The English poet Rupert Brooke died of sepsis on this day (St. George’s Day) in 1915 on a French hospital ship off the Greek island of Skyros, while preparing for the landing at Gallipoli. He was 27. His brother, William Brooke, a member of the London Regiment, was killed in action near Le Rutoire Farm on 14 June 1915. He was 24.
Rupert Brooke was famous for his good looks, which prompted the poet W. B. Yeats to describe him as “the handsomest young man in England”, and he had a large circle of powerful friends, including Virginia Woolf and Winston Churchill. He lived his short life with passion: poet, scholar, dramatist, critic, traveller, activist, soldier. He is best known for his sonnets written during the First World War, especially The Soldier.
The Hill, a meditation on fate, contains some of the great lines of modern English poetry: “We have kept the faith!” and “We shall go down with unreluctant tread / Rose-crowned into the darkness!”
Breathless, we flung us on the windy hill,
Laughed in the sun, and kissed the lovely grass.
You said, “Through glory and ecstasy we pass;
Wind, sun, and earth remain, the birds sing still,
When we are old, are old.…” “And when we die
All’s over that is ours; and life burns on
Through other lovers, other lips,” said I,
— “Heart of my heart, our heaven is now, is won!”
“We are Earth’s best, that learnt her lesson here.
Life is our cry. We have kept the faith!” we said;
“We shall go down with unreluctant tread
Rose-crowned into the darkness!”… Proud we were,
And laughed, that had such brave true things to say.
— And then you suddenly cried, and turned away.
Rupert Brooke (1887 – 1915)
The full title of this sobering piece by Spengler (David P. Goldman) on tomorrow’s French election is “Come to Me, My Mélenchony Baby” and it’s a thoughtful take from the American side of the Atlantic on the options that face voters in a contest that’s powered by “rage against the country’s complacent and corrupt Establishment.” In a choice between Macron and Le Pen, Spengler would opt for Fillon. Snippet:
“Macron is pure bubble; if the bubble pops, right and left could unite with some elements of the Establishment to put Le Pen in power. She is the only candidate to warn about the danger to French society posed by Muslim migrants. But she also wants to take France out of the European Union, which would mean the end of the EU. The main winner in that case would be Putin. If I were French I would at least consider voting for Le Pen; as an American, I hope she loses as a matter of pure American strategic interest. The best outcome from an American standpoint would be the victory of the conservative Catholic free-marketeer Francois Fillon.”
Only Mélenchon or Le Pen would challenge the rotten elites, but neither France nor the EU might survive their radical approaches. Which, then, is the lesser of the electoral evils? That’s what the voters must ponder, but regardless of the outcome, the decline of France will continue.Tweet
“The Twilight of the French Elite” is the English translation of Le crépuscule de la France d’en haut, the most recent book by Christophe Guilluy, who describes himself an urban geographer. Guilluy is best known for his concept of France périphérique and Christopher Caldwell examines the idea and the works of Guilluy in the Spring issue of City Journal and his essay, The French, Coming Apart, is as enlightening as it is disturbing.
On many levels, France gives the appearance of stability, but signs of crisis abound. The ruling elite has lost its legitimacy and there’s a dangerous vacuum where the centre once was. Meanwhile, there’s terror on the streets, despair amidst the squeezed middle and a draconian political correctness. Snippet:
“French elites have convinced themselves that their social supremacy rests not on their economic might but on their common decency. Doing so allows them to ‘present the losers of globalization as embittered people who have problems with diversity,’ says Guilluy. It’s not our privilege that the French deplorables resent, the elites claim; it’s the color of some of our employees’ skin. French elites have a thesaurus full of colorful vocabulary for those who resist the open society: repli (‘reaction’), crispation identitaire (‘ethnic tension’), and populisme (an accusation equivalent to fascism, which somehow does not require an equivalent level of proof). One need not say anything racist or hateful to be denounced as a member of ‘white, xenophobic France,’ or even as a ‘fascist.’ To express mere discontent with the political system is dangerous enough. It is to faire le jeu de (‘play the game of’) the National Front.”
Tip: For excellent observations on the French elections, read the French Politics blog of Art Goldhammer, “a student and observer of French politics since 1968.”Tweet
What percentage of Americans has been diagnosed with depression and how much does Washington spend on treating the disease? How much money is collected from parking tickets in Chicago and how much does it cost to collect it? How many police officers are employed across the US and how do their numbers compare to the crime rates? The USAFacts public database is the first nonpartisan attempt to create a fully integrated overview of revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments in America and it’s impressive in its ability and ambition.
