ONLY ONE IN STEP


i

 

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is

somehow very ‘Thirties: lots of chaps in

the dark behind high walls; much shadow-play

with unidentifiable voices;

belated, blinding suddenness of light.

The decade’s putative worthies (who all,

by the way, seem to have been chaps) go forth

unknowingly in parallel: e.g.

Hitler in Berchtesgarten, Wittgenstein

(Adolf’s erstwhile peer from Linz) in Cambridge.

Did Wittgenstein walk with Blunt, Philby,

Burgess and Maclean as the fifth man?

Meanwhile, elsewhere, at Trinity College

A.E. Housman tutored Enoch Powell: two

classicist lads from the West Midlands – and

the land of lost and wistful laddishness.

 

 

ii

 

Our Enoch – the wife’s second cousin twice

removed – although he always acted the

philosopher-king, indeed believed it,

in Parliament, in uniform, in the

groves of academe – appeared to labour,

tormented, in the dark, poor soul. Always

a solitary, he was chained to the

metaphysics of empire, protocol

and tribe: from the ‘Rivers of blood’ to ‘No

Surrender!’, preferring voluntary

exile to certain public failure. Yet,

see how, the fluent theme has become a

continuo – ‘influx’, ‘deluge’, ‘flood’, how

his acolytes have grown, like dragon’s teeth,

loquacious prisoners in Powell’s teeming,

booming cave of phantasmagoria.[1]



[1] The poem has previously been published on this site and is one of the most visited.

 

 

 

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