Through me many long dumb voices,
Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves,
Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs,
Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion,
And of the threads that connect the stars, and of wombs and of the
And of the rights of them the others are down upon,
Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised,
Fog in the air, beetles rolling balls of dung.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff
that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the
largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and
hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest
joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin
leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving
their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands
and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of
work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the
refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of swift-streaking
engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights,
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,
The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two,
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)
I hear the violoncello, ('tis the young man's heart's complaint,)
I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.
/ Veit Bader -- Social movement organizations and the democratic order : reorganizing the social basis of political citizenship in complex societies / Klaus Eder -- The civic networking movement : the internet as a new democratic public space?
At first sight, it seems hard to imagine a more unlikely pairing than the one announced in this lecture’s title. George Orwell had a profound dislike of Roman Catholic writers (though – as we shall see later – he accorded a grudging respect to Evelyn Waugh as a literary craftsman), and, had he encountered Thomas Merton – especially the earlier Merton – he would undoubtedly have recoiled. Not that Merton was exactly a conventional religious writer. He became a Catholic in 1938 after a distinctly rackety youth, and spent most of the rest of his life as a Trappist monk in the Unites States. But he wrote copiously, corresponding with a wide range of literary figures, including Henry Miller, James Baldwin, Czeslaw Milosz, Boris Pasternak and several Latin American poets, some of whose work he also translated; another surprising friend was Joan Baez. He left behind him, in addition to a huge amount of journal material and many books on prayer and monasticism, a couple of incomplete drafts for novels and a fair quantity of poetry, published and unpublished, some of it dramatically ‘experimental’ in style. This year is the centenary of his birth, and the worldwide interest in his work shows no sign at all of decreasing: some 500 people attended the centenary conference about him in Kentucky this last June. Yet when all’s said and done, he is not on the face of things a natural partner for Orwell, despite his literary contacts and concerns: he remains a wholly committed catholic Christian, and in his first published works he is, for all his extensive literary culture, often dogmatically partisan in his dismissal of all that lies outside the Catholic sphere.
Orwell went to Spain to fight for the Republic, without intending to report or to write, but nonetheless his non-fiction account Homage to Catalonia (1938) resulted. It sold badly at the time but is now seen as a classic, honest description of war, and one of the shrewdest polemics against the Stalinist attempt to dominate both the Spanish Republic and the whole of the international left-wing movement. For a brief period, until 1939, he was militantly anti-war, close to pacifism. He remained a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), and was often mistakenly called Trotskyite because of his strong left-wing views - he regarded traditional Labour party members as milk-and-water compromisers. Meanwhile, he scraped a thin living as a novelist and reviewer.
Between 1927 and 1934, when asked where he stood politically, Orwell would often reply simply, 'I'm a Tory anarchist'. He was an individualist who resented one man or one culture imposing its values on another; and though familiar with socialist arguments about economic exploitation, he did not consider himself a socialist until 1935.
Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.
All this poured out in Orwell's first published novel, Burmese Days (1935). The work is often taken to be socialist, because it is anti-imperialist and because we know from his Down and Out in Paris and London that the author spent time among tramps and down-and-outs - in order to see at first hand, not from books or reports, if the British treated their poor as they did the Burmese and the Indians. He thought, on the whole, they did, although later he admitted that he was mistaken in seeing tramps as the extreme of working-class poverty, rather than as a highly differentiated sub-class.
Many writers and columnists try to imitate Orwell, but behind his writing was a unique and strange set of experiences that few now can - or would care to - emulate. He seems a figure born almost out of time, a figure from the English Civil War born into the early 20th century. However, his growing reputation, and the great sales of his writings after his death, perhaps show that we feel some loss of integrity, or of great causes to support, as we survey a troubled world while cocooned in a comfortable consumer society. The critic V.C. Pritchett called him 'the wintry conscience of a generation', but Orwell might have added that it was a 'long generation'.
Bernard Crick took early retirement in 1984 to live in Edinburgh. However, he later became the Chairman of the Advisory group on Education for Citizenship and the teaching of Democracy in Schools, 1997, after being approach by a former student at Sheffield University, David Blunkett. The report was published 1998. He later advised the Labour government on devising the citizenship tests for immigrants to the UK.
Sir Bernard Crick, academic, essayist and journalist, is author George Orwell: A Life (Penguin Books), In Defence of Politics, Political Thoughts and Polemics, Essays on Politics and Literature, Essays on Citizenship and Crossing Borders: Political Essays. He is emeritus professor of politics at London University and a fellow of Birkbeck College. He has lived in Edinburgh since 1984 and was active in the devolution movement. In 1997 David Blunkett made him chair of the advisory group on the teaching of citizenship and democracy in English schools, and subsequently adviser on citizenship to the Department for Education.