'An artist disregards all governments, abolishes all conventions. The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway.'
'So it is,' said Mr Syme.
'Nonsense!' said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. 'Why do all the clerks and the navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for, that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!'
'It is you who are unpoetical,' replied the poet Syme. 'If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosiac as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it epical when a man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street, or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. Take your books of mere poetry and prose, let me read a time-table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man, give me Bradshaw who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!'
Monday, 5 January 2009
the man who was thursday: update
I didn't get to it over Christmas, but I am now loving it. I am in a mood to enjoy unapologetic writing, in both senses, and this is really unapologetic. I will have something to say about anti-intellectualism, which is a complicated story, and I want to have a think about it. It is certainly a strand, but anti-intellectualism in the hands of GK Chesterton is not anti-elitism in the hands of the American right, even if there are threads which twine them together, and that is as far as I am prepared to commit myself for the moment. Never mind, because here is some GKC: