Far Beyond the Borderlands of Scotia


Book One – Darling Fan and a Further Quintet of Essays
 
Chapter One – Luke the Drifter and the Secrets of Country
 
Luke the Drifter and the Birth of Country
 
It’s widely accepted that singer and songwriter Hank Williams is Country Music’s single most revered figure, and among the most influential popular musicians of the 20th Century.
And as such he incarnated many of the key elements of this most American of arts, having been born poor in the rural South of the United States, for notwithstanding its Canadian and Australian variants, Country is quintessentially the music of the working people of the American South.
These allegedly originally consisting of southern English emigrants from rural East Anglia, Kent and the West Country, who settled largely on the coastal regions, but had reached the Appalachian Mountains by the 18th Century. While Appalachia and the Piedmont were both significantly colonised by Northern English and Lowland Scottish peoples, as well as the Protestant Scots-Irish from Ireland’s Ulster province.
And the great majority of white Southerners continue to be of English and Scots-Irish origin, notwithstanding the sizable amounts of Southerners who don’t share these ancestries. Such as the French Americans of Louisiana for example; and the Irish Americans of South Georgia; as well as the German Americans of the Texas Hill Country and borderland areas of the upland South.
But Hank Williams was of English-American ancestry, like so many of those who bequeathed the South its distinctive culture, which includes its famous conservatism and patriotism, themselves the result of deep-rooted Christian foundations. And a culture of honour…born perhaps of the clannishness of herders from Western and Northern England, Lowland Scotland and Ireland’s Ulster province…and resultant fiery sense of protectiveness.
As well as the time-honoured mistrust existent between the rural poor and wealthy elite, such as those of the coastal areas, who were traditionally of English Episcopalian origin. While those of the hill country were mainly of mixed English and Scots-Irish ancestry.
And of course its music…and while it’s known as Country today, this has not always been the case.
For its roots lie in the Folk Music of emigrants from Britain and Ireland, as do the Square and Clog dancing that flourished alongside it; although while the fiddle came from the British Isles, the banjo was African-American in origin. While the Mountain Dulcimer was native to the Appalachians.
Known today as Old Time music, it was first commercially recorded in the early 1920s.
 While among the earliest acts considered Country per se were Jimmie Rodgers from Mississippi; and the Carter Family from Virginia, whose music was marked by the Evangelical fervour that would go on to be one of the defining hallmarks of early Country.
And other early superstars included Uncle Dave Macon, son of a Confederate Captain, Country Gospel pioneer Roy Haxton Acuff, and harmonica master DeFord Bailey, self-styled purveyor of Black Hillbilly music. For at the time, Country was still described as such, with Acuff being known as the King of the Hillbillies (some time before he became the backwoods Sinatra).
All three were early performers at the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly stage event instituted in 1925 in Nashville, Tennessee, which has since become established as the spiritual capital of Country Music. But which was originally but a one-hour barn dance featured on local radio.
And if Acuff represented the family values that have always been part and parcel of Country, then Western Swing, a fusion of Country and Swing which took root in Texas and Oklahoma in the late 1920s, was infinitely less spiritual. Although by contemporary standards, it was the soul of romantic innocence.
And in time it mutated into Honky-Tonk, which was variously fuelled by Country fiddle and steel and electric guitars, as well as the Boogie Woogie piano style of artists such as Moon Mullican. While Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor Over You” is widely considered to have launched the genre in 1941, which at the hands of Floyd Tillman, produced songs of great beauty which inclined as much to Traditional Pop as Country.
While Mullican’s music was incredibly influential, providing much of the groundwork not just for Rockabilly, but Rock and Roll itself.
Although its dominance was seriously challenged by the birth of Bluegrass, which harked back to the classic Folk of yore, its founding father, Bill Monroe from the Bluegrass State itself. While other masterful acts within the tradition included the Stanley and Louvin Brothers.
If Honky-Tonk provided the essence of modern Country, then Bluegrass was the keeper of the classical tradition; and it could conceivably be said Hank Williams stood at the crossroads of both. That is, if his dual inclination to the spiritual fervour of Southern Gospel and the out and out hedonism of Honky-Tonk were anything to go by.
And perhaps it’s partly because he was such a divided spirit that he stands as Country’s single most revered figure, and not just in terms of his music – Country of course having served as one of the prime components of primordial Rock and Roll – but his wild and colourful lifestyle. For there are those who’d insist this was perfectly in keeping with the Rock and Roll ethos that came in the wake of his untimely death in 1953. Although such a theory is only partially true at best.  
For far from being some kind of conscienceless libertine, there’s evidence he was conscious of the necessity of repentance all throughout his life. And in this respect, anticipated the tortured relationship with Christ enjoyed by several of his progeny within Rock and Roll, such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis himself.
There’s also evidence he made his peace with His Saviour immediately prior to his terrible lonely demise, which while indisputably hastened by long-term alcohol abuse, was ultimately the result of a heart attack. While mention must be made of the morphine and chloral hydrate he’d been latterly taking as a means of controlling his chronic back pain.
And could it be said his longstanding pain was ultimately spiritual, as well as physical…born of a conviction on his part he’d neglected the kind of faith that inspired several of his early songs, such as “Wealth Won’t Save Your Soul” from ’47, and “I Saw the Light” from a year later? And that he’d allowed himself to be blinded by worldly ambition?
Whatever the truth, it seems apparent this failed to provide him with any true long-lasting happiness. Or indeed the mainstream success for which he clearly so longed for a time. But if he died a saved man, in the final analysis, was this really such a great loss?

Luke the Drifter and the Life of Hank Williams

He was born Hiram King Williams in Mount Olive in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama, on the 17th of September 1923, to Elonzo Williams, a World War One veteran of English ancestry known as Lon, and his wife Jessie Lillybelle Williams – née Skipper – known as Lillie.
Lon Williams’ working career had included time spent as a waterboy on logging camps, while he was ultimately destined to ascend to the lofty status of engineer for a prestigious logging company. But he’d more recently opened a small store with his wife adjacent to their cabin in Mount Olive. And their first child, Irene, had been born on the 8th of August 1922.  
Young Hiram was a frail and slender boy seemingly bound for a lifetime of suffering, and most of all from a mild undiagnosed case of the spinal disorder, spina bifida occulta.
Then, in 1930, when he was only seven years old, his father was diagnosed with a brain aneurism related to a fall he’d suffered during his wartime service, and he was hospitalised for eight years.  Which resulted in a lengthy peripatetic period for the Williams family, with Lillie finding work wherever she could.
And it was during a brief sojourn in Georgiana that Williams’ musical career is believed to have come about, when Blues musician Rufus Payne, known as Tee Tot, provided the young Hank with guitar lessons in exchange for meals prepared by his mother. The upshot being he came to develop a unique musical style consisting of elements of Country, Folk and Blues which presaged the eventual birth of Rock and Roll.  
And while still only a teenager he was already hosting his own show on a local radio station in Montgomery, Alabama, as “The Singing Kid”, while touring beer joints and other venues with his band, which he dubbed the Drifting Cowboys.
So that by the early ‘40s he was a regional star attraction, coming to the attention as such of various influential members of the music business, even while seeking the alcoholic self-medication that took a serious toll on his reputation for reliability.
And then, with America’s entry into World War II in 1941, the band was virtually decimated, although Williams himself was exempted from active service by dint of his medical condition.
Two years later, he met Audrey Mae Sheppard, a beautiful divorcee from a farming family from Banks, Alabama, and they wasted little time in getting married, with Audrey becoming his manager a short time before their wedding. And in 1946, he and Audrey visited Nashville with a view to meeting music publisher Fred Rose, one of the heads of Acuff-Rose Publishing with one of Hank’s idols, Roy Acuff.
He promptly went on to record two successful singles, which resulted in his signing a contract with MGM Records with Rose as his manager and producer.
“Move it On Over”, released in 1947 was Williams’ first single for MGM, and while it went to number four on the Billboard Country Singles chart, it failed to make a dent on the Pop mainstream. Although its uncanny resemblance to “Rock Around the Clock” makes it one of the most influential records of the 20th Century.
However, by this time, his problems with alcohol were in constant danger of sabotaging his ascent to national celebrity. And far from contributing to these, it’s believed Audrey was indefatigable in her efforts to keep him from the booze and encourage his rise to the top, notwithstanding the turbulence of their relationship.
But these were such that Fred Rose, who evidently loved him as his own son, gave up on his in despair, while in April 1948, Audrey filed for divorce.
However, after having reconciled with both his manager and the love of his life, his career was once more on track. And in August, he appeared on the Louisiana Hayride radio show, which would play host to one Elvis Presley just a little over a half dozen years down the line.
Then in 1949, his son Randall Hank Williams – who would go on to great success in his own right as Hank Williams Jr. – was born on the 26th of May. While his cover of “Lovesick Blues”, a Tin Pan Alley song written by Cliff Friends and Irving Mills in 1922, became his first number one on the Country chart, while crossing over into the Top 25 at number 24.
And when he performed it at the Grand Ole Opry in June, he received no less than six encores, which was unprecedented at the time, and had the effect of turning him into a true star at long last.
With success came the creative freedom to create an enigmatic alter ego, which he did in 1950. And under the name of Luke the Drifter, he recorded a series of recitation-based recordings with a powerful Christian theme.
But 1951 was a year of terrible trial for Hiram King, and his final separation from Audrey came in May when they were divorced for a second time. While in August, his uncontrolled alcoholism saw him fired from the Grand Ole Opry.
Although his career proceeded apace, and he placed no less than five singles in the Country top ten in that year, including two number ones in the shape of “Hey Good Looking”; and “Cold Cold Heart”, which the great vocal stylist Tony Bennett took to number one on the national chart.
But in the fall, he suffered an accident during a hunting trip on his Tennessee
farm which exacerbated his already chronic back problems, while allegedly causing him to resort to a variety of painkillers including morphine.
While in ‘52, he scored as many successes as the previous year, including “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”, which reached number 20 on the national chart, making it his greatest ever hit.
His personal life received a shot of good fortune in October when he married another Southern beauty Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar in Minden, Louisiana. And it’s she who has publicly testified to his reconciliation with Jesus shortly before his death on New Year’s Day 1953, while it behoves all Christian men and women to maintain its sincerity. For when all’s said and done, a person’s salvation is in the hands of the Creator, and the Creator alone.
What is certain is that his death came some time after midnight on the 1st of January 1953, in the back of a Cadillac convertible in which he was being driven to a series of concerts by a college student called Charles Carr, and was in consequence of a heart attack. And it’s been called the first great tragedy of Rock and Roll.
But were it still up to Williams, would he truly care to be identified with such an ecstatically sensual music form?
That is, in the light of the Luke the Drifter recordings; and his professed belief in the vital importance of repentance, as expressed through several of his earliest songs. To say nothing of the high poetic quality of his lyrics, which have caused him to be dubbed “The Hillbilly Shakespeare”.
Although to be fair, Rock wasted little time in becoming a bona fide art form, with Bob Dylan injecting voluminous quantities of high culture into the music once he’d crossed over from Folk in 1965. While the Beatles were among the first of the initial wave of sixties Rock groups to be powerfully influenced by the fledgling art form’s first true intellectual.  
And would it be too fanciful to suggest that Williams’ considerable poetic gifts partially anticipated this development? For Dylan has included him among his foremost artistic mentors. While his musical progeny have also included the greatest Rock star of them all, Elvis Presley…the man who effectively birthed an entire era. Albeit unwittingly.
For Elvis was initially seen as a Country artist, performing on the Grand Ole Opry for the first and only time on 2 October 1954, and on the Louisiana Hayride a fortnight after that; and then all throughout the following year. Although in truth, his music subsumed the rougher elements of both Country and Rhythm and Blues to create an entirely new music genre, Rock and Roll.
And seminal Rock and Roll inclined more to Country or R&B depending on the artist creating it at any given time.
But whatever it was known as, it took the Pop world by storm around 1955, while fomenting a cultural and moral revolution whose repercussions continue to be felt in the West and beyond to this day.

Luke the Drifter and the Future of Country

It could conceivably be said the means by which Country survived the Rock and Roll revolution was to distance itself from the very earthiness that had inspired it. And which was pre-eminently associated with Country music’s single most revered figure, Hank Williams, who is also among the most influential popular musicians of the 20th Century.
So while the smooth musical genres of Soul and Tamla-Motown emerged from the far rougher sound of primal R&B, the Nashville Sound was born from a co-mingling of Country and Tin Pan Alley style Pop in the city that tendered it its name.
While its earliest proponents included Jim Reeves, who sang with the finesse of a great song stylist…a Sinatra or a Como…and Patsy Cline, who had something of the Jazz chanteuse about her. But while the Nashville Sound saved Country Music in commercial terms in around 1958, a major creative backlash came courtesy of the Southern Diaspora city of Bakersfield, whose Bakersfield Sound, forged in the mid 1950s, started infiltrating the mainstream a few years later.
For during the Dust Bowl period of the early 1930s, this small conservative town in California’s San Joaquin Valley had been subject to a massive influx of migrants from several southern states including Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas. And when they came, they brought their music and culture with them, with the result that Bakersfield became a Southern city in all but name.
And if the Nashville Sound was born of a harmonious merger between Country and Tin Pan Alley, that of Bakersfield harked back to the pre-Rock age, while ultimately co-opting several key ingredients of this upstart art, its first major figure the Texan Buck Owens, who settled in the town in 1951.
While his first number one, “Act Naturally”, from 1963, was later covered by the most successful Pop act of all time, the Beatles…who were allegedly influenced by the Bakersfield Sound; and certainly the distinctive twang of many of their earliest recordings has a powerful Country feel about it.
Although unlike the superstars of the Nashville Sound, Owens never had a top ten record on the Billboard Hot 100.
While Country Pop thrived throughout the ‘60s in the shape of such massive crossover hits as Jim Reeves’  “He’ll Have to Go” from 1960; “I’m Sorry” by Brenda Lee, also from ’60, “Make the World Go Away” by Eddie Arnold from 1965; and the poignant “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell from the year of non-stop protest, 1968.
But it was also in the ‘60s, or rather the late 1960s at a time when Rock was in the midst of its Golden Age, that new earthier forms of Country could be said to have set about the task of challenging the Nashville mainstream. Such as the first major Bluegrass Revival; as well as the increasing popularity of Progressive Bluegrass.
While Country Rock became an international sensation thanks to such albums as the Byrds’ “Sweetheart of the Rodeo”, spearheaded in ’68 by tragic wunderkind Gram Parsons, who more than anyone was responsible for introducing the Rolling Stones to his beloved music.
While it had been Bob Dylan who’d been its foremost pioneer by dint of incorporating elements of Country into his ground-breaking 1966 double album “Blonde on Blonde”; with “John Wesley Hardin” from ’67, and “Nashville Skyline” from ’69 serving as full-blown Country Rock artefacts.
But it wasn’t until the ‘70s that the genre truly came into its own, when the Eagles emerged as the most successful Country Rock act of all time. Although their powerfully melodic sound was indebted to a classic Pop sensibility. And specifically that of the Beatles, whose “Beatles for Sale” from 1964 showed a marked Country influence.
Among the other artists successfully operating within the Country Rock genre in the ‘70s were Neil Young, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris and John Fogerty, whose Creedence Clearwater Revival had been instrumental in bringing about the birth of Southern Rock in the late 1960s. This a form of music forged from elements of Rock and Roll, Country and Blues, whose most beloved exponents remain Southern legends the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynrd.
While concurrently with the coming of Country and Southern Rock, Outlaw Country, inspired by the spirit of Hank Williams, started making modest inroads into the mainstream. And it was Willie Nelson, ironically responsible for one of the most beautiful crossover ballads in Country Music history in the shape of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” who stood at its centre.
But he was aided and abetted in this respect by other veterans from the ‘50s, such as Johnny Cash, George Jones, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. While younger more troubled outlaws came in the shape of Townes Van Sandt, very much part of the pantheon of tortured prodigies that reached an apogee with Hank Williams, as well as Williams’ own son, Hank Jr.
Although Country Pop with its roots in the Nashville Sound continued to dominate the Pop charts in the ‘70s, providing such diverse figures as Anne Murray, Olivia Newton John, John Denver, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton with massive crossover hits. Even if by the mid 1980s, it had begun to be challenged by the New Traditional and Alternative schools, with Lyle Lovett widely considered to be the supreme pioneer of what has become known variously as Alt-Country and Americana.
While in the ‘90s and ‘00s, mainstream Country music experienced an explosion of popularity which propelled certain figures to levels of international pre-eminence previously unprecedented for Country artists.
And these included Billy Ray Cyrus, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and the Dixie Chicks, but most of all, Garth Brooks, who stands as the third most successful act in the history of recorded music in America.  Even if in terms of international record sales, he is nowhere near as prolific as his closest rivals in the US, the Beatles and Elvis Presley.
And if mainstream Country in the new millennium is closer to teeny bop Pop than ever before, then there are those who’d insist that much contemporary alternative Country is Rock in all but name, with little of pure Country remaining. But if this is so, then at its most progressive, it’s produced some truly exalted art.
Such as from native New Yorker Gillian Welch, who more than anyone since the end of the last millennium has forged fresh territory for Country Music, by fusing Old-Time music not just to the sombre mysteries of Alternative Rock, but the beautiful melodies of Classical Pop.
While Hiram King Williams’ own grandson, Hank Williams III, serves to disprove the notion that the spirit of traditional Country has been entirely lost to the upstart art of Rock. Even if his lyrics are informed by such quintessential Rock and Roll subspecies as Heavy Metal and Punk.
And what would his granddaddy, Country Music’s single most revered figure, and among the most influential popular musicians of the 20th Century, have to say about the state of Country Music were he in a position to say anything at all?
One can’t help thinking he’d be urging those with the requisite talent to return to songs of repentance pure and simple. And that wherever he may be now…he’d be devoutly wishing he devoted more of his life and career to songs bespeaking the seeing of the light and the subsequent preparedness for a time about which he once so fervidly sang…“When God Comes and Gathers His Jewels”.
 
