||[Nov. 27th, 2008|10:32 am]
I've mentioned our friend John before. He's 90 odd. Tall, distinguished, gentle, humorous- a keen amateur painter. Ailz was asking him about his war service (in the Royal Navy) so he sketched it out for us. He served on destroyers, guarding the Russian convoys, was detailed to attack the Scharnhorst (an engagement that was aborted by the target scuttling back into port) and was second in command of a landing craft in an action he referred to as "D Day and all that rubbish". |
I don't really buy into that whole "Greatest Generation" thing- and I'm sure John doesn't either- but sometimes...
Yeah I have an elderly relative-by-marriage whose short term memory is shot to shit but he has no trouble recalling being a ship in Malta and missing aircraft fire by a few feet - the guy next to him was killed instantly.
It boggles the mind to think what earlier generations had to give - as a woman coming from a country that was rather self-indulgently "neutral" I am doubly privileged in never having had to experience that.
I feel that there is something petty about my people and sometimes I wonder is it because we never had to make such sacrifices and were in the habit of despising those who did...(please don't feel uncomfortable about addressing this as I am a confirmed Hibernophobe and open to criticism, within reason of course!)
I've always understood that the Irish government of the day hated the Brits more than they hated the Nazis. As a self-lacerating Brit I've always done my best to understand how that could be.
I'm a devoted Yeatsian- greatest English-language poet of the 20th century as far as I'm concerned- and as so susceptible to the romance of 1916 and all that. Yeats was a bit of a Nazi in old age I'm told. I try to put the best possible construction on this...
I would say it's a simple case of "my enemy's enemy". To add insult to injury nobody outside Ireland really took this enmity very seriously, which probably added to the hurt and chagrin.
It goes on till the poppy dilemma I mentioned in that other thread - how can you support the war dead without supporting the institutions of oppression they stand for, etc etc.
Re Yeats I think he got totally disillusioned with middle-class, middling-minded, middling-parochial Paddyism and his rage against his fellow-countrymen (though he was Protestant and most of them Catholic, particularly the more narrow-minded ones) prompted him to go totally overboard with the eugenics idea. Had he lived to see WWII kick off, he may have changed his mind.
A lot of the big-time modernists allowed their contempt for the bourgeosie to tip over into fascism. It tends to get brushed under the carpet.
I believe Yeats supported some local fascist outfit (the blue shirts?) and even wrote marching songs for them- then pulled out when he came to realise what a bunch of shites they really were.
I've always felt a little sorry for Ezra Pound. Supporting Musso doesn't seem nearly as heinous to me as supporting Hitler.
Camille Paglia has short shrift for Pound. Accuses him of stringing together lots of past glories rather than writing poetry at all. Link in my blog a few entries down.
The Blueshirts eventually involved into a (moderately) respected political party called Fine Gael. They actually had an honourable reason for starting up - the Garda police force needed reform - but then they went over the top everywhere.
Fascism does not work in Ireland - we don't really have that collective spirit. We're me-feiners (ourselves only!)
I read that article of Paglia's. She has a point. There are very few poems of Pound's that stand alone. Or maybe none at all. But I like the purity of his speech. He did the language a favour.
And he enabled other poets- most notably Yeats and Eliot.
Fascism doesn't work in England either. I think we should be proud of ourselves for that.
Yeah - fascism doesn't work well alongside a sense of humour.
I've been meaning to write a poem on this theme for a while - my parents were 21 when the war ended, and nothing as exciting ever happened to them again. They enjoyed their war! And trying to explain to us what it was like much have been impossible.
My uncle, on the other hand, spent 3.5 years in a Japanese POW camp and was lucky to get out alive. He then trained as a prison officer and worked his way up to governor. He must have had some unique insights into prison life.
My mother was an army driver on the home front, chauffering brass hats and minor celebs. I gather she a wonderful time.
She did, however, lose her brother in Italy.
As Dickens said, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times."