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Friday, March 26, 2010

Tory Shakespeare abuse - a pedant writes

I am getting increasingly irritated by the phrase coined by the Tories to describe the period of industrial action that we are going through at present. To be fair the term 'spring of discontent' is quite clever in that it harks back to and evokes memories of the winter of 1978/79 which led directly to the defeat of the last Labour Government. However, Shakespeare it is not. The words do not even make sense as a metaphor.

It is difficult to imagine Richard III intoning "Now is the spring of my discontent", not least because the change destroys the rhythm and metre of the line. However, the reason the original phrase works is because of the contrast the King draws between the coldest season, where trees and plant life are dying back, animals are hibernating and men and women are drawing close to the fire for comfort and warmth, with the glorious summer, a natural celebration made by the life-giving sun.

Spring is a bit wishy-washy to have any place in this comparison and in any case it does not tend to generate discontent. Instead it evokes images of a reawakening, a rebirth dominated by blossom and new-born lambs. It is a time for joy not discontent, a time to look forward not backwards.

If I was asked to think of another metaphor to sum up the series of strikes facing us I do not think that I could but that is no reason to corrupt Shakespeare. The nearest literary allusion I can come up with is to repeat T.S. Elliot's lamentation that 'April is the cruellest month'. That is something that Gordon Brown may well discover for himself if things continue as they are.
Funnily enough Gordon Brown reminds me of another T.S. Eliot poem - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock...

"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
Your literary musings are all well and good Peter but on the Freedom Central blog your colleagues are attacking a democratic RMT strike.
That is not true and you know it
Don't forget....

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
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