Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Midwinter Miscellany

Oscar Wilde Sucks

Or was it that he liked to be sucked? When Ellman was writing his biography, he announced excitedly to a friend that he had at last discovered what Wilde’s ‘perversion’ was — ‘Fellatio!’ ‘Indeed,’ said his friend; ‘But as the sucker or the sucked?’ Ellman’s face fell and he dashed off to do more research.


Poetry is Useless

or at least it ought to be: if you try to write a ‘useful’ poem, it will certainly be a bad poem. Of course, it may be that reading poetry has a positive moral effect, because it is a species of the contemplation of the beautiful. But that is quite another matter.


Poets are Useful

At the end of the Spanish Civil War the remaining Republican forces, harried by Franco’s fascists, Italy’s fascists, and Germany’s nazis, tried to get away over the border into France. The French closed the border and the trapped Republicans were slaughtered, except for those who got over the Pyrenees. These lived in constant fear of arrest as ‘illegal immigrants’, and even when allowed to stay would have been the first to be rounded up by the invading Germans now that WW II had started.

The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who had by now made a bob or two, (in those days people valued poetry), chartered or bought an old cargo ship, the ‘Winnipeg’, and himself went over to France and sought out 2,000 endangered Spanish Republican refugees. The ‘Winnipeg’ took them safely to a warm welcome in Chile, where the Spanish Republican Government in Exile gave them generous six month grants to set themselves up in their new home.


Grave Concerns

Now seems as good a time as any to repeat something I’ve mentioned before: special protective and hygienic measures have had to be taken at the graves of Oscar Wilde and Francisco Franco. In the first place because so many people kiss it, in the second because so many people spit on it.

Here is Oscar Wilde’s tomb in Père Lachaise cemetery, sculpted by Jacob Epstein:

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