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.
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.