USAFacts was developed thanks to the generosity and vision of Steve Ballmer. The ex-Microsoft boss has deep pockets and he has spent more than $10 million so far on the project. With boundless energy and budget, he assembled a crowd of programmers, economists and academics that extended from Seattle to the University of Pennsylvania and together they built the start-up in stealth mode over the last three years. “Let’s say it costs three, four, five million a year,” he told Andrew Ross Sorkin, writing for DealBook. “I’m happy to fund the damn thing.” Way to go, Steve.Tweet
It is, said the late Christopher Hitchens in 2010, “the world’s most hysterical and operatic leader-cult.” He was speaking about North Korea, and he was doing so after reading The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans See Themselves and Why It Matters by B.R. Myers. It matters more than ever because Pyongyang threatens regional security more than ever and a generation of world leaders that has dared not watch this ghastly horror show must now face up to the final act. Today, US Vice-President Mike Pence said that America’s “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over. Good.
One can, of course, understand why the world has looked the other way. Who wants to pay the price of battling a death cult? B.R. Myers points out that many of the slogans displayed by the North Korean state are borrowed directly from the evil kamikaze ideology of Japanese imperialism and every North Korean child is told every day of the magnificent possibility of death in the service of the motherland and taught not to fear the idea of nuclear war.
Along with perpetual militarism, North Korean totalitarianism is particularly frightening because its racist nationalism is expressed in gigantic mausoleums and mass parades that blend pure Stalinism with perverted Confucianism. The state’s permanent mobilization is maintained by slave labour and is based on a dogma of xenophobia. There can be little doubt that the regime believes its own propaganda and this suggests that the endless peace talks and disarmament negotiations are an utter and dangerous waste of time.
Since its creation, North Korea has kept its wretched subjects in ignorance and fear and has brainwashed them in the hatred of others. The world can no longer tolerate this repudiation of civilization. The show must end.Tweet
“The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.” — Karl Ove Knausgård, A Time for Everything
The juxtaposition of paganism and Christianity was a constant theme in Oscar Wilde’s poetry. This is nowhere more apparent than in his sonnet, Written in Holy Week at Genoa when Wilde is awakened from a daydream by a “young boy-priest”. His sensuous charms are far more real than the suffering embodied by “The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers and the Spear”, and those “dear Hellenic hours” are preferable to thoughts of the crucified Christ. But the “bitter pain” cannot be ignored.
Written in Holy Week at Genoa
I wandered in Scoglietto’s green retreat,
The oranges on each o’erhanging spray
Burned as bright lamps of gold to shame the day;
Some startled bird with fluttering wings and fleet
Made snow of all the blossoms, at my feet
Like silver moons the pale narcissi lay:
And the curved waves that streaked the sapphire bay
Laughed i’ the sun, and life seemed very sweet.
Outside the young boy-priest passed singing clear,
“Jesus the Son of Mary has been slain,
O come and fill his sepulchre with flowers.”
Ah, God! Ah, God! those dear Hellenic hours
Had drowned all memory of Thy bitter pain,
The Cross, the Crown, the Soldiers, and the Spear.
Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
Today, Good Friday, is a special day for those the world over who will meditate on the mystery of The Way of the Cross.Tweet
Given that this is Holy Thursday, it’s time for something meditative, and they don’t get much better than this very old Irish joke, which begins: “Tríar manach do·rat díultad dont saegul.” Not familiar with ancient Gaelic? This will help: Tríar = three persons, a trio; manach = of monks (genitive plural of ‘manach‘); do rat = gave (3rd singular perfect active of ‘do beir‘); díultad = denial, repudiation; don = to the (preposition ‘do’ + article ‘in’), saegul = ‘world’.
Don’t know if word-for-word translation would work on the stand-up circuit, though. An impatient audience might start thumbing the phones. The problem is that the language being used is probably more than 1,000 years old. Here’s a modernized, translated version:
Three monks decided to abandon the material world and its distractions for the ascetic, contemplative life in the wilderness. After exactly a year’s silence the first monk said:
“Tis a good life we lead.”
At the end of the next year, the second monk replied: “It is so.”
Another year being completed, the third monk exclaimed: “If I can’t have peace and quiet here, I’m going back to the world!”
Those anxious to read the original can find it in the British Library, where it’s known as Egerton 190. The manuscript was copied in 1709 by one Richard Tipper of Mitchelstown, County Cork. Dennis King, who writes the NÓTAÍ IMILL blag Gaeilge/Sean-Ghaeilge, has gone to considerable lengths to translate, illustrate and record this medieval Irish joke and his web page devoted to the Tríar manach is charming and instructive. It might not be the stuff of stand-up, but it is durable.Tweet