Chapter Two – Werther and the Rise of Romantic Melancholia
 
Most students of world literature would surely agree that Goethe’s famous epistolary novel, “The Sorrows of the Young Werther” has exerted a quite incalculable influence on the evolution of the Western mind from the date of its publication in 1774. And that it did so principally through Romanticism, that great movement in the arts of which it was a prime antecedent, would be disputed by few.
And while the notion that melancholy is a feature of sensitive and creative youth was not new at the height of Romanticism, it attained a credence within it that was possibly unprecedented, at least in its intensity. The name mal du siècle becoming attached to it, although some may refer to it as weltschmerz, which literally means world pain.
Such a development can be at least partly attributed to “Werther”, whose forlorn hero has served as the forefather of succeeding generations of melancholy youth.
And then there are the countless scions of Romanticism within the Decadent and Symbolist Movements, Expressionism and Futurism, Dadaism and Surrealism and the Beat and Rock Generations, who by pursuing tragic, tormented existences and dying while yet young and preferably beautiful, have become the favoured artists of the Modern Age.
Surely, all who remain unconvinced by the romantic and avant-garde persuasions will view this development as not just tragic but horrifying. For while old age is all too often a source of deep regret for follies past, youth, precious youth, provides a person with almost unlimited opportunities for the eradication of this outcome.
Which is not to mitigate genuine depression, of which there are sufferers in all age brackets, and to which youth can be singularly susceptible. For to do so would be not just cruel but dangerous.
But most people in the privileged West, no matter how exorbitantly romantic in youth, yet survive into late middle age. And all that remains for them to do is find a place for themselves in the world, but without the advantages of youth and beauty and endless reserves of time.
So, what precisely was it that possessed Goethe to write a novel that at least partially caused an entire movement in the arts to be birthed in its wake. And what was it about the work that was so inflammatory?
In order to answer this question, it’s necessary to examine certain events from Goethe’s own young manhood.
For in 1770, at the tender age of 20, Goethe found himself in Strasbourg in order to complete a law degree he’d previously abandoned while at Leipzig. And while there, became a close friend of future fellow polymath Johann Gottfried von Herder, who introduced him to Shakespeare, then allegedly barely known in the German speaking world.
And by the following year, he was working as a licensee in Frankfurt, although he soon lost his position, at which point he set about attempting to make his living as a writer for the first time, publishing the drama, “Goetz von Berlichingen” in 1773.
By so doing, he’d provided the first classic of the Storm and Stress movement
which also included his one-time mentor Herder, as well as an example of what is known in German as “das Dämonische” in the shape of the drama’s hero. This being a type of genius of overpowering will and energy who could to some degree be said to be a precursor of the Byronic Hero.
And in this, he was powerfully influenced by Shakespeare, whose age he evidently saw as being in marked contrast to late 18th Century Germany in all its sedate respectability.
In 1772, he resumed his legal career in Wetzlar on the river Lahn, and it was in that city state that he met the woman who would inspire him to write what remains his most famous work apart from “Faust”.
The woman in question was Charlotte Buff, who by rejecting Goethe in favour of the civil servant Johan Christian Kestner provided the model for Lotte, heroine of “Werther”. Yet while he suffered from her repeated rejections of his love, his friendship with Charlotte was far less intense than the novel suggested. While the titular hero himself was based not just on the youthful Goethe, but the German-Jewish philosopher Karl Wilhelm Jerusalem, who committed suicide following an unhappy love affair.
“Werther” perfectly captured a nascent restlessness and passionate extremism among the youth of Europe in the later years of the Enlightenment that would ultimately culminate in the Romantic revolution. In fact so much so that in some quarters its depiction of suicidal despair was condemned for flouting the traditionally Christian view of the sanctity of human life.
Although to be fair, it was hardly new, having played its part in tragic literature since time immemorial. And there is no hard and fast evidence for the existence of the so-called Werther Effect of copy cat suicides.
But the fact remains that “Werther” helped to develop the notion of the hero as rebel against all constraints.
And Werther’s rebellion even extends to his dress, which is to say the famous blue coat and yellow breeches, which were inappropriately proletarian for the bourgeois society of the day. And which serve to make him a remarkably contemporary figure, for in the days leading up to the sartorial revolution of the ‘60s, male clothing had been of a near-universal drabness for several decades.
While at the height of the Swinging Sixties, hordes of young middle class men on both sides of the Atlantic elected to grow their hair; and sport dandified outfits like the Rock acts and artists who were seen as vulgar and low class by many from among their parents’ generation.
Other facets of Werther’s rebellious uniqueness include his emotionalism, seen at the time as ill-befitting an educated male, but which went on to become an important part of the artistic armoury in a brave new aeon in which the Artist served as High Priest. Or to paraphrase Shelley, the unacknowledged legislator of the world.
And a certain wandering quality which results in his accepting a mission to go in search of a family legacy, and then feel no overwhelming desire to either return home or seek a job in the rural region to which he has been sent. An idleness in other words…possibly born of a rebellious distaste for the puritan work ethic that has long been one of the key foundations of European bourgeois society.
A distaste which has persisted since among Bohemian artists, but which is usually transcended beyond a certain age, as in the case of Goethe, who mutated into the most industrious of men. But Werther never matures beyond a state of infantile dependence, and for a time is content to do little other than socialise with the local peasant folk, or read Homer beneath the linden trees.
And when he does finally find himself in work, his employer’s fastidiousness drive him to distraction, and he quits in disgust, only to drift to the nearby town of Wahlheim in search of a local girl by the name of Charlotte, with whom he’d earlier become infatuated.
This despite the fact that Lotte is as good as engaged to be married to an older man called Albert, who befriends the lad, so that a kind of love triangle comes into being. And it could be said that Lotte is tempted by Werther, as the essence of proto-Romantic Bohemianism.
However, Werther ultimately leaves Walheim to find work, only to return after quitting his job; while Albert and Lotte have since married and settled into domestic contentment. Yet Werther is warmly welcomed by the couple in his new capacity as a family friend.
But he becomes increasingly de trop until Lotte is forced to become firm with him and tell him to stay away until Christmas Eve at which point, he reveals his true feelings to her. Not that she’d ever been in doubt about these. But of course, she rejects him, and the following day Werther kills himself by shooting himself through the head.
And so…après lui, le déluge…which is to say of the Romantic Revolution, although it would be unjust to suggest that Goethe was its only forefather. For Goethe himself was responding to revolutionary ideas that were already very much in existence, such as those of Rousseau for example. And it would be equally unjust to over-emphasize the movement’s negative aspects.
For it could be said that Romanticism was a reaction to the stultifying rationalism of the Enlightenment, and thence in some respects a step in the right direction in terms of renewing interest in the spiritual side of life.
But at the same time, it ushered in this notion of the artist as set apart from the common run, and inclined to all manner of excess in terms of intuition and sensibility, of seditiousness and eccentricity, of mental and emotional instability, which is surely absurd. Or rather should be seen as such by anyone of a responsible cast of mind.
For in its wake there arose a series of artistic movements or avant-gardes which fostered the most aberrant behaviour on the part of some of its participants. And presumably they acted as they did because they felt they had the right to as artists.
And yet it could be said they were more inclined to do so than previous generations by virtue of the tenor of the times. Which is to say an age in which the Judaeo-Christian values on which the West had ever relied on for its foundations had already begun to decline following the Enlightnment, and so given birth to a spirit which has come to be known as Modernism.
But it would be altogether wrong to suggest that Werther is responsible not just for Romanticism but its protracted decadence…which could with some justification be said to still be in operation.
For there were many Romantic precursors, and in comparison to some of these, Goethe’s breakthrough novel was the soul of innocence. And what’s more, in the wake of its phenomenal success, its author distanced himself from the nascent Romantic movement which caught fire first in Germany and then in Britain.
And he did so for the sake of a form of Neoclassicism which has become known as Weimar Classicism, whose minute number of participants included, in addition to Goethe himself, his close friends Schiller and Herder, as well as the poet and novelist Christoph Martin Wieland.
Yet, some half century after the publication of the book that made him world famous, Germany’s greatest poet, and the equal as such of his one-time idol Shakespeare looked back on the time of Werther’s sensational impact on a restless, passionate generation of youth. And he described it as “a spring, when everything was budding and shooting, when more than one tree was yet bare, while others were already full of leaves. All that in the year 1775!”
One can’t help thinking there are many of the so-called Baby Boomer generation who view such totemic years as 1965, or ’67, or perhaps even ’77, in much the same way as Goethe when he was inspired to write these lines about his own wild youth. But then is that not the way for all generations of youth now grown old?
Of course…but then perhaps it’s especially true for the generation who didn’t so much invent the madness of youth, as incarnate it as never before within living memory.
And for my part, without sacrificing a tithe of what I’ve learned and achieved up to this point, I’d dearly love to make a return to a time when life seemed like some kind of eternal spring when everything was possible, nothing too much trouble. And this time around, youth would not be wasted on me, no not one delicious drop of it.
 
Chapter Three – Beyond the Borderlands of Scotia
 
It’s estimated that some 27 million Americans are of Scots-Irish descent, making it one of the largest ethnic groups in the country, although the vast majority of these would consider themselves simply to be ethnically American.
And among those sons and daughter of the US who’ve been able to boast of Scots-Irish origins have been many of the nation’s most legendary figures. Such as Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, Kit Carson, Mark Twain, Henry James, Andrew W. Mellon, George S. Patton, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Jackson Pollock, Ava Gardner, Audie Murphy, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Robert Redford, Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain.
In addition to the US, people of Scots-Irish descent are to be found in all other parts of the Anglosphere, including Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, and of course Britain.
Indeed, the people whence they directly emerged are still to be found in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom. While living Britons of Scots Irish lineage include composer and former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, much-praised Shakespearean actor Kenneth Branagh and Hollywood movie star Daniel Radcliffe. As well as all those Northern Irish men and women who identify as British, of which there are allegedly 37%.
To say nothing of your humble author who, while proud of his Scots Irishness, nonetheless maintains that there is no justification for claims of superiority on the part of any ethnic group, given we are each of us subject to sin from birth.
This is a concept which will hold great appeal to many of those of Scots-Irish origin, given their longstanding affiliation to that form of Christianity which is predicated on a belief in the literal truth of the Bible, and which has become known as Fundamentalism. All of which begs the question… just exactly who are the Scots-Irish?
Well, contrary to what might be believed, the Scots Irish are neither strictly Scottish nor Irish. In fact, their origins as a distinct group lie in what are known as the Ulster Plantations, which came into existence in 1609, in the wake of the Nine Years War, a bloody conflict fought largely in the province of Ulster, Ireland, between its chieftains and their Catholic allies, on one hand, and the forces of Elizabethan England on the other. The latter’s decisive victory led to the end of the Gaelic Clan system, and the colonization of Ulster by English and Scottish Protestants; hence, the Ulster Plantations.
Many of these planters had been inhabitants of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands, and so, hailing from northern English counties such as Cumberland, Westmoreland, Northumberland, Yorkshire and Lancashire, and counties of the Scottish Lowlands, such as Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Roxburghshire, Berwickshire and Wigtownshire.
According to many sources, Lowlanders are distinct from their Highland counterparts by being of Anglo-Saxon rather than Gaelic ancestry, although how true this is it’s impossible to say. Certainly, the region straddling the Scottish Lowlands and Anglo-Scottish Borderlands is one traditionally perceived by Highlanders as Sassenach, which is the Gaelic term for a person of Anglo-Saxon origin.
Whatever the truth, the sensible view is that their bloodline contains a variety of kindred strains including – as well as Anglo-Saxon – Gaelic, Pictish, Norman and so on, depending on the exact region. Moreover, all Caucasian inhabitants of the British Isles partake of a fairly homogenous ancestry, which certain contemporary experts are claiming to be more Iberian than anything else. Again, this is open to conjecture.
These Ulster Scots emigrated to the US in the 1600s, and their descendants are to be found all throughout the country, but most famously perhaps in those regions which are culturally Southern, which is to say those states situated beneath the Mason-Dixon Line. Indeed most of the original European settlers of the Deep and Upland South are widely believed to have been of British, and especially English and Ulster-Scots, origin. Today, many of them describe themselves as merely “American”, while others continue to claim either English or Ulster-Scots ancestry.
In America, they are known as the Scots-Irish, although a far better name for them would be the British Irish, or Ulster British, given that they are mostly of Anglo-Scottish stock, with alleged soupcons of Irish, Flemish, French and German . However, Scots-Irish is the name by which they are most famous, so from this point on, they will be referred to exclusively as such.
In the early 1700s, some 50,000 Scots-Irish men and women left the ports of Belfast, Larne and Londonderry for the New World. They came as a fiercely independent people, complete with Bible and musket, and mostly as skilled workers, filled to the brim with the Protestant work ethic, and desperate for religious freedom.
Having had a negative experience of gentry-dominated societies in both Britain and Ireland, the freshly arrived Scots-Irish were understandably keen to steer clear of similar regimes in the US. So at first, they avoided Virginia, which had been settled during the English Civil War and its aftermath by Royalist Cavaliers of gentle birth, as well as the Carolinas, as all were under the sway of the plantation system and the Church of England; while Maryland had been established for the Catholic nobility.
Their first part of call was the Pennsylvanian backcountry, and from there, they moved further down into the Southern hinterland, to Virginia and the Carolinas; and following the war of independence, and together with fresh immigrants, they set about the population of Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee, and so the rest of the South. At the same time, many remained in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, while others moved further west, so that parts of Missouri, Texas and Oklahoma went on to become culturally British, and specifically Scots-Irish. The same could be said of the southernmost parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
They formed the dominant culture of the Appalachian mountains from Pennsylvania to Georgia, and featured strongly among those who tamed the West in the wake of the American War of Independence.
In time, they largely forsook their Calvinist roots to adopt the fervid Evangelicalism for which they are renowned throughout the world, as they are for their unyielding allegiance to God, nation and family.
In time, their influence grew to the extent that they became part of America’s ruling elite, with no less than a third of all American presidents having ancestral links to Ulster, these reputedly including FDR, Truman, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, both Bushes and Obama.
Thence, this remarkable little race made the voyage all the way from the borderlands of Scotland, where they existed as the lowliest and most oppressed of peoples to the highest political office in the world…an incredible testament of the resilience of the fighting Scots-Irish.
 
