MacNeice's "Autumn Journal"

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MacNeice's "Autumn Journal"

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Fri Mar 12, 2004 6:04 pm

Chairete,

A melancholic poem on ancient Greece by a distinguished Birmingham professor of classics. Any opinions on it ?

The Glory that was Greece: put it in a syllabus, grade it
Page by page
To train the mind or even to point a moral
For the present age:
Models of logic and lucidity, dignity, sanity,
The golden mean between opposing ills...
But I can do nothing so useful or so simple;
These dead are dead
And when I should remember the paragons of Hellas
I think instead
Of the crooks, the adventurers, the opportunists,
The careless athletes and the fancy boys,
The hair-splitters, the pedants, the hard-boiled sceptics
And the Agora and the noise
Of the demagogues and the quacks; and the women pouring
Libations over graves
And the trimmers at Delphi and the dummies at Sparta and lastly
I think of the slaves.
And how one can imagine oneself among them
I do not know;
It was all so unimaginably different
And all so long ago." -Louis MacNeice, Autumn Journal (1938)


Valete,

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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Mar 13, 2004 1:33 pm

To me it looks like the author is romanticizing Hellas as it once was. True modern day Greece isn't an improvement, but that can be said of all the nations of the world. I do have a question. What does the author mean with this line: "and the dummies at Sparta"
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Mar 13, 2004 1:40 pm

Romulus Aurelius Orcus wrote:To me it looks like the author is romanticizing Hellas as it once was. True modern day Greece isn't an improvement, but that can be said of all the nations of the world. I do have a question. What does the author mean with this line: "and the dummies at Sparta"
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Well, it seems he calls the Spartans 'boneheads' / 'dumbos' or whatever similar term of abuse you might come up with :wink:

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Postby Quintus Aurelius Orcus on Sat Mar 13, 2004 1:46 pm

So he's romanticizing the athenians and discriminates the Spartans who are of equal importance to the history of Greece as Athens was. I think the author has a problem with the fact that the Spartans sacrificed culture to war. Which in a way was a good thing because without the Spartans, Hellas could very well be conquered by the Persians. The militairy strength of the Spartans played a key role in these wars.
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Postby Anonymous on Sat Mar 13, 2004 4:40 pm

I think I prefer McNiece's "Sunlight in the Garden"
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Postby Anonymous on Sat Mar 13, 2004 5:33 pm

Chairete!

So basically the Spartans were brutal, the Athenians were hypocrites, the Thebans were crooked, the Scythians were policemen, and the slaves were, well slaves. Sounds familiar? Plus ca change!

I prefer Keats' more Romantic, head in the sand approach:

"Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold."
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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Sat Mar 13, 2004 6:42 pm

Salvete,

I'm not very fond of the content of the poem either. I just posted it to elicit discussion really :lol:

I think it is very cheap to judge a time and place in history by looking only at its morally negative side. If you take that as a criterion to judge the whole of history and civilisation, as todays progressist radicals do, few will be left, except the radical himself and his fellow and preceding radicals :wink:, the 'pure ones' as much dangerous people have thought of themselves in the course of history...

It is quite curious to see how easily such radicals, who pretend to be defending us against "dead white european male" dogmatism, preconceptions and so on adopt the very conduct they are combatting.

Valete,

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Sat Mar 13, 2004 9:37 pm

Chairete,

From a poetic point of view I don't think it's a terribly good poem either... the reason for the usage of enjambments remains unclear to me and his style figures are too elaborate. Plus, the poem is too long for the content he's expressing...

Keats is way better ;).

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