Brute Reality

Fifth in an occasional series on the poetry of Louis MacNeice

Ali Eteraz recently withdrew from the Infidel Bloggers Alliance. Follow the link to find out more about what happened; Eteraz is a humane and reasonable person, and doesn’t deserve the vitriol meted out to him.

What interested me were the comments on that post, and on his other posts. He gets some of the nastiest commenters you’ll ever see, ones who make Gates of Vienna’s piddling little trolls look like rays of sunshine.

The hardcore anti-jihad zealots, including Christians, flame him for being a Muslim. To them, his moderate stance and humane attitude are a pose, an example of extra-super-sophisticated taqiyya on his part, designed to lull the gullible fools of the West into somnolence while he and his fellow mujahideen bring their nefarious Islamic schemes to fruition.

On the other side are Muslims who consider him an apostate, a traitor to the faith and the Prophet, and unleash the most vile invective on him.

So Eteraz is caught between a rock and a hard place. Reading his post made me think of this poem, which I had intended to post anyway for the two or three readers who have taken to MacNeice’s verse and requested more.

By Louis MacNeice

If we could get the hang of it entirely
        It would take too long;
All we know is the splash of words in passing
        And falling twigs of song,
And when we try to eavesdrop on the great
        Presences it is rarely
That by a stroke of luck we can appropriate
        Even a phrase entirely.

If we could find our happiness entirely
        In somebody else’s arms
We should not fear the spears of the spring nor the city’s
        Yammering fire alarms
But, as it is, the spears each year go through
        Our flesh and almost hourly
Bell or siren banishes the blue
        Eyes of Love entirely.

And if the world were black or white entirely
        And all the charts were plain
Instead of a mad weir of tigerish waters,
        A prism of delight and pain,
We might be surer where we wished to go
        Or again we might be merely
Bored but in the brute reality there is no
        Road that is right entirely.

So, Eteraz: if you’re around, this one’s for you.

9 thoughts on “Brute Reality

  1. Also for the record, Let’s be fair and attribute the title of this entry to it’s rightful creator – Al Stewart, the scotish/English folk musician/trubadour/historian.

    ‘Laughing into 1939′ was one of many alegorical songs he has written describing Europe’s state of denial about the storm brewing in Nazi Germany. It artfully describes the guests’ preoccupation with a lovely woman and the New Years’ Eve celebration at hand and blissful self-imposed ignorance of the danger to come from the third Reich.

    So, give Al his props. It’s a great song.

    BTW, “Last Day of June 1934” is a similar song.

  2. D. Calderalo —

    Two things:

    1. You’re on the wrong post.

    2. I credited Al Stewart for the line in a couple of earlier posts, and made the assumption that readers would be familiar with the earlier posts, and recognize the reference. A foolish assumption as it turns out, and I’ll add an update to the correct post now.

  3. a4g —

    You really are precisely the third commenter or emailer to express an interest (the other 2 were from emailers). But it only takes 2 or 3 interested parties to induce me to post a poem! Kind of like offering Dean Martin a drink…

  4. D. Calderalo, a P.S. —

    I’m a big-time Al Stewart fan. “Last Day of June 1934” is one of my all-time favorites. When we went to an Al Stewart show in Pennsylvania a few years ago, I got to talking about the song with him during the break, and it induced him to play it during the second set! A real thrill for me.

  5. The Baron modestly doesn’t mention that His Boy, also a big Al Stewart fan, got to sing during that performance, backed up by Al Stewart.

    The song was “Joe, the Georgian” and Stewart had more or less forgotten “that old thing.” So the first two verses were a cappella, and then Stewart chimed in with the guitar melody and the audience started stomping their feet like real Russians.

    First time the Boy ever got paid for performing: people came up and gave him money. It really revved the audience.