Chapter Four – Alfred de Musset and the Myth of Young France
 
It was in the glittering Paris of the 1830s that a certain French Romantic poet, playwright and novelist of noble birth by the name of Alfred Charles de Musset-Pathay came close to having the exorbitant ambition of one who didn’t want to write unless to aspire to the greatness of a Shakespeare or a Schiller.
But then he’d been a brilliant student, the son and grandson of writers who’d published his first poem at just 16 in 1828, and a translation of de Quincey’s “The Confessions of an English Opium Eater” in the same year.
While his early works, which included the “Contes d’Espagne et d’Italie” were published at the dawn of that decade which he entered blessed with every great gift a gilded young genius might hope to possess. Being tender as well as elegant, beautiful as well as brilliant, and an irresistible enthusiast…brimful with passion and sensibility. But he’d have to wait a few years before real artistic success came his way.
And his was the era in which the Romantic movement came into full flower in France. And he revelled in it as the so-called Phosphorescent Prince, his sphere, the dandified café society of the Parisian Right Bank, his closest friend, fellow dandy Alfred Tattet.
For the Paris of the 1830s was the very cradle of the nascent Modern impulse, the leading world incubator of the most charismatic originality of thought and behaviour, in which such distinctly Modern phenomena as Bohemianism and the avant-garde came into being more or less for the first time. And the Gothic tendency flourished as never before in the hands of such proto-Bohemian bands as the Bouzingots and the Jeunes-France.
It was a uniqueness, moreover, that has tended ever since to verge on the downright aberrant when manifested by some of her most gifted citizens, such as her celebrated poètes maudits…long the apostles of the avant-garde par excellence.
And it could be said the first generation of these were numbered among the young men who in the wake of the July Revolution of 1830 congregated about such wild and brilliant youth as Pétrus Borel and Théophile Gautier, two writers of the so-called frenetic school of late Romantics. And these seminal avant-gardists have become known as the Bouzingos, although little distinguished them from the earlier Jeunes-France.
Originally members of a Romantic clique known as le Petit Cénacle, their role in the infamous Battle of Hernani at the Comédie Francaise theatre in February 1830 was paramount.
And this took place on the opening night of Hugo’s play, “Hernani”, and was marked by violent scenes involving defenders of the Classical tradition, and Hugo’s supporters, who flaunted long hair and flamboyant costumes in defiance of everything the bourgeois held dear.
In addition to Gautier, they included Pétrus Borel, Gérard de Nerval, Philothée O’Neddy and Augustus MacKeat, all of whom went on to be numbered among the Jeunes-France.
According to one theory, the first Bouzingos were a band of political agitators who took part in the July Revolution in wide-brimmed leather hats. While their artistic equivalents were so named by the press following a night of riotous boozing which saw some of them end up in prison for the night.
However, they too embraced radical political views; for the artistic avant-garde has mostly inclined to the left, while containing an ultra-conservative element.
Needless to say, they owed an enormous debt to the earlier English and German Romantics, who did so much to promote the myth of the artist as tormented genius ever-existent on the fringes of respectable society. A Bohemian in others words.
And akin to the Bohemian was the Dandy; and of the poètes maudits of mid 19th Century Paris, several were both Bohemians and Dandies, depending on their circumstances at the time.
They included Charles Baudelaire, whose essay “Le Dandy” (1863) is one of the defining works on the subject.
And the same could be said of his forefather Musset, whose tormented relationship with fellow Romantic George Sand had much of the Bohemian about it. That is, in terms of its turbulence and debauchery, which left the former golden boy of French letters a prematurely broken man at just 24, spurring him to pen his hyper-emotional “Confession”. And this was as much about his failed love affair with Sand as the disenchantment of the generation that had come to maturity in the wake of the Revolutionary Age.
Sand, born Amantine Lucile Dupin in Paris in 1810, was clearly a woman of quite extraordinary magnetic power…and by the time of her affair with Musset, she was a divorcee with two young children, and a baroness to boot, even though her own roots were only partly aristocratic. For her effect on Musset was little short of cataclysmic, inspiring much of his finest work; and not just the “Confession”.
For the famous series of poems known as “Les Nuits”, composed between 1835 and ’37, also spring from his unhappy relationship with Sand, and they are rightly considered to be among the unimpeachable masterpieces of French Romanticism. Indeed of French literature as a whole.
Yet it could be argued that Musset is best known for his theatrical writings, which began as early as 1830 with “La Nuit Venitienne”. And of which “Lorenzaccio” from 1833, and “On Ne Badine Pas Avec L’Amour” from ’34 are among the most celebrated.
Having said that, it’s the true life romance at the heart of the “Confession” that most inspires contemporary creators.
And the motion picture “Les Enfants du Siècle”, which was directed by Diane Kurys in 1999 with Benoît Magimel as Musset and Juliette Binoche as Sand, was directly inspired by these. While a version of the “Confession” itself is purportedly in the pipeline.
And certainly it’s a glamorous tale, while Musset’s life itself is the stuff of legend.
Yet despite the fact that like Gautier, he became a deeply respectable figure in late middle age, receiving the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 1845, before being elected to the French Academy in ’52, his was an ultimately tragic life, blighted by alcoholism. Which together with the condition known as aortic insufficiency, brought about his demise from heart failure at just 46 years old.
An age which appears to be a common one for the deaths of great poets whose flaming, beautiful youths were garlanded with the most magnificent promise imaginable. For as well as Musset…Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde died at 46, and together they might serve as a testimony to the awful truth of the brevity of even the most glorious of youths.
As well as the ruinous nature of youthful self-indulgence which so often leads ultimately to what is described in 2 Corinthians 7:10 as “the sorrow of the world”, and of which Musset’s own heartbreaking poem “Tristesse” is a pre-eminent expression. As opposed, that is to “godly sorrow”, which “worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of.”
 
Chapter Five – Thomas Stearnes’ Pilgrimage to East Coker
 
The great Anglo-American Modernist poet TS Eliot (1888-1965) had strong links to the East Coast, and specifically New England, that most spiritually English of American regions, a distinction it shares with the South, with which Eliot was linked through his mother the poet Charlotte Champe Stearns, originally from Baltimore in Maryland. Although he was actually born in St Louis, a Midwestern city in which it could be said that the wildly divergent cultures of the North and South, Midwest and East Coast are somehow mysteriously fused.
 He was a scion of the famous Eliots, a family of Brahmins, or top families of largely Anglo-Saxon extraction, based in Boston, but originally from the little Somerset village of East Coker, subject of one of Eliot’s most famous poems, and who came to dominate the American education system. And after graduating from the exclusive Milton Academy, Eliot himself attended Harvard between 1906 and 1909, earning his B.A. in what may have been Comparative Literature by his third year and his M.A., in English, by his fourth. 
He also discovered Arthur Symons’ “The Symbolist Movement in Literature”, which introduced him to the French Symbolists and Decadents, such as Verlaine, Rimbaud and Laforgue, all of whom went on to exert a profound impact on his work, as did Symbolist founding father Charles Baudelaire, more of whom later.
 After Harvard, he studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, where he attended lectures by Henri Bergson, to whose philosophical ideas he was drawn, as he was to those of the ultra-conservative writer Charles Maurras. And he came to know Alain-Fournier, ill-fated author of a single much loved novel, “Le Grand Meaulnes”, and Jean Verdenel, a brilliant medical student with whom he forged an exceptionally close friendship, cut short by the latter’s death in the First World War.
 But it was when he was awarded a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford in 1914 that his artistic life could be said to have truly begun, almost as if, by arriving in England, he came home in a spiritual sense. Yet he quit Oxford after only a year, and this academic restlessness persisted into 1916, when after having completed a PhD dissertation for Harvard, he failed to return to the college to defend it; and so never received his doctorate.
 However, by this time, he was already a published poet, “The Love Song of J Arthur Prufrock” having been published in Chicago in 1915 at the behest of his soon-to-be mentor, fellow Modernist titan Ezra Pound, and dedicated to Verdenel.
 “Prufrock” has been cited as the point where modern poetry begins, and its famous third line, in which the night sky is likened to “a patient etherised on a table”, remains a startling and even disturbing image to this day. However, the literature of shock was hardly new in 1914, possessing as it did multiple precedents among the French Symbolist and Decadents, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Lautréamont foremost among them.
 Eliot had a special admiration for Baudelaire…Symbolist forefather and first great poet of the modern urban landscape…as he did for Rimbaud, the angel-faced enfant terrible whose ferociously beautiful free form verse contained in his last two volumes, “A Season in Hell” and “Illuminations”, exerted an influence on the evolution of 20th Century poetry that exceeds even that of Eliot. While their ecstatic, visionary quality is an obvious precursor of Eliot’s own poetic vision.
 However, with its doleful emphasis on regret and frustration, failure, exhaustion and decay, “Prufrock” could be said to have to some degree anticipated Camus’ Theory of the Absurd, as well as the theatre that came in its wake, which attained its possible apotheosis in the shape of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” from 1955.
Although needless to say the Absurd was nothing new, having pre-existed for example in French literature in the shape of the vast array of Decadent sects that proliferated in the second half of the 20th Century.
 He was also a married man, having wed the attractive and vivacious Vivienne Haigh Wood in June 1915, a move which evidently dismayed his family, who expected him to make an imminent return to the US in order that he might take up his rightful place as a Harvard professor.
 Instead, after a brief period spent teaching at various academic institutions, he embarked upon a successful eight-year career as a banker for Lloyds of London, working on foreign accounts. And it was during his tenure at Lloyds that he wrote some of the most earth-shaking poems of the 20th Century, which have caused his name to become almost synonymous with Modernism, which begs the question, what precisely is Modernism?
 
One possible definition of Modernism is the avant-garde…but the avant garde translated into a worldwide artistic movement which lasted for some half a century from about 1880.
However, there are those cultural critics who’d insist that Modernism is far more than a mere artistic phenomenon…is in fact a spirit…with roots in the Enlightenment, the great 18th Century movement during which age-old conceptions specifically related to the Divine origins of Creation were being questioned as never before.
For them, the Modern embraces all aspects of human endeavour…the arts, religion, philosophy, science, politics; while others would assert that the Modern lives on, confounding the notion of a Post Modern age in which the pursuit of the absolutely modern has exhausted itself beyond recovery.
But whatever the truth, few would disagree that of all the masters of literary Modernism, Eliot remains the most famous and most quoted.
And all thanks to a mere handful of masterpieces…starting with “Prufrock”, which in 1917 became the title piece of “Prufrock and Other Observations”, and going on to include “Gerontion” at a time when our own era could truly be said to have begun.
Published in 1920 as part of a collection variously named “Poems” and “Ara Vos Prec”, it contains the first of the so-called Sweeney poems featuring a character called Apeneck Sweeney. And opinions vary as to the identity of this figure, with some critics insisting that he represents all that is coarse in modern Man, and others that he is in fact some kind of Rousseauian noble savage admired by his creator for his Boeotian simplicity.
And “Gerontion” contains one of Eliot’s most famous and desolate lines in the shape of “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” which has been sporadically referred to since by writers seeking to convey the utter enormity of Man’s inhumanity to Man.
While the third of these, “The Waste Land”, was published in 1922, a year which has been cited by at least one cultural critic as the very acme of the Modern, as it produced not just “The Waste Land”, but James Joyce’s equally seismic “Ulysses”.
It was received by the youth of the inter-war years as some kind of clarion call to arms…a cry to the young to rise; and as such, could be likened to Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”, which ignited the Beat Generation in 1955, that totemic year in which Rock started to make serious inroads into the mainstream for the first time. And James Dean took his place as the prototype of youth in revolt for the entire late 20th Century simply by dying while still young and beautiful at the flaming height of his fame.
While the following year of ’56 witnessed the onset of Britain’s Angry Young Men, led by playwright John Osborne, and among whose manifestos could be said to have been “The Outsider” by Colin Wilson, which included several quotations from Eliot’s poetry.
 And Eliot himself was perceived as “wild” according to fellow poet Stephen Spender, which of course could not have been further from the truth, for all throughout the ‘20s, he faithfully worked from 9 to 5 as if he were the very epitome of middle class propriety.
 Yet, he became an idol to a wild generation of gilded privileged youth…sonnenkinder such as Harold Acton, who famously declaimed “The Waste Land” from the balcony of his room at Christ Church, Oxford, an incident which Evelyn Waugh included in his much loved elegy to his own generation at Oxford, “Brideshead Revisited”.
 However, according to Waugh, the novel’s chief aesthete, Anthony Blanche was based not on Acton, but another of Waugh’s contemporaries at Oxford, that Bright Young Thing par excellence, Brian Howard, whose single published volume of verse revealed exceptional poetic gifts. Although unlike Eliot, he remained in decorous obscurity.
 As a poem, “The Waste Land” remains quite inscrutable, although rightly or wrongly, it conveys a powerful sense of disgust with the Established Order latterly responsible for sending millions of young men to their deaths in a pointless conflict, with its unforgettable opening lines starting with “April is the cruellest month…”
 
Eliot’s next major poetic work, “The Hollow Men” was from 1925, also the year of the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, the quintessential Jazz Age novel which serves as an exquisitely wrought evocation of the despair that underlay its frenzied hedonism. Little wonder that Eliot admired it so much.
 “Hollow Men” contains lines which are if anything even more mythically desolate than those of “The Waste Land”, such as, “We are the Hollow Men / We are the Stuffed Men”, which opens the poem, and “This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper”, which closes it.
 Many are familiar with the former through their inclusion in Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam-era version of Joseph Conrad’s “The Heart of Darkness”, “Apocalypse Now”, in which they are recited by the character of Captain Kurtz, which is apt, given that Eliot’s original poem was prefaced by a quotation from Conrad’s novel, “Mistah Kurtz – he Dead”.
 But this is just one of the seemingly endless allusions to “The Hollow Men” that have haunted the arts and popular culture since the midpoint of what Fitzgerald famously called “the greatest, gaudiest spree in history”. In fact, references to the poem, not just in literature, but music, the cinema, television, even video gaming, etc. are so numerous as to verge on the plethoric.
Yet, it boggles the mind that the most influential poet of modern times was such an unlikely revolutionary, was in fact the most impeccably respectable of men. For also in ’25, he left Lloyds of London to begin a new career as a publisher for Faber and Gwyer – later Faber and Faber – where he remained for the rest of his professional life, eventually becoming one if its directors. 
 Two year later, he joined the Anglo-Catholic communion, so that thereafter, his work was informed by his deep Christian faith, and he became a British citizen in the same year, ultimately declaring himself to be “classicist in literature, royalist in politics and Anglo-Catholic in religion”.
 His next major work was his first long poem published since his conversion, “Ash Wednesday” (1930), which, while being almost entirely devoid of the darkness and cynicism of its better-known predecessors, deals with the struggle of one who, hitherto lacking faith, strives to move closer to God.
  Also published that year were Eliot’s contributions to Faber and Gwyer’s “Ariel Poems”, a series of pamphlets containing illustrated poems by Eliot and several other poets.
But after 1930, rather than the poetry that made his name, he’d devote himself to a sporadic succession of plays, from “The Rock”, which was first performed for churches of the diocese of London in 1934, to his final play, “The Elder Statesman” from 1959, via “Murder in the Cathedral” (1935),  “The Family Reunion” (1939), “The Cocktail Party” (1949), and “The Confidential Clerk” (1953).
 In 1932, he accepted the Charles Eliot Norton professorship for the 1932-‘33 academic year that had been offered him by Harvard, and when he returned he formally separated from his wife. In 1938, she was committed to the Northumberland House mental hospital, Stoke Newington, where she died at the tragically early age of 58 in 1947.
 A year later, a collection of comical poems about cats written by Eliot throughout the decade was published under the title, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”, while also in ’39, he contributed two poems to “The Queen’s Book of the Red Cross”, sponsored by Queen Elizabeth the Queen Consort, these being  “The Marching Song of the Pollicle Dogs” and “Billy M’Caw: The Remarkable Parrot”.
 To say nothing of “The Idea of a Christian Society”, for Eliot’s greatness was tripartite, being rooted not just in his poetry and his plays, but his essays and other non fiction works of which he published many between 1920 and 1957, with one being published posthumously. And together with “Notes Towards the Definition of Culture” it sets forth Eliot’s conservative Christian world view, which while unfashionable among intellectuals at the time, is even more so today and on a far wider scale.
For to Eliot, modern Britain was what could be termed Laodicean, or lukewarm, a society which while tolerant of Christian principles, yet fell lamentably short when it came to living by them, and if that was true in 1939, it’s even more so today.
 
