Thursday, 24 March 2016
William Morris was an English textile designer, artist, writer and revolutionary socialist and political agitator associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts movement born on this day in 1854.
His aim was not only to create beautiful things but also a beautiful society. He became an important figure in the emergence of socialism in Britain, founding the Socialist League in 1884, active in promoting its cause through his writing and lecturing on street corners. Throughout his life he continued to identify with the revolutionary left. He was heartened by the Labour movements break with liberalism, but he warned, perhaps more clearly than anyone else at the time of the dangers of reformism. Right up to his death in 1896 he was agitating and arguing for a socialist movement that would change the world by open revolt. He also embraced radical ideas of sexual freedom and libertarianism. There is a strong libertarian temper in his writings and being a close friend of Peter Kropotkin ( eminent anarchist at the time) was well aware of the anarchist case against government and political authority.
In 1885 he bought out his Chants for Socialism which the following two poems are drawn from. In his novel News from Nowhere (1890) he recorded his own idiosyncratic vision after the abolition of classes. In it he envisages a society of equality and freedom. Such a vision - a rational grounded utopia , apparently so distant to us - is precisely what is needed for us today.
An interesting passionate and varied life, he hated the age he lived, its commerce, its poverty, its industry, but most of all he hated its individualistic, selfish system of values. At the end of his life he explained.
"The study of history and the love and practice of art forced me into a hatred of the civilisation which, if things were to stop as they are would turn history into inconsequent nonsense, and make art a collection of the curiosities of the past."
His words still have powerful resonance in our own turbulent times.
Saith man to man, We've heard and known
That we no master need
To live upon this earth, our own,
In fair and mainly deed,
The grief of slaves long passed away
For us hath forged the chain,
Till now each worker's patient day
Builds up the House of Pain.
And we, shall we too, crouch and quall.
Ashamed, afraid of strife,
And lest our lives untimely fail
Embrace the Death in Life?
Nay, cry aloud, and have no fear,
We few against the world;
Awake, arise! the hope we bear
Against the curse is hurled.
It grows and grows - are we the same,
The feeble hand, the few?
Or, what are these with eyes aflame,
and hands to deal and do?
This is the lost that bears the word,
NO MASTER HIGH OR LOW-
A lightning flame, a shearing sword,
A storm to overthrow.
All For The Cause
Hear a word, a word in season, for the day is drawing
When the Cause shall call upon us, some to live, and some
He that dies shall not die lonely, many an one hath gone
He that lives shall bear no burden heavier than the life they
Nothing ancient in their story, w'en but yesterday they bled,
Youngest they of earth's beloved, last of the valiant dead.
E'en the tidings we are telling was the tale they had to tell,
E'en the hope that our hearts cherish, was the hope for
which they fell.
In the grave where tyrants thrust them, lies their labour
and their pain,
But undying from their sorrow springeth up the hope again.
Mourn not therefore, nor lament it, that the world outlives
Voice and vision yet they give us, making among our hands
Some had name, and fame, and humour, learn'd they were,
and wise and strong;
Some were nameless, poor, unletterred, weak in all but grief
Named and nameless, all live in us; ne and all they had
Every pain to count for nothing every sorrow to forget.
Hearken how they cry, "O happy, happy ye were
In the sad slow night's departing, is the rising of the morn.
"Fair the crown the Cause hath for you, well to die or well
Through the battle, through the tangle, peace to gain or
peace to give."
Ah, it may be! Oft mescemeth, in the days that yet shall be,
When no slave of gold abideth 'twist the breadth of sea to
Oft, when men and maids are merry, ere the sunlight leaves
And they bless the day, beloved, all too short for all their
Some pause awhile and ponder on the bitter days of
Ere the toil of strife and battle overththrew the curse of gold;
Then 'twist lips of loved and lover solemn thoughts of us
We who were once fools and dreamers, then shall be the leave and wise.
There amidst the world new-builded shall our earthly deeds
Through our names be all forgotten, and the tale of how we
Life or death then, who shall heed it, what we gain or what
Fair flies life amid the struggle, and the Cause for each shall
Hear a word, a word in season, for the day is drawing nigh,
When the Cause hall call upon us, some to live, and some
Posted by teifidancer at 03:30