    Now I’ve got my payment
    For the service that I gave
    They’ve given me my ticket
    To this place beyond the grave
    I suppose it’s kind of funny
    I suppose it’s kind of sad
    Thinking back on all the times we had

    But it’s kind of hot and smoky
    In this ante-room to Hell
    And I won’t make up a story
    ‘Cause you know the truth so well
    It’s much too late to worry
    That we never had a chance
    And when Joe the Georgian gets here
    We will dance, dance dance
    When Joe the Georgian gets here
    We will dance

    We all set off together
    On this sorry ship of state
    When the captain took the fever
    We were hijacked by the mate
    And he steered us through the shadows
    Upon an angry tide
    And cast us one by one over the side

    But it’s kind of hot and smoky
    In this ante-room to Hell
    And I won’t make up a story
    ‘Cause you know the truth so well
    It’s much too late to worry
    That we never had a chance
    And when Joe the Georgian gets here
    We will dance, dance dance
    When Joe the Georgian gets here
    We will dance

    There’s Kamenev, Zinoviev,
    Bukharin and the rest
    We’re sharpening our pitchforks
    And we’re heating up the ends
    We’ve got a few surprises
    For the mate when he appears
    I hope he likes the next few million years

    And it’s kind of hot and smoky
    In this anteroom to Hell
    And I won’t make up a story
    ‘Cause you know the truth so well
    It’s much too late to worry
    That we never had a chance
    And when Joe the Georgian gets here
    We will dance, dance dance
    When Joe the Georgian gets here
    We will dance….

    That’s a great song! Nobody writes ’em like Al Stewart.

    BTW, Stewart skeptically agreed to let him sing — probably thinking he didn’t know all the lyrics — and the Boy had them letter perfect, as the man next to me pointed out…

    …this was not too long after 9/11 and said man told me that he lived in NJ and was channeling the voices of the people who died in the Towers…trauma does strange things to us, hmm?

  6. For the uninitiated, there are fewer things more entertaining than just listening to Al’s often extended between-songs banter – especially when he’s on a roll and feels a raport with the audience.

    At a recent concert here in South Florida, he related to the audience how he, as a local fol singer, actually was able to bluff his way backstage when the Beatles played in Liverpool. He waxed nostalgic about his conversations w/ John Lennon and how he told him that he and his friends couldn’t hear John’s guitar during the first show. A reviewer for a local paper then went on to write that the Beatles’ second performance was better than the first, except for John’s guitar which was far louder than those of his bandmates. Al delights in telling this story. BTW, he does an excellent Lennon impersonation.

  7. Flaming posts from religious nutcases? What a concept.

    I think I can understand where Eteraz is coming from though. I have heard enough from Christians to know that they will never accept a majority Muslim people (Kurds) until they convert to Christianity. This is exactly how these religious whackos have put it to me. Of course, then the excuse will be that those who converted can’t be trusted because they DID convert. That’s the next argument in the religious arsenal, isn’t it?

    Let me also note that no one has been able to point out to me the difference between the “hardcore anti-jihad zealots” and the hardcore pro-jihad zealots.

    And there can never be any discussion with religious people either, because discussion ALWAYS degenerates into the flinging of ancient fairytales, commonly worshipped by both sides as “holy” texts. There is nothing that can make the intelligent person’s eyes glaze over more quickly than the first snippet of whichever fairytale is going to be employed in the current skirmish.

    I have never had to read any of these so-called holy texts for myself. All I have to do is look at the behavior of religious people, and I know everything I would ever need to know about the religion and its particular god. Hence I have come to the conclusion that mankind has yet to invent a god that is worthy of me.

    I see from this post that I am still right.

  8. Mizgin–

    I guess I’m fortunate: I don’t feel the necessity to judge a religion by the bad things its adherents have done, or failed to do.

    The radical Islamists who have hijacked planes, people, and politics have given Islam a bad name and aroused fear. The Ku Klux Klan did the same thing on a smaller scale in the south and parts of the Midwest. But laws were enacted against them and people saw them for what they were…and the times changed.

    Humans aren’t perfect; never will be. And some are not spiritually inclined — or rather, not transcendentally inclined. Everyone values *something* as their ultimate concern. For some it is clan, for some their part of the world, for some their natinon or culture. One indisputable fact is that we are born helpless and needing to belong…it can get skewed, it does get skewed in the process of living our lives…

    For me, “God” is ineffable. Whatever we can say about it can never come close to the reality. But that’s just me.

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