By the beginning of the Second World War, Eliot had already begun work on his final poetic masterpiece, “Four Quartets”, another markedly Christian work centring on various phenomena related to Eliot’s belief in the necessity of Christian faith.
 The first of these, “Burnt Norton” was named after a manor house in the Cotswolds, and published as part of his “Collected Poems 1909-1935” in 1936. The second, “East Coker”, took its name from the little Somerset village whence Eliot’s ancestors, a father and son named Andrew Eliot, emigrated to Beverly, Massachusetts, between 1668 and 1670, and was published in The New English Weekly. As was the third, “The Dry Salvages”, written in 1941 at the height of the Blitz on London, and named after a rock formation known to Eliot. While the fourth, “Little Gidding”, owes its title to a former Anglican community in Huntingdonshire established by the scholar and courtier Nicholas Ferrar.
And the remainder of Eliot’s life saw him being showered with honours for his services to literature, such as the Order of Merit and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948, the Legion d’Honneur in ’51, the Hanseatic Goethe Prize in ’55, the Dante Medal in ’59, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in ’64, as well as honorary doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and the Sorbonne, and nine other universities.
 On the 10th of January 1957, at the age of 68, he married the 32 year old Esmé Valerie Fletcher, his secretary at Faber and Faber since 1949, and the marriage brought him much happiness, lasting until his death from emphysema in 1965.
 Since that totemic year, in which Pop music started to mutate piecemeal into Rock and disseminate the Modernist world view throughout the world as never before, a development one can’t help thinking would have appalled the ultra-conservative Eliot, Valerie Eliot has devoted herself to her husband’s legacy, which, by any standards known to Man, has been phenomenal.
 For Eliot has haunted contemporary culture to a degree surely unparalleled by any other 20th Century poet.
Yet, some would argue that Dylan Thomas is the supreme poet of our age, and while he’s undoubtedly a more colourful figure than Eliot, his cultural influence is surely but a fraction of Eliot’s, and the same could be said of Sylvia Plath’s…although many would disagree.
And there seems to be no end to its depths, leading one to come to the conclusion that he’s one of the greatest icons of our culture, taking his place as “the poet” alongside fellow giants…such as Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, JFK, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson and Princess Diana. But what would Eliot make of such a list?
 One can’t be certain…but after surveying it, he might have wondered, “Where’s Groucho?” For if the portraits on the wall of his London home were anything to go by, there were few icons Eliot himself rated higher than his beloved Groucho Marx, the only man Eliot ever deemed worthy enough to ask for his autograph. Ridiculous? Not to Thomas Stearnes Eliot it wasn’t.
 
Chapter Six – Darling Fan for the Love of Prunella Ransome
 
Prunella Ransome was a fey and hauntingly vulnerable redheaded beauty who only made a handful of major films, and never achieved the major stardom she so richly deserved. However, she was absolutely unforgettable as the pathetic Fanny Robin, abandoned by her lover Sergeant Troy – played by ’60s icon Terence Stamp – for having mistakenly jilted him on their wedding day in John Schlesinger’s masterful 1967 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd”.
 Her father, Jimmy Ransome, was the headmaster of West Hill Park, a private school for boys aged 7 to 13 located in Titchfield in Hampshire, from 1952 to 1959; and she was born on the 18th of January 1943 in Croydon in Surrey, a massive suburban area to the south of London which, in demographic terms, could not be more mixed, including as it does many tough multicultural districts, such as West Croydon and Thornton Heath, the largest council estate in Europe in the shape of New Addington, and wealthy middle class enclaves such as Sanderstead.
 Her career began in 1967 with a television series, “Kenilworth”, based on the historical novel by Sir Walter Scott in which she had the vital role of Amy Robsart, first wife of Lord Robert Dudley, who met her death by falling down a flight of stairs.
 On the back of this major role, she made her incredible debut as Fanny Robin, for which she was deservedly nominated for the 1967 Golden Globe for best supporting actress, only to lose out to Carol Channing for the role of Muzzy Van Hossmere in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. While “Crowd” was not a major box office success, despite some critical acclaim, it has come to be viewed by many as an unsung masterpiece. Despite this extraordinary early burst of success, she wasn’t to appear onscreen for a full two years, when she featured opposite another idol of the swinging sixties, David Hemmings, in “Alfred the Great”, directed by Clive Donner, as Alfred’s love interest, Aelhswith.
 A good deal of British television work followed, until she landed her third and final major film role, as Grace Bass, wife of Zachary Bass – played by Richard Harris – a character loosely based on American frontiersman, Hugh Glass, in the action western, “Man in the Wilderness”, directed by Richard C. Sarafian.
 After this, most of her work was for television, although she was to appear in two further films, one of which, “¿Quién puede matar a un niño?”, directed by Narciso Ibáñez Serrador in 1976 has a cult following among horror fans. The other, “Marianne Bouquet” is a little known French offering helmed in 1972 by actor-director, Michel Lemoine.
 From ’76 to ’84, she worked pretty solidly for TV, and among the programmes in which she had major roles during this period were “Crime and Punishment” (1979), directed by Michael Darlow, and featuring John Hurt as Raskolnikov and “Sorrell and Son” (1984), based on the novel by Warwick Deeping, and directed by Derek Bennett. After this, though, she vanished from British television screens for a full eight years, and was only to appear in a further three more productions, the last one being in 1996. According to the Internet Movie Database, she died in 2002, although other web sites give the date of her death as 2003, and there is no online information as to the circumstances of her death, other than it occurred in Suffolk.
 For my part, I’ll treasure those few moments she graced the screen in “Far From the Madding Crowd”, and especially the fathomless heartbreak in her face as she watches her beloved Sergeant Troy walk out of her life forever, but for a final reunion so heartbreaking it destroyed both their lives, Fanny’s within a few hours, Troy’s after a period wandering the earth as a soul in torment.
 
Book Two – An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories Part One

An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s
 
‘Born on the Goldhawk Road’
Provides a fitting preface
To a long autobiographical piece
Consisting almost entirely
Of versified prose, and linear in nature,
Which is to say,
Beginning with my birth
And leading all the way
To the present day.
Whilst dealing with my earliest years,
It was fashioned only recently.
Although ‘An Autobiographical Narrative’
Has been composed not solely of
Stray pieces of prose
That failed to make the first team.
For it includes
Further versified phenomena,
Such as refugees from the memoir,
‘Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child”.
The piece itself is a versified version
Of one much reproduced
In various forms throughout my writings,
Although it bears little resemblance
To its original, which first glimpsed
The light of day in around 2002,
As a meagre and mediocre slice of prose,
And while it can still be read
On the World Wide Web,
It’s undergone much modification since then,
Including the alteration
Of all names of people and places
For the solemn purpose of privacy.
Although it was first published
In a form resembling that found below
At the Blogster website,
On the 1st of February 2006.

Born on the Goldhawk Road

I was born at the tail end of the Goldhawk Road
Which runs through Shepherds Bush
Like an artery,
And in the mid 1960s
Served as one of the great centres
Of the London Mod movement,
But I was raised in relative gentility
In a ward of nearby South Acton
Whose vast council estate
Is surely the most formidable
Of the whole of West London.
Although my little suburb
Has since become
One of its most exclusive neighbourhoods.
 
My first school was a kind of nursery
Held locally on a daily basis
At the private residence
Of one Miss Henrietta Pearson,
And then aged 4 years old,
I joined the exclusive
Lycée Francais du Sud Kensington,
Where I was soon to become bilingual
And almost every race and nationality
Under the sun was to be found
At the Lycée in those days…
And among those who went on to be good pals mine
Were kids of English, French, Jewish, American,
Yugoslavian and Middle Eastern origin.
 
While my first closest pals were Esther,
The vivacious daughter
Of a Norwegian character actor
And a beautiful Israeli dancer,
And Craig, an English kid like myself
Who became a lifelong friend.
For a time, we formed an unlikely trio:
“Hi kiddy”, was Esther’s sacred greeting
To her blood brother, who’d respond in kind.
But at some stage, I became a problem child,
A disruptive influence in the class,
And a trouble maker in the streets,
An eccentric loon full of madcap fun
And half-deranged imaginativeness.
 
And my unusual physical appearance
Was enhanced by a striking thinness
And enormous long-lashed blue eyes.
Less charmingly, I was also the kind of
Deliberately malicious little hooligan
Who’d remove some periodical
From a neighbour’s letter-box
And then mutilate it before reposting it.
The sixties’ famed social and sexual revolution
Was well under way, and yet for all that,
Seminal Pop groups such as the Searchers
And the Dave Clark Five;
Even the Fab Four themselves,
Were quaintly wholesome figures.
 
And in comparison to what was to come,
They surely fitted in well
In a long vanished England
Of Norman Wisdom pictures;
And the well-spoken presenters
Of the BBC Home Service,
Light Service and World Service,
Of coppers and tanners
And ten bob notes;
And jolly shopkeepers
And window cleaners.
At least that’s how I see it,
Looking back at it all
From almost half a century later.
 
My third and final school
Was the former Nautical College, Welbourne,
Where at still only twelve years old
I became the youngest kid in the college,
And an official serving officer
In Britain’s Royal Naval Reserve.
Founded at the height of the British Empire,
Welbourne still possessed her original title in ’68,
while her headmaster,
A serving officer in the Royal Navy
For some quarter of a century,
Wore his uniform at all times.
However, in ’69,
She was given the name Welbourne College.
 
While the boys retained their officer status,
And naval discipline continued to be enforced,
With Welbourne serving both
As a military college
And traditional English boarding school.
The Welbourne I knew
Had strong links to the Church of England,
And so was marked by regular
If not daily classes
In what was known as Divinity,
Morning parade ground prayers,
Evening prayers,
And compulsory chapel
On Sunday morning.

Later in life, I felt grateful to her
For the values she’d instilled in me
If only unconsciously, even though,
By the time I joined Welbourne,
These were under siege as never before
By the so-called counterculture.
And in the early 2010s,
I’d insist if I possessed
A single quality that might be termed noble,
Such as patience, or self-mastery
Or consideration of the needs of other people,
Then I’m at least partially indebted
For such a wonderful blessing
To the four precious years I spent at Welbourne.

An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s
 
‘For all the Beatniks of SF’ consists of
Edited and versified extracts
From one of my earliest
Existent pieces of fictional writing.
Dating at an estimate from about 1970,
It reflects the spirit of the times,
Even though it’s been sanitised
For online publication.
In the years immediately following
The revolutionary events of ‘68
I was deeply in sympathy
With the West’s prevailing
Adversary Culture
Or Alternative Society
Which is very much not the case today.
And my attitude is dictated
Not by increasing maturity,
But by my Christian beliefs,
Without which I might
Be an aging hipster by now,
Blithely festooned
With ostentatious symbols of revolt.
 
For all the Beatniks of San Francisco
 
Shirley Brown was a very beautiful girl,
And her brunette hair
Hung down her back
And as the wind blew thru the window,
It waved around. It waved around.
She was making sandwiches,
And was packing them with fruit,
And two massive bars of fruit
And nut chocolate.
She lit a cigarette, picked up the basket,
And with a nod of her head,
Waved her hair backwards
And walked out the back door
Into the alley where,
Propped up against a fence
Was a blue mini-moped.
She mounted the bike
And with a little trouble, started it.
And the rider made a sudden jump
As a horn blew behind her,
And a leather jacketed youth
Sped by on a butterfly motor-cycle.
 
People turned away
And the music blared on
And the youths talked on.
Then, a park keeper came
But the youths took no notice.
“What are you kids doing,
The keeper shouted,
I’ve had complaints from all over,
Clear off, wilya,
This is a park
Not a meeting place
For all the Beatniks in San Francisco.”
 
John Hemmings started dancing:
“Cool it, grandpa, get on,
Get going, don’t bug me!”
The kids had gone too far
And they knew it.
Some of them turned away,
As the radio blared even louder,
Litter was scattered everywhere.
“I ain’t chicken of dying,
John Hemmings then said,
We’ve got to go on,
ALL RIGHT! Who are the crumbs
Who want to chicken out at this point,
Just take your bikes and go.
We’re free people now.
Nothing can stop us,
We’ll rule the streets,
The young people will triumph.”
He was perspiring wildly
And his black hair
Hung down his back.
It waved around. It waved around.
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s
 
This jackadandy’s original title was
“An Essay Written by a Guy
Who Was Too Lazy to Finish It”
And it dates from
My college days, ca. 1971,
At a time I was yet enamoured
With the hedonistic
Hippie way of life.
It’s been reproduced more or less
Verbatim, notwithstanding
Some minor editing,
And versification.
And I don’t think it’s necessary
To add there is no such cologne
As Monsieur de Gauviché.
As the first title implies,
It was never finished,
But I’ve taken the liberty
Of belatedly turning the protagonist
Into a dandified danger man
Somewhat in the mould
Of Peter Wyngarde’s
Stylishly overdressed secret agent
From the classic television series,
“Department S” and “Jason King”.
 
Englishman, Jackadandy, Spy
 
He made no move at all
As the alarm clock went off.
But ten minutes later,
It was obvious he was awake.
He lifted himself out of bed
And went towards the bathroom.
He shaved himself
With a Gillette Techmatic
After having sploshed himself
With a double handful
Of icy cold water.
He washed again, dried his face,
Put on some Monsieur de Gauviché
And got dressed.
He wore a Brutus shirt,
A Tonik suit and a pair of
Shiny brown boots.
He was six foot two,
And he smoked sixty Players
Medium Navy Cut cigarettes
A day, and he lit each one
With a Ronson lighter.
His name was Titus Hardin,
And he had the biggest
Wardrobe in London.
 
He was a fair-haired man
And very good-looking.
He was thirty two years old
And a bachelor,
And lived near Richmond, Surrey.
He was immaculate,
Wore long sideboards
And a long moustache,
And his hair was shortish
And well-combed.
His shirt was light blue,
And he wore a dark blue tie.
He wore two rings on each hand.
He washed himself
After his usual breakfast
Of toast, black coffee and health pills.
He cleaned his teeth thoroughly,
Put some more cologne on,
And then went to do
His isometrics.
His name was Titus Hardin,
And he had the biggest
Wardrobe in London.
 
He was born in London in 1940.
He went to Eton and Oxford,
Had taught at Oxford for eight years
But was sacked.
He had been an Oxford Rowing Blue,
And got a degree in English, Art and History.
His father was Lord Alfred Hardin, M.P.
Titus loved teaching,
And not many people know the reason
For his dismissal at the age of thirty one.
He was nearly expelled from Eton
For smoking, drinking,
And being head of a secret society
With secret oaths, but he was
Too promising a sportsman,
And all the boys respected him
As a prefect.
He was a fair-haired man
And very good-looking.
He was thirty two years old
And a bachelor,
And lived near Richmond, Surrey.
His flat was beautifully furnished.
His name was Titus Hardin,
And he had the biggest wardrobe in London.

An Autobiographical Narrative 4: 1970s

‘To See You at Every Time of Day’
Is a song lyric, penned in 2003,
But heavily based on one composed
Almost certainly in 1974,
And which I originally sang
In a voice I stole from Bryan Ferry,
Who’d begun his career
As a conventional Glam Rock icon,
But who by ’74,
Had reinvented himself as an old-style
Crooner cum matinee idol,
And it was his eccentric version of
‘These Foolish Things’
That was the direct inspiration
For the lyric in question
Indeed the song as a whole.

To See You Every Time of Day
 
To see you in the morning
Be with you in the evening
To see you here
At every time of day
Such a simple prayer
To see you at every time of day
 
To hold you when you’re laughing
Console you when you’re crying
Take care of you
At every time of day
Such a simple prayer
To see you at every time of day
 
So tell me why you push me away
When I’ve sworn to be forever true
When I’ve pledged
My pure and simple heart to you?
How can you be so cruel?
 
To see you in the morning
Be with you in the evening
To see you here
At every time of day
Such a simple prayer
To see you at every time of day.

An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

‘Nineteen Eighty Tell Me’
Has been reproduced more or less
As it was originally scrawled
In a red Silvine memo book
In the very summer of 1980,

Almost certainly as I was waiting
To go on as Mustardseed the Fairy
During the London run of a much-praised
Bristol Old Vic production
Of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Nineteen Eighty Tell Me
 
Nineteen Eighty, tell me,
Where are you?
What are you trying to be?
This week, you’re 1963
And there’s even
Talk of a rebirth of ‘67
But that’s next week.
Nineteen Eighty, tell me,

When will you be mine?
A little bit ’59,
I’ll not share you with a Beatnik
Take a rest after the exertions,
Punk revolutions,
Before our old friend,
Sweet nostalgia,
Goes round the bend.

An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

1.

Thanks to the large quantity
Of notes I committed to paper
While at Leftfield College, London,
My beloved college can live again
Through sundry writings
Painstakingly forged out of them,
Such as the poetic pieces that follow,
Which is to say, ‘Some Sad Dark Secret’,
‘Sabrina’s Solar Plexus’,
‘She Dear One that Followed Me’
And ‘I Hate Those Long, Long Spaces’.
And as in the case of all
My memoir-based writings,
The names of people and institutions
Have been changed
In the solemn name of privacy.

2.

‘Some Sad Dark Secret’ was inspired
By words once spoken to me
By a former tutor and mentor
Of mine at Leftfield in around 1982 or ’83.
And which then ended up
As informal diary notes
On a piece of scrap paper,
Consisting of both
The words themselves,
And my own perhaps
Partly fantastical
Reflections on them.
Some quarter of a century later,
They were edited and versified,
And then the process was repeated
A half decade or so after that.

