Student Snowflakes Deface Poem by ‘Racist’ Kipling

Rischgitz/Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty

Student activists at Manchester University have defaced a large-scale copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” in their Student Union building and replaced it with a poem by Maya Angelou. Kipling, they claim, is ‘racist’.

Not so long ago, this would have been called by its proper name: vandalism. And the student activists would have been appropriately disciplined.

Today, in pretty much every news report I’ve read on the subject, the students just get free, largely uncritical publicity for their toxic identity politics virtue-signalling.

Here’s the Mail version:

On Facebook, Liberation and Access Officer at the University of Manchester Students Union Sara Khan, wrote:  “A failure to consult students during the process of adding art to the newly renovated SU building resulted in Rudyard Kipling’s work being painted on the first floor last week.

“We, as an exec team, believe that Kipling stands for the opposite of liberation, empowerment, and human rights – the things that we, as an SU, stand for. “Well-known as author of the racist poem ‘The White Man’s Burden’, and a plethora of other work that sought to legitimate the British Empire’s presence in India and de-humanise people of colour, it is deeply inappropriate to promote the work of Kipling in our SU, which is named after prominent South African anti-Apartheid activist, Steve Biko.”

Fatima Abid, the general secretary of Manchester’s SU, added on Twitter: “Today, as a team we removed an imperialist’s work from the walls of our union and replaced them with the words of Maya Angelou- God knows black and brown voices have been written out of history enough, and it’s time we try to reverse that, at the very least in our union.”

Let’s be clear: these people are freaks.

Read the rest at Breitbart.

What You Learn When You Learn a Poem by Heart

Like the writer, you’re compelled to weigh each word.

I’ve just learned by heart another poem — my first in nearly 30 years. The one I chose was A.E. Housman’s ‘On Wenlock Edge’, not for any special reason other than that it’s part of the canon and that it happened to be in an anthology conveniently to hand by the bath when I decided to embark on this new venture.

When I started, it was purely for the mental exercise. (I mean, nice though it is to be able to quote lines of verse, I can’t conceive of many circumstances when I’ll be able to wheel out a phrase like ‘When Uricon the city stood’ and be congratulated for my insight, erudition and pertinency.) But what I discovered during the four baths it took me to pick up those five stanzas is something I’d never properly appreciated before: that to memorise a poem is to inhabit and understand it in a way rarely possible when you just read it. Let me show you, with reference to the first verse.

On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves
The gale, it plies the saplings double
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

One of the problems with poetry, the reason most of us read it less often than prose, is that it requires so much attention. Reading a novel is like completing a marathon, but that doesn’t mean that reading a poem is like doing the 100 metres. Rather, it’s another experience entirely, more akin, say, to solving a crossword puzzle with a slight headache while smoking opium. Especially if it’s someone a bit difficult, like Auden.

When you read sustained prose you can afford to skip over stuff. It doesn’t matter if you miss the odd metaphor, because plot and character and style are the thing and there are plenty enough pages to pick up on those. With a poem, though, you have to pay attention. That word ‘snow’, for example. On first glance — mine anyway — you might come away with the impression that Housman is describing a wintry landscape. Which I don’t think he is. Rather he’s borrowing, for effect, snow’s chill and falling thickness. More likely we’re in autumn.

Read the rest at the Spectator.

John Clare: Your Favourite New Old Poet

July 31, 2014

John Clare (1793-1864)

This has been a terrible year for horseflies. It’s bad enough if you’re human: often by the time you swat them off the damage has already been wrought by their revolting, cutting mandibles and it’s not till 24 hours later, I find, that the bite reaches peak unpleasantness, swelling into a huge itchy dome which somehow never quite generates the massive sympathy you feel you deserve. But obviously it’s worse if you’ve no hands to swat them with, as Girl and I were reminded when we went out for a summer ride.

Every few yards our mounts shuddered and twitched and twisted their heads back under sustained and vicious assault from the evil clegs. Sometimes, you could see the blood. ‘Kill them! Keep killing them!’ commanded our teacher, Jane, explaining how you had constantly to watch each other’s horses and squash all the biters that their own riders couldn’t reach. It struck me that the horse’s tail is a perfect example of Darwinian natural selection: any proto-horse that lacked such a vital anti-cleg device would soon have been driven by madness to early extinction. (Lessons there for the Conservative party, surely?)

Anyway, days later, I was reading the July entry from my monthly literary treat The Shepherd’s Calendar and I came upon this couplet about horses: ‘Switching their tails and turning round/ To knap the gadflys teazing wound’. And as I often do with John Clare I felt that thrill of delighted recognition at yet another instance of rural life so acutely observed and perfectly expressed. Truly if you love the country there is no finer poet than Clare.

Read more at The Spectator

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