learning and culture besides, composes elegies, a talent which runs in the family, for Propertius is reckoned by him amongst his ancestors, as well as being his countryman. He was lately reciting a poem which began thus:
“You bid me, Priscus – ” whereupon Javolenus Priscus, who happened to be present as a particular friend of the poet’s, cried out, “But he is mistaken, I did not command him.” Think what laughter and merriment this occasioned. It is true that Priscus is somewhat eccentric, though he takes a share in public business, is summoned to consultations, and even publicly acts as a lawyer, so that this behaviour of his was the more remarkable and absurd. Meanwhile Paulus someone else’s folly to blame for his chilly reception. You see how necessary it is for those who are anxious to recite their works in public to beware of eccentricity either in himself or in the audience he invites. Farewell.


Gav T’Lad

A poem by Hull Ranter Gav T’Lad from New Youth, number 4, 1984

Young At Heart

65 with an adolescent mind,
Clutching onto childhood
That you’ll never leave behind.
Ironing out the wrinkles,
But your efforts are in vain,
Your face is bound to change
But your mind can stay the same.
When your body started growing old
You often wondered why
But your circumstances never met
Your given alibi.
You dream of being young
Because Youth is in your blood
You get the urge to hide and seek
And dress like Robin Hood.
You can’t help the frustration
At the thought of getting on
And knowing not too far ahead
That childhood will be gone.
You’re getting old and slowing down
But still you’re young at heart
You can’t control your giggle
When you hear a noisy fart.
When your book of life’s complete,
Written on the final page
Is the answer to your missing link

Gav T’Lad