3.

‘I Hate Those Long, Long Spaces’
Was recently conceived
From thoughts confided to a notebook
Sometime between 1981 and ’83
While I was a student
At the University of London.
 
As I see it, they betoken
An undiagnosed depressive condition
Which ultimately led to my contracting
A serious drinking problem,
And ultimately some kind of crack-up,
From which I emerged while not unscathed
 
Another man entirely,
And while I’m still the victim
Of a depressive condition, it’s not as it was,
Which is to say, one alleviated
By spells of great elation,
And yet fundamentally rooted in desperation.
 
Today, it’s seen by its sufferer as long term
Yet temporal, to be dispelled,
Once he comes into a new glorious body,
Which is his hope and his prayer,
So all the sicknesses of the old,
Will be a thing of the past, never to return again.

Some Sad Dark Secret

‘Temper your enthusiasm,
She said,
The extremes of your reactions;
You should have
A more conventional frame
On which to hang
Your unconventionality.’
‘Don’t push people,
She said,
You make yourself vulnerable’.

She told me not to rhapsodise,
That it would be difficult,
Impossible, perhaps,
For me to harness my dynamism.
The tone of my work,
She said,
Is often a little dubious.
She said
She thought
That there was something wrong.

That I’m hiding
Some sad
Dark secret from the world.
‘Temper your enthusiasm,
She said,
The extremes of your reactions;
You should have
A more conventional frame
On which to hang
Your unconventionality.’

Sabrina’s Solar Plexus
 
“You were frightening, sinister,
You put everything into it
I took a step back
You get better every time
How good can you get?”
 
People are scared of fish eyes
They confuse, stun, fascinate
Coldly indifferent
Fish eyes
Sucked dry of life fish eyes…
 
Sabrina was unselfish,
Unselfconscious,
Devoted, unabashed,
Spontaneous,
A purring lioness:
“Yes, she said,
I can imagine people
Wanting to possess you.”
 
People are scared of fish eyes;
They confuse, stun, fascinate;
Coldly indifferent
Fish eyes;
Sucked dry of life fish eyes…
 
Sabrina said: “I’m sorry;
I’m just possessive
I’m frightened of my feelings
You’ll miss me a little,
Won’t you?
You should read Lenz.
I’m sure you’d
Identify
With the main character.”
 
People are scared of fish eyes;
They confuse, stun, fascinate;
Coldly indifferent
Fish eyes;
Sucked dry of life fish eyes.
 
Have I written about the
Crack-up?
When I came home
Empty-handed
And I just couldn’t
Articulate
For latent tears.
But am I so repelled
By intimacy?
When will someone
Get me there (the solar
Plexus) as Sabrina said.
 
People are scared of fish eyes;
They confuse, stun, fascinate;
Coldly indifferent
Fish eyes;
Sucked dry of life fish eyes.
  
“You look beautiful;
I wish you didn’t,
Malignant
Flim Flam Man.”
“I like it when you really feel
Something;
But then it’s so rare.”
 
People are scared of fish eyes;
They confuse, stun, fascinate;
Coldly indifferent
Fish eyes;
Sucked dry of life fish eyes.
 
She Dear One Who Followed Me

It was she, bless her,
who followed me…
she’d been crying…
she’s too good for me,
that’s for sure…
“Your friends
are too good to you…
it makes me sick
to see them…
you don’t really give…
you indulge in conversation,
but your mind
is always elsewhere,
ticking over.
You could hurt me,
you know…
You are a Don Juan,
so much.
Like him, you have
no desires…
I think you have
deep fears…
There’s something so…so…
in your look.
It’s not that
you’re empty…
but that there is
an omnipresent sadness
about you, a fatality…”

I Hate Those Long Long Spaces

I hate those long, long spaces
Between meals and drinks
Specifically the afternoon
And after midnight.
 
I hate mornings too
Until I can smell the bacon
And coffee. I cheer up
Towards the end of the afternoon,
 
But my euphoria stops short
Of my final cup of tea.
I sink into another state of gloom
Until my second favourite time of the day.
 
My favourite is that of my
First drink and cigarette.
I hate those long, long spaces,
Specifically the afternoon and after midnight.

An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
‘An Aphoristic Self-Portrait’
Was expeditiously versified
In September 2011,
Using a series of teeming
Informal diary entries
Made in various
Receptacles in the late 1980s.
And as such may provide
Some kind of indication
As to my psychological
And spiritual condition
Some half a dozen
Or so years prior to my
Damascene conversion.

An Aphoristic Self-Portrait
 
As a writer, people are my vocation.
As for humanity, men, women
And other abstractions,
Their interests constitute little more
Than my hobby; I can only deal in people.
As soon as I start dealing in sects
And sections, I am either an insider
Or an outsider, and I feel lost as either…
And as soon as I feel lost,
I make no attempt to find myself,
But simply retrace my steps
And return to the people.
You can call me detached if you like,
But you see, the only way
I can remain sane as a person
With such an all-consuming instinct
For attachment, is to be detached…
The world of subjectivity
Holds no sway over me,
Because it is paradoxically impersonal,
Being affiliated to partisanship,
Sentimental causes and other such abstractions.
I couldn’t possibly belong
To a school of orthodox thought
That accepted me as a member.
I don’t believe in myself
Other than as a crystal clear container
For the freshest cream of human individualism.
When I was younger,
I ached to be famous for the sake of it,
But now it occurs to me
That anyone can be famous
Provided they are sufficiently audacious
And thick-skinned, and I desire fame
Not so much for the vain satisfaction
Of being seen and known and heard,
But in order to guide others
Towards a happier way of being,
The only precept for celebrity,
Indeed for being in general, as far as I can see.
Adversity seems to be my fate,
As well as fortune.
The meek ones gravitate to me.
I’m the prince of the hurt ones,
The damaged ones.
I resent all success and authority.
I’m so affectionate one moment,
So icy and evasive the next.
I’m in love with many people at present.
I over accentuate my individuality,
Because sometimes I look at myself
In the mirror and I say:
‘Who’s that pathetic wreck?’
The more complex you are,
The less you like yourself,
Because you frighten yourself.
The more I find myself liking someone,
The more I doubt us both.
Liking someone negates them for me.

An Autobiographical Narrative: 1990s

‘The Loonie’s Last Reckoning’,
Based largely on events that took place
On the 16th of January 1993,
Was initially an adaptation
Of an autobiographical fragment
Possibly penned around 1996,
Which was then edited, reassembled
And versified for publication
As ‘Remnants from Writings Destroyed 1’
At the Blogster website
On the 10th of March 2006.
While in time, it was incorporated
Into an early version of the memoir,
‘Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child’
Known as ‘Spawn of the Swinging Sixties’.
Only to be unearthed in late 2011,
And wedded to a versified translation
Of notes made probably around 1992,
Shortly before the events
In question took place,
And then awarded a striking new title.
 
The Loonie’s Last Reckoning
 
It was late in the afternoon
Of The 16th of January 1993
That my whole
Intoxicated universe
Finally exploded
 
Drink me one day = 10 vodkas
7 1/2 pints 14 wines
1 bottle of wine + 6 gins + 4 pints
Or 2 bottles of wine + halfs then 4 pints
Or bottle of wine + 5 pints +
Cans and shorts.
Saw myself as a loonie
Of the Lunatic Underground
 
It was late in the afternoon
Of The 16th of January 1993
That my whole
Intoxicated universe
Finally exploded.
 
Five + Two = Seven Units By 11.30
12.30 = Six Units 1.30 = 5+2 = Five
Units
6.30 = Four Units 7.30 = 3+2 = Five
Units
8.30 = 4+1 = Five
Units
12.30 = Free
Saw myself as a loonie
Of the Lunatic Underground
 
It was late in the afternoon
Of The 16th of January 1993
That my whole
Intoxicated universe
Finally exploded
 
Broken at last
With etiolated face…
Tremulous hands,
After so many years
Of semi-Icaran hubris
 
It was late in the afternoon
Of The 16th of January 1993
That my whole
Intoxicated universe
Finally exploded.

Book Three – The Man Who Came From Contact for Christ

The Man Who Came from Contact for Christ
 
Early in January 1993, while still attending meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I received a call from a man who told me he was from an organisation by the name of Contact for Christ based in the South London suburb of Selsdon near Croydon in Surrey.
 He’d got in touch with me in consequence of a card I’d filled in on a British Rail train some months previously. I tried to put him off as I recall but somehow he got round me and before I knew it, he was at my door, a neat, dapper man called Denver Cashe with a large salt and pepper moustache and gently penetrating deep brown eyes, whose youthfully slender frame belied the fact that he was probably already in his 70s, although looking at least ten years younger.
 He wanted to pray with me, so I ushered him into my bedroom, where we prayed together at length.
At some point…perhaps that very afternoon, in fact…he invited me to his home for further counselling, with the result that shortly after our first meeting, I found myself as a guest at his large house deep in the south western suburbs where he asked me to make a list of sins past requiring deep repentance.
Once I’d done this we spent a few hours in his living room praying over each and every one of the sins I made a note of, and there were a good few, and any one of them would have seen me damned to hell for eternity had I never come to saving faith.
 It transpired that Denver was a Pentecostal of long standing, Pentecostals being those Evangelical Christians who – along with the neo-Pentecostals of the Charismatic and Apostolic movements – maintain that the more supernatural Gifts of the Holy Spirit such as Tongues and Prophecy are still available to Believers.
In this capacity, he introduced me to the magazine “Prophecy Today”, then edited by the Reverend Dr Clifford Hill, through which I came to be in contact with another contributor, the late Frank Wren of Trumpet Sounds Ministries. I wrote to Frank soon afterwards concerning various issues including my spiritual condition. The upshot being that in the summer of 1995, he invited me to his home in the little Devon village of Crediton for what is known as Deliverance Ministry, which he felt I might benefit from.
 Denver also introduced me to the conspiratorial view of history through his recommendation of the works of the late New Zealand Evangelist and writer Barry R Smith, and specifically “Final Warning” by Smith, which I subsequently bought.
I should say he re-introduced me, because I’d already learned something of the conspiratorial weltanschauung through my reading of various books purchased in the years immediately prior to my becoming a Christian. Indeed, during this period, I was actively, not to say, contemptuously opposed to Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and other aspects of the then Religious Right, especially when it embraced theories concerning the End Times, or Last Days prior to the Second Coming of Christ. In this respect  – as a rabid persecutor of the Saints – I was somewhat in the mould of Saul prior to undergoing a Road to Damascus conversion and having the scales fall from my eyes.
 But I’d have to wait until 2003 before fully exploring the labyrinthine world of conspiracy theories.
How long these have proliferated within contemporary Christianity and elsewhere I’m not qualified to say but what is undeniable is that it wasn’t until the internet revolution that they started disclosing their secrets to countless millions of hitherto unsuspecting web users.
Despite the fact that they vary wildly in terms of credibility and are subject to enormous distortion and disinformation, I’d nonetheless be slow to automatically discount every single conspiracy theory, although I have no further desire to investigate them in search of an absolute truth that is of necessity unattainable.
 It also transpired that Spencer was a member of the Guildford branch of the Full Gospel Businessman’s Fellowship International, founded by an Armenian-American, Demos Shakarian in 1952.
Shakarian had left his native country in 1905 as part of a small group of Armenian believers, and arrived in Los Angeles a full year prior to the famous Azuza Street Revival which ignited the worldwide Pentecostal movement. 
They’d done so in response to an 1852 prophecy on the part of a godly child of Russian origin by the name of Efim Gerasemovitch Klubniken, which warned of a coming cataclysm for the Armenian people, and when Klubniken warned that the latter was imminent in 1905, many left Armenia for Los Angeles.
 Shakarian founded the FGBMFI a full century after the original prophecy with only 20 fellow believers, by which time he was working as a dairy farmer, and yet today, it’s active in some 150 countries across the world, and can even boast a rival organisation, which came into being following Demos’ death in 1993, at which point his son Richard took over as leader. This being the Business Men’s Fellowship.
  The Full Gospel is that upheld by Christians within the Pentecostal family of churches which includes the Charismatics, in the understanding that the Gospel is made more complete through emphasis on the more overtly supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
One of the family’s forefathers was the famous English divine John Wesley, who while never disassociating himself from either The Church of England nor the Reformed tradition, went against the grain of both in certain extremely vital respects. 
 His emphasis on personal Holiness went on to exert a colossal influence on the evolution of Pentecostalism, and of course the Holiness movements that preceded it. These included the Salvation Army and the lesser known Church of the Nazarene.
Both are spiritually Wesleyan in so far as they uphold such doctrines as Conditional Salvation, or the ability of the Believer to make a shipwreck of his faith and so lose his or her salvation…which runs contrary to traditional Reformed or Protestant theology; and by Wesleyan, I mean Arminian, after the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius. And few men in history have done more for the Arminian cause than England’s own beloved John Wesley.
 But rather than any lukewarm variant, Wesley’s was a truly Biblical Arminianism with a powerful emphasis on personal Holiness, the very type, in fact, that was bequeathed to several generations of churches up to and including the early Pentecostals.
It lives on to this day among Classical Pentecostals of every stripe, not least those of the Alliance of Biblical Pentecostals…as well as various fundamental Arminian groups including the Fundamentalist Wesleyan Society, and the Society of Evangelical Arminians.
At the same time, like Arminius, John Wesley never saw himself as anything other than Reformed, a word now almost completely associated with Calvinist Christians, which is to say whose who’ve traditionally subscribed to what is known as the Doctrines of Grace – or Five Points of Calvinism – which stem from the Protestant Reformation. And according to which God predestined a limited Elect of men and women to be saved and that this election is unconditional, given Man’s total inability to respond to the Gospel without Grace, which is irresistible, and that salvation is irrevocable.
 
In terms of my health, I was in fairly good shape throughout the early part of ’93, although if my memory serves me well, there was a distinct lack of sensation in my legs, and for a time I was subject to terrifying panic attacks which seemed to me to anticipate impending unconsciousness and even death, and which would be triggered simply by leaving the confines of my house. I controlled these with diazepam.
When I suddenly and for no good reason switched from the latter to a powerful sedative known as heminevrin within a few weeks of attaining sobriety, I felt quite inconceivably awful for a few hours and seriously thought I might collapse at any moment and die, but in time these deathly sensations subsided. 
 Soon after weaning myself off the valium, I lost my taste for cigarettes, with the result that I’ve barely smoked in 17 years. Was it a coincidence that one of the issues addressed during my initial prayer time with Spencer was my continuing addiction to nicotine? Perhaps not.
Denver wanted me to join himself and his wife Rose at their little family church in West Byfleet, but realising that it would probably be too far for me to travel to each Sunday, he gave his blessing to one based in nearby Esher, also in Surrey. This was Cornerstone Bible Church, affiliated to the famous Word of Faith movement, and specifically Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church based in South Africa, which has since been renamed Cornerstone The Church. But by ‘96, I’d moved from Cornerstone to the Thames Vineyard Christian Fellowship at the behest of a passing acquaintance who’d spoken highly of the level of spiritual giftedness found therein.
Also in that year, I served as an actor, script writer and musician with a Christian theatre company by the name of Street Level, based in the tough multicultural district of Croydon on the borders of Surrey and South London. And during my time with them, the panic attacks briefly returned, possibly in consequence of my tendency to work all day without taking any food. This alarmed my fellow workers to the degree that at one point they felt compelled to drag me to a fast food restaurant, in order to try to tempt me to eat.
 I was the ultimate baby Christian, and I accepted everything blindly until 2002, when I underwent a long voyage into the heart of the faith, as well as the myriad conspiracy theories flourishing at the time both within Christianity and beyond, significantly perhaps as a result of the proliferation of knowledge and information occasioned by the rise and rise of the World Wide Web.
 But in the ten years or so preceding this period, I was as trusting as an infant. This naivety reached an apex around about the turn of the decade and I can recall one evening when there was a storm raging outside, and yet I was convinced that unless I turned up for band practice for the Sunday morning service I’d be in danger of losing my salvation. 
Within a few months of the beginning of 2001, however, I started feeling I could no longer maintain the high standard of church attendance – which also included a weekly House Group and music practice – I’d set for myself, and so to stay away on occasion from Sunday church meetings. Then, my beloved church folded, and I made a brief return to Cornerstone, remaining there until about September 2002.
 It was in the summer months of that year, when, suffering from quite extraordinarily low levels of energy, I started visiting multiple Christian websites, only to discover for the first time since my conversion that some believers see themselves as Calvinists or Arminians, while others still refuse all such labels.
I also discovered that while some Christians subscribe to Covenant Theology, others incline to Dispensationalism, and that while some are convinced the Saints will be caught up in the air with Christ prior to what is known as the Great Tribulation, others are convinced this event will succeed the tribulation. And are thence believers in the Post-Tribulation Rapture, and so on.
 What’s more, I became increasingly apprised of the nature of Conspiracy Theory through such authors as Frank Wren, founder of Trumpet Sounds Ministries, and New Zealand author and evangelist Barry R Smith.
But I feel no further need to venture into this tortuous labyrinth in which so much contradiction and misinformation exists, although that does not mean I automatically discount all Conspiracy Theories, far from it.
 In a message recently posted by a listener to the Sermon Audio website regarding a study by erstwhile broadcaster Scott A Johnson, he described one aspect of Conspiracy Theory related to the identity of the Antichrist as a “mind trap”.
And while I’m inclined to agree with him to a degree, as so much contradiction, misinformation and plain absurdity exists as I see it within its tortuous confines, I’d in no wise automatically discount every Conspiracy Theory, given that the Bible clearly states that in the Last Days, perilous times will come. And there is sufficient evidence in terms of contemporary world events for me to propose the possibility that these are indeed the last days prior to the Second Coming of Christ.
What’s more, among those Believers currently endorsing a conspiratorial view of history and culture from a Biblical perspective, there are many for whom I have the greatest regard.
For instance, I greatly admire those who have been called to be Watchmen in these perilous times, although I do not consider myself to be sufficiently mature in a spiritual sense to be named among them.
 
