Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Lost Childhood

I think that was the name of the story. By Graham Greene: it had the moral profundity of his more serious novels, but concentrated into the short story form, making it particularly brilliant and distressing. It had as epigraph a quotation which either he got wrong or I have remembered wrongly: In the lost childhood of Judas was Christ betrayed. Correctly it is ‘In the lost boyhood of Judas Christ was betrayed’ and it is from a poem by the Irish writer and nationalist George William Russell, who published under the pseudonym Æ.
The point of course is that those who are betrayed in their childhood grow up to be betrayers. I think the poem pre-dates Freud. It is an example of the way in which poetry, with its way of using language in a sideways or under- (or over-) hand way can say things that ‘normal’ language is not yet able to articulate. Æ was not an ‘advanced’ poet; like many people who are politically radically left, he was literarily conservative. Poets, including the most conventional, are the pioneers of language, and so of thought.


  1. Brilliant but succinct analysis of the quote. I was looking for a reference to it on account of John Banville's article in the Guardian, where Graham Greene applies it to Kim Philby.