Advancing Retrogression

“Put your flags away, you’re leaving, and take them with you.”
[Mairead McGuinness, vice-president of the Parliament, to Nigel Farage, who waved a miniature Union Jack in the European Parliament as he bade farewell (2020).]

“We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
[Winston Churchill in a speech (1946).]

In the nightmare of the dark
All the dogs of Europe bark,
And the living nations wait,
Each sequestered in its hate;
Intellectual disgrace
Stares from every human face,
And the seas of pity lie
Locked and frozen in each eye.
[Lines from W.H. Auden’s poem “September 1, 1939” sent to Roger Cohen by Patrick Wintour, diplomatic editor of The Guardian.]

[Referring to the lines from Auden:] A better epitaph for the aborted story of Britain in Europe and the tragedy of a disoriented nation’s willful infliction of enduring self-harm is impossible to imagine.
(Roger Cohen, “Requiem for a Dream,” 1-31-20. All quotations above are from this opinion piece.)

I say without irony that I feel Cohen’s pain from my perch in the boonies. I’ve kept the 99-line Auden poem memorized for several years. I would add only that it concludes with mention of “the Just,” and with the self-exhortation: “May I… show an affirming flame.” Here is the last stanza of a poem that transcends its moment in an Orwellian way:

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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