Once released from the aptly named Liberty Christian Church, I rejoined my first congregation of Cornerstone the Church…and remained with them until the end of 2002 when, in consequence of internet research related to the origins of both the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, I decided to explore churches existent beyond the latter’s confines.
But by the end of the year I’d returned to the fold, determined to start attending services at my local Church of God.
This was in consequence of several e-mail conversations I’d enjoyed with an ordained minister of the Pentecostal Church of God (Cleveland) whose online ministry is committed to discernment in a dangerous age. And in my view, his is one of the soundest of the many Discernment Ministries I encountered during that year of non-stop research. Although sadly, I never made it to my local Church of God. 
 Instead, I bounced from one church to another, beginning in ’03 with Bethel Baptist Church, situated in Wimbledon, West London, and affiliated to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, which I came across through the Sermon Audio website, and specifically Pastor David Cloud of Way of Life Ministries.
 I didn’t officially become a member of any church, however, until early 2009, when I was granted membership of Duke Street Church, a Grace Baptist fellowship situated close to Richmond Green in the picturesque south western suburb of Richmond-on-Thames.
The Grace Baptists, who are quite generously represented in the affluent suburbs of SW London such as Richmond, Twickenham and Teddington subscribe to the Five Points of Calvinism, unlike their Independent Fundamentalist counterparts, who tend to be passionately opposed to Calvinism, while refuting the Arminian label. And justly so, given that a key IFB tenet is a belief in Eternal Security which doesn’t square up with classical Arminianism.
Yet, by the time of the completion of this piece, I’d been attending services at a large Church of England fellowship in east Twickenham, which also happens to be strongly Evangelical and Charismatic…and therefore far from the common run of Anglican or Episcopalian churches.
Furthermore, I’ve no intentions of doing any further church hopping. So…could I have found my spiritual home at long last? Time alone will tell.

Book Four – An Autobiographical Narrative and Various Versified Memories 2
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1960s
 
‘Snapshots from a Child’s West London’
Serves, as did its predecessor,
‘Born on the Goldhawk Road’
As a fitting preface
To a second long autobiographical piece
 
Consisting almost entirely
Of versified prose, and linear in nature,
Which is to say,
Beginning with my birth
And leading all the way to the present day.
 
In its primordial form,
It knew life as spidery writings
Filling four and a half pages
Of a school notebook
In what is likely to have been 1977.
 
And these were edited in 2006,
Before being tendered a new title,
Subjected to alterations in punctuation,
And then finally published at Blogster
On the 10th of March of that year.
 
Some grammatical corrections took place,
Which were suitably mild
So as not to excessively alter the original work,
From which certain sentences were composed
By fusing two or more sections together.
 
Ultimately, parts of it were incorporated
Into the memoir, ‘Rescue of a Rock and Roll Child’,
And thence into the first chapter
Of the definitive autobiographical piece,
‘Seven Chapters from a Sad Sack Loser’s Life’.
 
But recently, it was newly versified,
With a fresh set of minor corrections,
Although as ever with these memoir-based writings
The majority of names have been changed,
And they are faithful to the truth to the best of my ability.
 
Snapshots from a Child’s West London
 
I remember the 20th Chiswick Wolf Cub pack,
How I loved those Wednesday evenings,
The games, the pomp and seriousness of the camps,
The different coloured scarves, sweaters and hair
During the mass meetings,
The solemnity of my enrolment,
Being helped up a tree by an older boy,
Baloo, or Kim, or someone,
To win my Athletics badge,
Winning my first star, my two year badge,
And my swimming badge
With its frog symbol, the kindness of the older boys.
 
I remember a child’s West London…
 
One Saturday afternoon, after a football match
During which I dirtied my boots
By standing around as a sub in the mud,
And my elbow by tripping over a loose shoelace,
An older boy offered to take me home.
We walked along streets,
Through subways crammed with rowdies,
White or West Indian, in black gym shoes.
‘Shuddup!’ my friend would cheerfully yell,
And they did.
‘We go’ a ge’ yer ‘oame, ain’ we mite, ay?’
‘Yes. Where exactly are you taking me?’ I asked.
 
‘The bus stop at Chiswick ‘Oigh Stree’
Is the best plice, oi reck’n.’
‘Yes, but not on Chiswick High Street,’
I said, starting to sniff.
‘You be oroight theah, me lil’ mite.’
I was not convinced.
The uncertainty of my ever getting home
Caused me to start to bawl,
And I was still hollering
As we mounted the bus.
I remember the sudden turning of heads.
It must have been quite astonishing
 
For a peaceful busload of passengers
To have their everyday lives
Suddenly intruded upon
By a group of distressed looking Wolf Cubs,
One of whom, the smallest,
Was howling red-faced with anguish
For some undetermined reason.
After some moments, my friend,
His brow furrowed with regret,
As if he had done me some wrong, said:
‘I’m gonna drop you off
Where your dad put you on.’
 
Within seconds, the clouds dispersed,
And my damp cheeks beamed.
Then, I spied a street I recognised
From the bus window, and got up,
Grinning with all my might:
‘This’ll do,’ I said.
‘Wai’, Carl,’ cried my friend,
Are you shoa vis is ‘oroigh’?’
‘Yup!’ I said. I was still grinning
As I spied my friend’s anxious face
In the glinting window of the bus
As it moved down the street.
 
I remember a child’s West London…
 
One Wednesday evening,
When the Pops was being broadcast
Instead of on Thursday,
I was rather reluctant to go to Cubs,
And was more than usually uncooperative
With my father as he tried
To help me find my cap,
Which had disappeared.
Frustrated, he put on his coat
And quietly opened the door.
I stepped outside into the icy atmosphere
Wearing only a pair of underpants,
 
And to my horror, he got into his black Citroën
And drove off. I darted down Esmond Road
Crying and shouting.
My tearful howling was heard by Margaret,
19 year old daughter of Mrs Helena Jacobs,
Whom my mother used to help
With the care and entertainment
Of Thalidomide children.
Helena Jacobs expended so much energy
On feeling for others
That when my mother tried to get in touch
In the mid 70s, she seemed exhausted,
 
And quite understandably,
For Mrs O’Keefe, her cleaning lady
And friend for the main part
Of her married life
Had recently been killed in a road accident.
I remember that kind
And beautiful Irish lady,
Her charm, happiness and sweetness,
She was the salt of the earth.
She threatened to ca-rrown me
When I went away to school…
If I wrote her not.
 
Margaret picked me up
And carried me back to my house.
I immediately put on my uniform
As soon as she had gone home,
Left a note for my Pa,
And went myself to Cubs.
When Pa arrived to pick me up,
The whole ridiculous story
Was told to Akela,
Baloo and Kim,
Much, much, much to my shame.
 
I remember a child’s West London…
 
The year was 1963, the year of the Beatles,
Of singing yeah, yeah in the car,
Of twisting in the playground,
Of ‘I’m a Beatlemaniac, are you?’
That year, I was very prejudiced
Against an American boy, Robert,
Who later became my friend.
I used to attack him for no reason,
Like a dog, just to assert my superiority.
One day, he gave me a rabbit punch in the stomach
And I made such a fuss that my little girlfriend, Niña,
Wanted to escort me to the safety of our teacher,
 
Hugging me, and kissing me intermittently
On my forehead, eyes, nose, cheeks.
She forced me to see her:
‘Carl didn’t do a thing,’ said Niña,
And Robert came up an gave him
Four rabbit punches in the stomach’.
Robert was not penalized,
For Mademoiselle knew
What a little demon I was,
No matter how hurt
And innocent I looked,
Tearful, with my tail between my legs.
 
I remember a child’s West London…
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1970s
 
‘The Athlete, the Poet and the Reprobate’
Was based largely on writings
Created possibly as early as 1976.
And as such, it’s been reproduced
More or less word for word
Despite having been recently edited
And subject to basic versification.
And in its original form,
It constituted some kind of
Unfinished fantastical novel
Centered on the titular
Athlete, Poet and Reprobate,
An absurdly self-exalting
Version of the original.
For within less than two decades
Of penning these self-same words,
I’d come to saving faith in Christ Jesus.
 
As to novels reflecting the luxurious lifestyle
Of a bygone age,
None had been even remotely completed
By the time of writing,
And unless I’m grossly mistaken,
I was several years shy of becoming an actor.
That said, the timidity described
Is at least partially accurate,
And I did feel the need to provide
An outward show of my significance
Through a peacock display of dandyism,
Which included
Some wildly idiosyncratic behaviour,
As well as the subtle deployment of cosmetics.
 
The Athlete, the Poet and the Reprobate
 
‘I can’t decide, she said,
Whether you’re an aesthete
Or an athlete
A poet or a reprobate.”
 
‘Even when I’m a lout,
I’m an aesthete, he answered,
I lure, rather than seek.’
 
‘So why do you
Need to dress up?’
 
‘Like Ronald Firbank,
I suffer from a need
To give an outward show
Of my significance.
 
His lifestyle is an uncanny
Parallel
To my own young manhood
 
I alienated people
Through a crippling shyness
Which I disguised
With my violently idiosyncratic
 
Behaviour, wore cosmetics
And wrote novels
That reflected the luxurious
Lifestyle of a bygone age.
 
The sensation
Of never quite belonging
Lingered about me always
That’s why
I became an actor.
 
Through heavy experiences
I have built up
A stoned wall
Resistance
Against arrogance and aloofness
 
I am a sophisticated cynic
With a kind heart
And a tendency towards regret.’
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
The origins of ‘An Actor Arrives’
Lie in the barest elements
Of a story started but never finished
In early 1980,
While I was working at the Bristol Old Vic
Playing the minute part
Of Mustardseed the Fairy
In a much praised production
Of Shakespeare’s celebrated
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
 
It was originally rescued in 2006,
From a battered notebook in which I habitually scribbled
During spare moments offstage
While clad in my costume
And covered in blue body make-up
And silvery glitter. And while doing so,
Some of the glitter was transferred from the pages
With which the were stained
More than a quarter of a century previously
Onto my hands…an eerie experience indeed.
 
An Actor Arrives (at the Bristol Old Vic)
 
I remember the grey slithers of rain,
The jocular driver
As I boarded the bus
At Temple Meads,
And the friendly lady who told me
When we had arrived at the city centre.
I remember the little pub on King Street,
With its quiet maritime atmosphere.
 
I remember tramping
Along Park Street,
Whiteladies Road and Blackboy Hill,
My arms and hands aching from my bags,
To the little cottage where I had decided to stay
And relax between rehearsals,
Reading, writing, listening to music.
I remember my landlady, tall, timid and beautiful.
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
‘Verses for Tragic Lovers
Adolphe and Ellénore’
Is based on an essay I wrote
Around 1983
For a former mentor at university,
Who sadly died in 2008,
And who features
As Dr Elizabeth Lang
In various autobiographical
Writings of mine.
 
It concerns the protagonist
Of French writer Benjamin Constant’s
1816 novel “Adolphe”,
(Which its author emphatically insisted
Was not autobiographical;
Nor a roman a clef),
Who is a prototypal victim
Of what has been termed
Le Mal du Siècle,
Or the sickness of the century…
 
Which, born in the wake of the Revolution,
And arising from a variety of causes,
Political, social, and spiritual,
Depending on the sufferer in question,
Produced such qualities as
Melancholy and acedia,
And a perpetual sense of exile, of alienation,
That found special favour within
The great Romantic movement in the arts.
 
Although as a phenomenon,
World pain was hardly a novel one,
For after all, does the Word of God not say
That there is nothing new
Under the sun?
But it was possibly unprecedented
In terms of pervasiveness and intensity
At the height of Romanticism
And I’d have no hesitation
In labeling it tragic as a result.
 
In terms of my own pre-Christian self,
It was almost overwhelmingly powerful,
And so believer that I am, I feel compelled
To expose it as potentially ruinous,
For after all, is it not still with us
In one way or another,
Having been passed on by the Romantics
To kindred movements coming in their wake,
From the Spirit of Decadence
To the Rock Revolution?
 
And could it not also be said
That the peculiar notion
Fostered by Romanticism
Of the artist as a spirit
Set apart for some special purpose,
Of which pain is so often an essential part
Is also still among us?
Of course it could,
And I’d have no hesitation
In labeling it tragic as a result.
 
This Mal du Siècle of which I speak
Is surely especially melancholy
In the case of tragic lovers,
Adolphe and Ellénore,
For it results in Adolphe effectively
Drifting into a romance
With another man’s mistress,
A young mother, Ellénore,
Who sacrifices everything for him
Only to discover he no longer loves her.

For “Adolphe” is in some respects
A work within the tradition
Of the libertine novel
Of the Age of Enlightenment,
And yet at the same time,
By no means an endorsement of libertinage.
Is rather perhaps, in many respects,
A powerful indictment of this tendency,
And thence as much a reproach
To the tradition; as a late addition to it.
 
And the forlorn figure of Adolphe
Was ultimately to prove influential,
Notably in Mother Russia,
Where he allegedly served in part
As model to Pushkin’s fatal dandy,
The Byronic Eugene Onegin,
And if Tolstoy’s Count Vronsky
Was also partially based on Adolphe,
Then there is of course a marked kinship
Between Ellénore and Anna Karenina.
 
In the end, though, one can only weep,
At the tragedy these eminently romantic
And sympathetic figures
Made of their lives. And I speak as one
Who was once in thrall to the tragic worldview,
But who came to view life
As something infinitely valuable,
To be lived fully under the guidance of God,
And not sacrificed like some beautiful bauble
For the bitter-sweet pleasures of the world.
 
Verses for Tragic Lovers Adolphe and Ellénore
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love.
 
We know little of the physical appearance
Of Adolphe, but in all probability
He possesses the youthfully seductive charm
Of Romantic heroes,
Werther, René and Julien Sorel.
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love.
 
Adolphe is preoccupied with himself
In the classic manner
Of the contemplative, melancholy,
Faintly yearning, hypersensitive,
Isolated, perceptive Romantic hero.
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love.
 
Perhaps he is somebody who believes
That self-interest is the foundation
Of all morality, but then, he announces:
“While I was only interested in myself,
I was but feebly interested for all that.”
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love.
 
There is much genuine goodness
In Adolphe,
But much of it is subconscious,
Surfacing only
At the sight of obvious grief.
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love.
 
The cause of this inability to feel
Spontaneously, is very probably the result
Of the complex interaction
Between a hypersensitive nature
And a brilliant if indecisive mind.
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love. 
 
By reflecting on his surroundings
To an exaggerated degree,
Adolphe feels a sort of numbness,
A premature world-weariness…
Lucid thoughts and intense emotions confused. 
 
