I thought I might perhaps indulge myself in a few irrelevant words before going on with the reading, then I’ll read you some poems as a reward for listening to it. It’s because I think this is the last time that I’m likely to address a London audience, by this time next year I’ll be over eighty and even more reluctant than I am now to travel away from Northumberland.
So I’d like to take the liberty of telling you a few things before I go on to read these other short poems.
You know that my friends are dead for the most part: Yeats, and Pound, Zukofsky, Carlos-Williams, and the other day Hugh MacDiarmid and perhaps you think I belong to a dead generation that knew nothing that this generation need listen to. However, my friends are not as dead as all that. It’s not wise to ignore what they had to say and quite daft to try to go behind them to the moribund poetry that they superseded.
I’ve noticed in the past few years a darker reaction than any I remember except at the beginning of the 1930s, In all things, In politics, social morals, in literature. To be sure, there are always of course wild men to be laughed at, not pelted, by people who refrain from making rash experiments in order to follow recipes that have been tried before and didn’t work. Which is the wilder road I’ll leave you to say; no names, no pack drill. But I do find a ridiculous number of young men who are, as Pound said of Dante, (?diablement?) dans les idée’s recu, ideas of long ago, unburied though rotten.
Of course, I’m thinking chiefly of poetic techniques, but there’s also a great rush to throw reason overboard and trust in one magic or another; to achieve wisdom without toil by practising the rites of some church or other or stilling the argumentative parts of your brain with drugs. Those who have neither gone Buddhist nor Psychedelic are apt still to desert God for the church, which exists by concealing God and which is partly responsible for the revival of censorship by irresponsible police or customs men, for blasphemy prosecutions and laws against undefined obscenity, for all that Mrs. Whitehouse symbolizes.