Ellénore initially resists Adolphe’s advances
But after a great deal of persuasion,
Agrees to see him on a regular basis,
And soon falls in love.
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
“The Bitter-Sweet Fruits of André Gide” was based on an essay, probably written in my final year at Leftfield College, University of London, where I studied the works of the titular writer of genius Gide with one of my academic mentors, Dr Elisabeth Lang. It was photocopied so badly I was barely able to decipher what I’d originally typed, its original having vanished; yet, as is my wont, I’ve made minor grammatical adjustments and heavily edited it, a necessary process given the darkness of the work involved, the ecstatic prose poem, “Les Nourritures Terrestres”, or “The Fruits of the Earth”.
While dating from 1896, at the height of the Franco-British literary decadence, it was evidently rediscovered in the 1920s, an era very similar to the Yellow Nineties in so many respects, and to some extent also, the Swinging Sixties.
It’s clear from the tone of the essay, although not so much from the sanitised version it has to be said, that I at least partly approved of the work’s subversion of traditional Judaeo-Christian morality, while the same could by no means be said of Gide, the product of a deeply pious Huguenot Protestant upbringing.
And the “Fruits” stood in marked contrast to his first published work, “The Notebooks of André Walter”, for both the latter and the later “Straight is the Gate” are anatomisations of Christian self-abnegation, specifically with respect to his troubled love for his devout Christian cousin Madeleine, who went on to become his wife, and perhaps the one and only true love of his life.
The character of Ménalque, who acts as a mentor to the protagonist Nathanael in “The Fruits” was allegedly based on Oscar Wilde, whom Gide first met, in the company of his companion the poet Lord Alfred Douglas, in Paris in 1891. And while he is relatively sympathetic in the earlier work, when he reappears in “The Immoralist” in 1902, he is infinitely less so. This is significant given that the latter was written by Gide as a warning against the excesses extolled in “The Fruits”.
“The World of Subjectivity” consists of a series of unconnected fragment salvaged from a teeming nightmare of “diary entries” I made in a school notebook throughout 1986. While more or less verbatim, some very minor corrections may have been made.
 
The Bitter-Sweet Fruits of André Gide
 
The keynote to André Gide’s “The Fruits of the Earth” is the unfettered cultivation of the ego, related to the Nietzschian doctrine of the Will to Power, in contradistinction to the self-abnegation of his Protestant upbringing.
This gospel of pagan energy has always contained within it a distinctly sadistic element, conscious in Ménalque, unconscious in the Gidean protagonist who carried it to its disastrous extreme, Michel in “The Immoralist”, specifically written in order to warn against the dangers of excessive “disponibilité”.
However, there is no direct evidence of such criticism in “The Fruits”, which makes it all the more intriguing to the reader, who can interpret the work according to his own nature.
With the inspired ecstasy of a fasting prophet, he embarked upon a work of such sensuous intensity that the very pages suggest the North African villages, parched by the blinding sun. Evil lurks in every corner of every page, where no noble, lasting values are left intact and one after the other, selfishness, infidelity, duplicity and fornication are extolled. By the end of the volume, the narrator’s senses have been worn to the bone. For his final message, he stresses the importance of other people. The reason for this is ambiguous, and it is up to the reader to interpret this altruism as he chooses.
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
Thanks to the large quantity
Of notes I committed
To paper while at Leftfield,
My beloved college can live again
Through writings
Painstakingly forged out of them,
Such as the poetic piece below,
Based on several conversations
I had with my good friend Jez,
A tough but tender Scouser
With slicked back rockabilly hair,
Who’d played guitar in a band
At Liverpool’s legendary Eric’s
Back in the early eighties,
When Liverpool post-Punk
Was enjoying a golden age.
These took place at Scorpio’s,
A Greek restaurant situated in
North West London
Following a performance at college
Of Lorca’s “Blood Wedding”
In which I’d played the bridegroom.
 
One of the Greats Who Never Was
 
‘I think you should be
One of the greats,
But you’ve given up
And that’s sad.
 
You drink too much,
You think, ____ it
And you go out and get _____,
When I’m 27 I’d be happy
To be like you.
 
In your writing,
Make sure you’ve got
Something really
Unbeatable…
Then say…’Here, you _______!’
 
You’ve got the spark of genius
At sixteen, you knew
You were a genius,
At nineteen, you thought
What’s a genius anyway?’
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s

‘A Cambridge Lamentation’
Centres on my brief stay at Homerton,
A teaching training college
Contained within the University of Cambridge,
With its campus at Hills Road
Just outside the city centre.
A fusion of previously published pieces,
It was primarily adapted
From an unfinished and unsent letter
Penned just before Christmas 1986,
And conveys some of the fatal restlessness
Which ultimately resulted
In my quitting Homerton early in 1987.
In its initial form, it had been forged
By extracting selected sentences
From the original script,
And then melding them together
In a newly edited and versified state,
Before publishing them at the Blogster weblog
On the 10th of June 2006.
 
A Cambridge Lamentation
 
This place is always a little lonely
At the weekends…No noise and life,
I like solitude,
But not in places
Where’s there’s recently been
A lot of people.

Reclusiveness protects you
From nostalgia,
And you can be as nostalgic
In relation to what happened
Half an hour ago
As half a century ago, in fact more so.
 
I went to the Xmas party.
I danced,
And generally lived it up.
I went to bed sad though.
Discos exacerbate
my sense of solitude.

My capacity for social warmth,
Excessive social dependence
And romantic zeal
Can be practically deranging;
It’s no wonder I feel the need
To escape…
 
Escape from my own
Drastic social emotivity…
A devastating capacity
For loneliness.
I feel trapped here,
There’s no
Outlet for my talents.
 
In such a state as this…
I could fall in love with anyone.
The night before last
I went to the ball
Couples filing out
I wanted to be half of ev’ry one…

But I didn’t want to lose her.
I’ll get over how I feel now,
And very soon.
Gradually I’ll freeze again,
Even assuming an extra layer of snow.
I have to get out of here.
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
Both ‘The Destructive Disease of the Soul’
And ‘The Compensatory Man Par Excellence’
Possess as their starting points
A novel written at an estimate around 1987,
With one Francis Phoenix as chief protagonist.
 
Its fate remains a mystery,
But it may well be it was completed,
Only to be purged soon after
I became a born again Christian in 1993,
With only a handful of scraps remaining.
 
The versified pieces below
Were forged out of these scraps
In September 2011, although initially,
They’d taken shape as prose pieces,
Only to be edited and versified at a later date.
 
The Destructive Disease of the Soul
 
No amount of thought
Could negate
Suffering in the mind
Of Francis Phoenix.
 
That much he had always believed,
That humanity is a sad, lost
And suffering race.
Sometimes he felt it so strongly
That the worship of a Saviour seemed
To be the only sane act on earth,
And then it passed…

It was not increasing callousness,
But an increase in the number of moments
He felt quite intoxicated with compassion
That had soured Frank’s outlook.
 
During those moments, he wept
For all those he’d ever been cruel to.
He could be so hard on people,
So terribly hard.
To whom could he ask forgiveness?
 
It was his sensitivity
That bred those moments of Christlike love,
When he cared so little for himself,
For his body, even for his soul…
When it was the soul of his father,
The soul of his mother,
The souls of his friends and relatives
And everyone he’d ever known
That he cared about.
 
That was truth, that was reality,
That was the purpose of all human life,
That love, that benevolence,
That absolute forgiveness.
Otherworldly love is painful,
But it is the only true freedom known to Man.
Too much thought eventually produces the conviction
That nothing is worth doing.
Thought is a destructive disease of the soul.
 
The Compensatory Man Par Excellence
 
I seldom indulge in letter writing
Because I consider it
To be a cold and illusory
Means of communication.
I will only send someone a letter
If I’m certain it’s going to serve
A definite functional purpose,
Such as that which I’m
Scrupulously concocting at present
Indisputably does.
It’s not that I incline
Towards excessive premeditation;
It’s rather that I have to subject
My thoughts and emotions
To quasi-military discipline,
As pandemonium is the sole alternative.
I’m the compensatory man par excellence
 
Deliberation, in my case,
Is a means to an end,
But scarcely by any means,
An end in itself.
This letter possesses not one,
But two, designs.
On one hand, its aim is edification.
Besides that, I plan to include it
In the literary project upon which
I’m presently engaged,
With your permission of course.
Contrary to what you have suspected
In the past,
I never intend to trivialise intimacy
By distilling it into art.
On the contrary, I seek
To apotheosise the same.
 
You see…I lack the necessary
Emotional vitality to do justice
To people and events
That are precious to me;
I am forced, therefore,
To at a later date call
On emotive reserves
Contained within my unconscious
In order to transform
The aforesaid into literary monuments.
You once said that my feelings
Had been interred under six feet
Of lifeless abstractions;
As true as this might be,
The abstractions in question
Come from without
Rather than within me:
 
My youthful spontaneity
Many mistrustfully identified
With self-satisfied inconsiderateness
(A standard case of fallacious reasoning),
And I was consequently
The frequent victim
Of somewhat draconic cerebrations.
I tremble now
In the face of hyperconsciousness.
I’ve manufactured a mentality,
Riddled with deliberation,
Cankerous with irony;
Still, in its fragility,
Not to say, artificiality,
It can, with supreme facility,
Be wrenched aside to expose
The touch-paper tenderness within.
 
With characteristic extremism,
I’ve taken ratiocination
To its very limits,
But I’ve acquainted myself with,
Nay, embraced my antagonist
Only in order to more effectively throttle him.
Being a survivor of the protracted passage
Through the morass of nihilism,
Found deep within
“The hell of the inner being”,
I am more than qualified to say this:
“There is no way out or round or through”
The prison of ceaseless sophistry.
There many things I have left to say,
But I shall only have begun to exist in earnest
When these are far behind me,
In fact, so far as to be all but imperceptible.
 
I long for the time
When I shall have compensated to my satisfaction.
I never desired intellectuality; it was thrust upon me.
Everything I ever dreaded being, I’ve become…
Everything I ever desired to be, I’ve become.
I’m the sum total of a lifetime’s
Fears and fantasies,
Both wish-fulfillment
And dread-consummation incarnate.
I long for the time
When I shall have compensated to my satisfaction.
I never desired intellectuality; it was thrust upon me.
I’m the sum total of a lifetime’s
Fears and fantasies,
Both wish-fulfillment
And dread-consummation incarnate.
I’m the compensatory man par excellence.
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1980s
 
‘Strange Coldness Perplexing’ was forged
Using notes scrawled
Onto seven sides of an ancient
Now coverless notebook,
Possibly late at night
Following an evening’s carousal
And in a state of serene intoxication.
 
The original notes were based
On experiences I underwent
While serving as a teacher
In a highly successful
Central London school of English,
Which I did between the spring,
Or summer, of ‘88 and the summer of 1990.

It gives some indication
Of my emotional condition at the time,
Including a tendency, as I see it,
To wildly veer between
The conscious effusive affectionateness
I aspired to, and sudden irrational
Involuntary lapses of affect.
 
It also bespeaks the intense devotion
I manifested towards my favourite students
And which was reciprocated by them with interest.
All punctuation was removed around 2007,
And extracts tacked together,
Not randomly as in the so-called cut up technique
But selectively and all but sequentially.
 
Strange Coldness Perplexing
 
the catholic nurse
all sensitive
caring noticing
everything
what can she think
of my hot/cold torment

always near blowing it
living in the fast lane
so friendly kind
the girls
dewy eyed
wanda abandoned me
bolton is in my hands

and yet my coldness
hurts
the more emotional
they stay
trying to find a reason
for my ice-like suspicion
fish eyes
coldly indifferent eyes
suspect everything that moves

socialising just to be loud
compensate for cold
lack of essential trust
warmth
i love them
despite myself
my desire to love
is unconscious and gigantesque

i never know
when i’m going to miss someone
strange coldness perplexing
i’ve got to work to get devotion
but once i get it
i really get people on my side
there are carl people
who can survive
my shark-like coldness
and there are those
who want something
more personal
i can be very devoted to those
who can stay the course

my soul is aching
for an impartial love of people
i’m at war with myself…
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1990s
 
In the early part of autumn 1990,
I began a course known as the PGCE
Or Post Graduate Certificate in Education
At a school of higher education
In the pleasant outer suburb of Twickenham,
Becoming resident in nearby Isleworth.
I began quite promisingly as I saw it
Even though my heart
Was not really in the course
But I genuinely saw the benefits
Of successfully completing it,
And as might be expected,
Excelled in drama and physical education.
I rarely drank during the day,
But at night I was sometimes so drunk
I was incoherent.
The following versified piece
Serves a testimony to this sad truth.
Its original was a letter
Typed to a close friend in about 1990,
Some three years or so
Prior to my coming to saving faith
In the Lord Jesus Christ.
And concerning a series of accidents
I’d recently suffered.
However, it was never finished, nor sent.
When it was recovered,
It was as a piece of scrap paper,
A remnant from a long lost past.
It was subsequently edited and reassembled,
Before being subject
To some kind of versification in 2006.
And then some half decade later,
Further work was performed on it,
But it was still pretty threadbare for all that.
 
Incident in St. Christopher’s Place
 
Dear, I haven’t been in touch
for a long time.
Sorry.
The last time I saw you
Was in St. Christopher’s Place.
It was a lovely evening…
when I knocked that chair over.
I am sorry.
Since then,
I’ve had not a few accidents
Of that kind.
 
Just three days ago,
I slipped out in a garden
At a friend’s house…
And keeled over, not once,
Not twice, but three times,
Like a log…clonking my nut
So violently that people heard me
In the sitting room.
What’s more,
I can’t remember a single sentence
spoken all evening. The problem is…
 
An Autobiographical Narrative: 1990s
 
Some months after appearing
In the “Scottish Play” at the Lost Theatre
In the onetime working class
West London suburb of Fulham,
I wrote the piece featured below,
“Such a Short Space of Time”.
 
But in the first instance
It was part of an unfinished short story,
Not a poem at all.
My parents were on vacation
During the period which inspired it,
Which is to say early in the summer of 1999.
 
Hence, I spent a lot of time at their house
Performing various tasks,
Such as watering my mother’s flowers.
As well as this, I took sneaky advantage
Of their absence to transfer
Some of my old LPs onto cassette.
 
It was something my own music system
Was incapable of doing, unlike theirs.
And it was a profoundly unsettling experience.
To listen to songs that, perhaps in the cases
Of some of them, I’d not heard
For twenty years, or even twenty five, or more.
 
With a heartrending intensity,
Doing so had the effect
Of evoking a time
When I was filled to the brim
With sheer youthful joy of life
And undiluted hope for the future.
 
Yet as I did so, it seemed to me
That it was only very recently
That I’d heard them for the first time,
Despite the colossal changes
Brought about not just in my own life,
But the lives of all those of my generation.
 
Hence, I was confronted at once
With the devastating transience
Of human life,
And the cataclysmic effect
The passage of time exerts on all human life,
And it was a profoundly unsettling experience.
 
Such a Short Space of Time
 
I love not just those
I knew back then
But those who were young
Back then,
But who’ve since
Come to grief, who,
Having soared so high,
Found the consequent descent
Too dreadful to bear.

With my past itself,
Which was only yesterday,
No, even less time,
A moment ago,
And when I play
Records from 1975, Soul records,
Glam records, Progressive records,
Twenty years melt away
Into nothingness.

What is a twenty-year period?
Little more than
A blink of an eye.
How could
Such a short space of time
Cause such devastation?
I love not just those
I knew back then
But those who were young back then.

Book Five – A Story, Last Verses and Some Christian Song Lyrics
 
Chapter One – The Revenge of the Feral Dogs
 
Introduction
 
Another name for a feral dog is a pariah dog, although the term tends to be applied exclusively with respect to a handful of countries, notably India, when in fact feral dogs are to be found all throughout the world. They are widely believed to be the descendants of discarded domestic dogs, although unlike the latter, they are hostile to humans, which is understandable, given their history of abandonment. If one is to believe the news, attacks on humans by such animals are more common today than ever, although the truth is they have always existed, as the following tale attests.
It was based on actual incidents that took place, and I know this to be a fact because the character of Sean is based on myself, while all the other characters
also existed, although their names have been changed to protect their privacy. That said, what follows is a somewhat sanitised version of the events as I remember them, and I do so thanks largely to a short story I based on them in about 1977 and which forms the foundation of what follows.
 
The Revenge of the Feral Dogs
 
It was a city-port on the Atlantic Coast of France, in the summer of 1975, a time very similar to our own in a vast variety of ways, and yet a million galaxies away.
Then, as today, the youth of the West ran wild to an electronic Rock soundtrack…and even though the Rock and Roll era is now over half a century old where it was yet in its adolescence in ’75, the hedonistic lifestyle it fostered has differed little since then.
In other ways though, it was altogether a different age. There were no cell phones back then, nor personal computers, nor iPods, and if you wanted to hear the latest album by your favourite act or artist, you had to save up for it and march to your latest record store to procure it on vinyl or cassette.
Subsequently, most people only ever heard a fraction of the music that was available, unlike today, when you can hear any song, any album, ever recorded in whatever era you choose through the simple click of a mouse.
It was about 8.30pm, and a quartet of young British naval ratings, hailing from HMS Royal, a minesweeper attached to the shore-based London Division of the Royal Naval Reserve, were enjoying their “run” ashore, which is to say a short period of leave coming in the midst of an exercise at sea. At one point, they decided to split into a pair of duos with one of these returning to the Royal, and the other, setting out into the night in search of whatever delights their temporal city had to offer them.
They were an unlikely pair. 27 year old Kevin was a genial-looking salt of the earth Londoner, while Sean, was an angelically handsome youth of just 19 from a privileged upbringing in Surrey, although not from Surrey per se so much as a little blue collar village that had been swallowed up by London’s urban sprawl, and that was only nominally part of Britain’s wealthiest county.
Yet, they were also unusually akin by dint of their gentle easy-going ways, and all-round nice guy naivety. Things happened to them rather than the other way around…and that was especially true of Sean. With his blond hair and baby blue eyes, he was the antithesis of the domineering macho male, and yet a magnet for attention nonetheless…although not all of it positive.
“Oh, what a pretty sailor,” a flame-haired woman of a certain age proclaimed as she passed him by in the busy, bustling streets.
“And you, madame,” he replied, with typical obsequious gallantry.
“How comes you speak French so well, then Sean?”, said Kevin, “ain’t you German?”
But before Sean had a chance to properly answer his friend, three youths, dressed in battered blue jeans, and sporting long greasy hair, approached the two sailors. One was white, a second black, and a third North African. Their eyes were suspicious, but Sean’s potent pretty boy charm caused them to look kindly upon the sailors
“Hey there, sailor boys,” said the white youth, who was extraordinarily handsome, with long dark eyelashes, and a dazzling smile that revealed broken and discoloured teeth. The single gold earring he wore in his left ear lent him the air of a beautiful romany boy.
“All right?” Sean replied.
“Are you French?”
“No, I’m English,” said Sean.
“Hey, how’s it going with the girls, huh, is everything OK with the ladies?”
“Sure,” said Sean nonchalantly.
“They’re all insane, insane, insane”, said the angel-faced romany, dismissing the entire female race with a drunken wave of his hand, before being borne away by his cohorts, much to Kevin’s evident relief, as he’d already started to distance himself from the trio, despite their friendly intentions.
In time, the two sailors had attained the town’s central square, where a bedraggled sextet of Jazz musicians were blowing Dixie as if their lives depended on it for the benefit of tourists dining on sea food. Many of them looked up from their fishy repasts as Sean passed by. In time, they found themselves in a tavern which had been taken over by a large gang of rowdy revellers, presided over by a strolling guitar player, and a young expatriate Welshman with the burly body of a prop forward.
Needless to say, the sailors were singularly conspicuous by dint of their uniforms, and at one stage, Sean’s cap was removed from his head and passed around the tavern to be gawped at by the assembled clientele like some imperialist curio. It may have been this mortifying incident that provoked the minstrel’s sympathy for Sean, and his subsequent efforts at befriending him.
He was a strikingly handsome man, probably of Spanish extraction, as his name turned out to be Javier, of about 28 years old, at least in appearance. In fact he was 40.
“Give me your address,” he said to Sean, taking his hand in his, “I believe in true comradeship, real friendship…we will be friends.”
“OK,” Sean agreed, whereupon Javier disappeared.
Just then, Sean noticed that he was being intently observed by a beautiful girl of the gamine kind with short lemon yellow hair and distant, pale-blue eyes wearing a strange, melancholy smile, who presently seated herself behind him. She turned out to be Javier’s girl friend, Catherine.
“Bonjour,” she said, “I’m Catherine.”
“Hello, “ said Sean, in his usual shyly charming way, “isn’t Javier a great guy?”
“Oh yes,” Catherine replied, “I’ve been with many men, but this is the first time I’ve been with a real man.”
“Is he really forty?” Sean asked her.
“Yes, forty years old, but he’ll always be young, he’s not aged along with the rest of his generation. We travel together, we’re very much in love.”
Soon Javier returned to engage in further praise of his new found friend:
“Sean is our friend, “ he enthused, “he is our true friend.”
“Oh yes,” Catherine agreed, “he’s really sweet isn’t he, and cute, and nice, you’re our friend, Sean”.
“Thank you,” Sean replied, overwhelmed by their effusiveness.
“You’re going to give us your address before you go, OK?” said Javier.
“Sure,” Sean replied, before getting up to check on Kevin, who was engaged in an intense conversation with the Welshman, Gryff. Realising that interrupting them was not in his best interests, he sat back down and starting sipping from someone else’s wine glass.
Before long, the entire tavern had erupted, and people started dancing around the tables, with some electing to actually dance on the tables. Sean thought it best to leave at this point, and went to say his goodbyes to Catherine, who took hold of one of his hands, while smiling warmly and gazing directly into his eyes.
“Oh,” said Sean distractedly, “I must give my address to Javier.”
He walked over to Javier, but no sooner had he done so, than he was grabbed by the arm, and virtually thrown into the back of a rickety grey fiat being driven by Gryff, which then leaped and screeched through the city’s dingy back streets for a few brief terrifying moments before alighting within a short distance of a discotheque. As soon as Sean was out of the car, he noticed a bewildered looking Kevin among the disco party, of which Gryff had taken charge:
“How are we going to get the sailors in?” he asked out aloud, “they’re not allowed here.”
“Smuggle them in,” someone suggested, “take their hats and jackets off, and sneak them in.”
Gryff set about divesting the tars of much of their attire, with the result that they soon found themselves among the city’s beautiful people, including young heavily made up belles, several executing the most complex and obscure of dance manoeuvres in small groups, and tall, thin young men who punctuated their terpsichorean histrionics with high-pitched squeals.
After a time, it occurred to Sean that unless they set off soon, they’d never get back to their ship, and this time, Kevin was in accord, and so they set about retrieving their clothing. Then, Catherine walked over to them to see them off.
“You should take care,” she told Sean, “I mean…your uniforms, your hats, your symbols don’t mean a thing here. I mean none of it means anything here.”
Sean smiled weakly without answering, and she went on.
“But you’re so cute, you know”, she said, stroking Sean’s cheek.
“Good bye”, said Sean.
“Good bye”, Catherine replied, visibly upset.
Soon, the young sailors were groping their way in the dark towards the city’s main port, with only the crunching of their navy issue boots to break the menacing silence.
“It’s late isn’t it, Kev,” said Sean, as the lights of the disco faded into the distance.
“I don’t care,” Kevin replied, “I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”
“What if we can’t find the ship?”
Within an hour, they reached their destination, although neither knew exactly where their ship was located, and each thin strip of dusty road resembled the last.
Just when they’d turned down yet another one, a feral dog emerged from out of a decaying chalky dwelling, baring its salmon-pink gums and emitting falsetto squeals which attracted a second vicious, fearless canine, this one resembling an Alsatian cross-breed. Sean panicked and picked up a stone, before threatening his aggressors, then running first from them, then towards them, screaming at them, shrinking from them, but nothing he did served to deter them.
Kevin preferred the role of pack leader and with index finger pointing directly at the dogs, started to command them in tones of masterly severity, but they refused to accept him as alpha male, and continued to circle him as if they’d earmarked him for an early morning feast. And the dogs squealed, and slavered, and snarled, and the more they sensed the sailors’ fear, the more hysterical they became.
The sailors’ fate seemed sealed. They’d surely pay a high price for separating from their companions in order to seek out stimulation in the depths of a city in which their status as strangers rendered them deeply vulnerable. Kevin was easily the more streetwise, while Sean was to all intents and purposes…prey on legs; and it was only a matter of time before this truth became evident to him. Yet, nothing would have stopped him stepping out of his comfort zone that night, as millions of his kind have done since, and continue to do.
“You should take care,” Catherine had said, almost prophetically as it turned out, “I mean…your uniforms, your hats, your symbols don’t mean a thing here. I mean none of it means anything here.”
 
Epilogue:
 
Some time towards the end of the old or the beginning of the new millennium, possibly around 1996, a middle aged-man received a phone call straight out of the blue from an old friend.
He was still youthful looking and his acting career hadn’t yet been entirely forsaken, while much of his music career lay in the future. In other words, there was still some chance he’d amount to something in a worldly sense.
He’d converted to Christianity some years previously in 1993, following many years during which his consumption of alcohol was at lethal levels, and he was barely to drink again thereafter, notwithstanding a long series of relapses, most as insignificant as they were incapacitating.
His friend spoke of many things, but while most of these were to elude his memory as the years proceeded, one especially remained. This was the time they found themselves cornered on some dusty street in a city-port on the Atlantic coast of France by wild dogs; but he never mentioned how they managed to extricate themselves.
Some fifteen years after the call took place, he reflected on his luck that night and wondered if the reason he emerged unscathed was that God had better plans for him other than to become food for a couple of feral canids. And this provided him with a goodly amount of consolation for the teeming multitude of failures and follies, mistakes and losses that had blighted his life ever since.
However, it’s significant that the vast majority of these took place prior to his acceptance of Christ as his Personal Saviour, and that while his life had been far from perfect since ‘93, which is not surprising under the circumstances, God had restored to him the years that the swarming locust had eaten.

Chapter Two – Jesus O Jesus and Other Christian Song Lyrics

Glorify the King

Give me words that will glorify your name,
Give me strength that will overcome my shame.
Give me power and give me wings,
To do your will wherever you decree,
Everything to glorify the King.

Give me thoughts that are purer than the snow,
Give me a love that will last forever more.
Give me the joy only you can bring,
All I’m asking for is everything
Everything to glorify the King

Glorify the King
Glorify the King
Glorify the King.

Give me a sword to keep the enemy at bay,
Give me wisdom to know what I need to say.
Give me music so that I can sing,
Of all the peace and joy your presence brings,
Everything to glorify the King.

Glorify the King
Glorify the King
Glorify the King.

Jesus O Jesus

Jesus 0 Jesus, I love you so much,
Jesus 0 Jesus, I long for your touch.
Jesus 0 Jesus, I thirst for your presence,
Jesus 0 Jesus, please send me your strength.

Jesus O Jesus, I have been far away,
Jesus O Jesus, take me back Lord I pray.

Jesus O Jesus, I miss you so badly,
Jesus O Jesus, send mercy to me.

Jesus O Jesus, I have been far away,
Jesus O Jesus, take me back Lord I pray,
Jesus O Jesus, I have been far away,
Jesus O Jesus, take me back Lord I pray.

The Lord is Coming

The Lord is coming
Like a thief in the night,
The Lord is coming
In flaming fire,
The Lord is coming,
Pray he won’t be long,
Till the sound of the Trumpet of God…

He could come any time once the signs are in place,
Then any hour, any day, we could see his face,
See his Golden face, see his awesome face…

The Lord is coming he’ll descend from the sky,
The Lord is coming, coming down with a cry
He’ll be upon you, better open your eyes,
Don’t fall asleep and you won’t be surprised…

Like a pain comes upon a pregnant woman with child
Well the Lord will appear like a thief in the night,
Like a thief in the night, like a thief in the night.

The Lord is coming soon,
The Lord is Coming soon.

The Lord is coming
Like a thief in the night,
The Lord is coming
In flaming fire
The Lord is coming
Pray he won’t be long,
Till the sound of the Trumpet of God…

The Lord is Constant, Kind and True

The Lord is constant, kind and true,
The Lord is constant, kind and true,
The Lord’s love pursues you,
There’s no way out round or through,
There’s nothing that He can’t or will not do,
He’s constant, kind and true…

The Lord forgives the foolish things we do,
The Lord forgives the foolish things we do,
He blots out all the trespasses
We ask Him to excuse,
The pain we put our friends and loved ones through,
The foolish things we do…

Praise His Holy Name

In the morning, praise His Holy Name,
In the evening, praise His Holy Name,
Each day without a change,
Come sunshine or come rain,
Praise His Name, praise His Holy Name…

When you’re winning, praise His Holy Name,
When you’re losing, praise His Holy Name,
Think how you’ve been saved,
Remember how you’ve been changed,
And just praise His Name, praise His Holy name…

Whenever you need a friend,
Get down on your knees and pray,
The Lord’ll never turn away,
He’s promised you a brand new day…

Down and out again, praise His Holy Name,
Your life is full of pain, praise His Holy Name,
He’ll restore your faith, and all your wasted days,
So praise His Name,
Praise His Holy Name,
Praise His Holy Name,
Praise His Holy Name.

Thanks to Jesus

Thanks to Jesus,
My life has a perfect plan.
Thanks to Jesus,
I can find out who I am.

I can finally understand
Why I am here,
And what I’ve been searching for,
And all fulfillment’s close at hand,
Thanks to the Lamb…

Thanks to Jesus,
I have found my heart’s desire,
Thanks to Jesus,
I have been plucked from the mire.

I will never be the same,
Now I’m aware I have been chosen.
Now I have a destiny,
Thanks to the King of Kings.

Thanks to Jesus,
I am living first for the Lord,
Thanks to Jesus
I am saved for evermore.

The Lord’s Love

The Lord’s love
Will never end,
The Lord’s love’s
The greatest friend,
The Lord loves you
Even when
You’re unfaithful to Him,
Because that’s the kind of love we have.

A rock and a foundation,
Think of all the lovely things He’s done,
Always there with a helping hand,
Because He is the Lamb,
He is the Lamb of God.

To think that one day we will be
In his presence for all eternity,
To think that one day we will see
His lovely face,
Such a lovely place,
The Lord’s Love.

Such a Mighty God

Such a mighty God,
Such a lovely Lord;
From the heart of a Heavenly Father,
Such a precious Word.

He has you in his arms,
He’ll never let you fall,
He’ll fill your soul with calm,
He’ll always hear your call.

Such a mighty God,
Such a lovely Lord.
From the heart of a Heavenly Father,
Such a precious Word.

Let us all rejoice,
We have a destiny,
From a sinful choice,
We have been released.
 
Chapter Three – The Playwright and Further Final Verses
 
The Playwright Eugene O’Neill
 
The playwright was most effective
As the dramatic illuminator
Of his own tristful destiny
As well as those of his kinfolk.
And of the two plays that treat
Of the tragic Tyrones
One features James,
His wistful pheere Mary,
And his two troubled offspring
 
A quartette of characters
Based respectively
Upon O’Neill’s father James,
His mother Ella,
O’Neill himself,
And his elder brother, Jamie
Who had he not sought
Such fatal Lethe
Might have evolved into
A great actor like his father,
Or a writer like his brother,
Such was the luminous
Brilliance of his early promise.

How richly blessed he’d been
At birth with charm and intellect.
While part of the
Minim Department
Of Notre Dame University,
He was a favoured prince
Destined for a future
As a Catholic gentleman
Of exquisite breeding
And learning; and then
A prize-winning scholar
At Fordham, from which
He came to be expelled
For a foolish indiscretion.
 
While the other is an account
Of poor Jim Tyrone’s
Last attempt at securing
Some kind of earthly felicity,
Through his love for a
Hoyden with a heart as vast
As his implausible life,
“A Moon for the Misbegotten”.
 
So Lovelorn in London Town
 
From morn to friendless night
He tramps the streets
Just in case he might
Come across her he’s a tragic sight
But he don’t care
Love gives him might
He haunts the cafes and the discos
And the bars so lovelorn
 
He knows that he won’t find her
But he’s got to keep on trying
It gives some meaning to his life
It gives some substance to his time
It is his motive and his project
An his plan so lovelorn
 
He only met her once
But it changed his life
And it changed his type
And it changed his mind
 
They say he once was
A successful man
But he threw it all up
As if he’d gone insane
And he took to the streets
And another man was born
 
They say love comes but once
For some but when it does
It’s like a mighty
Atom bomb inside
A disease that seizes
A gentle soul
And when it comes for him
He’d better try to hide
 
From morn to friendless night
He tramps the streets
Just in case he might
Come across her he’s a tragic sight
But he don’t care
Love gives him might
He haunts the cafes and the discos
And the bars so lovelorn
 
O Lover Mine, Where are you Going?
 
O lover mine, where are you going?
O lover mine, where are you going?
Look, see the signs of summer coming,
You can’t leave me at this time.
 
O lover mine, did I not please you?
O lover mine, did I not please you?
I tried so hard, tried hard to reach you,
Hoped that we were doing fine.
 
O Lover mine, I’ll always love you,
O lover mine, I’ll always love you,
No matter where, how far you’re roaming,
I’ll be here when you return,
I’ll be here when you return,
I’ll be here… I’ll be here… I’ll be here…

~ by Carl Halling on January 14, 2012.

 
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