Dawn over Galston Gorge: Saturday Morning 6.30 am
We have had an amazing week with the war poets and with their supportive voice Charlie Chaplin, with Bobby Wabalanginy doing a strip-tease in front of gathered dignitaries in That Dead Man Dance and with Blake’s Songs of Experience. Looking across all of these, from my perspective they all link together as being subversive of the status quo in their times. This is of course the time-honoured role of all the arts (except when they become the handmaiden of the state as in Soviet Russia or Ancient Rome). Charlie Chaplin has to take the crown this week as the artist who above all dared to challenge the most oppressive force that the 20th Century had to confront, namely the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler. We watched Chaplin not only mimic and mock the Führer, but also use the opportunity of his mistaken identity to give a speech to the world that challenged the very foundations of warmongering for all time. If you have not heard this speech then do so right now. It is one of the great classic texts of the 20th Century. It is also worth watching this as part of the climax of Chaplin’s masterpiece The Great Dictator:
Bobby Wabalanginy- key character and central narrator in Miles Franklin award winning novel That DeadMan Dance by Kim Scott- (currently the focus of Aust Lit essays!) concludes with this fabulous, transformative indigenous dance, in which Bobby, in front of all the British dignitaries who would love to supress anything that is vaguely indigenous, progressively strips off all his clothes, sending – with unerring aim- each article to a hat stand. There his clothes construct a “Hollow Man”, a European figure with no heart and soul, while Bobby, starkers -except for the residual scarlet undies he keeps on for “decorum”- dances and gives this wonderful closing sermon about why the “Hollow Men” really do need to listen to the life and sound of the indigenous owners of this land:
Noonga boodjar, kwop nyoondok yoowarl koorl yey, yang ngaalan…
Because you need to be inside the sound and the spirit of it, to live here properly. And how can that be, without we people who have been here for all time?
PS: If you want to hear what Kim Scott said recently about his novel to one of the students in your group, then click on the Australian Literature link at the top of this page!
And Billy Blake would have loved all this. It is right in his territory: thumbing his nose at the status quo and creating poems with pictures that dared to suggest that the fine edifice of London-town- with all its laws helping to secure the lifestyle of the rich and those in power, was -when you looked at it more closely- a texture of corruptions that brought anguish to the poor and the disenfranchised. Here is Blake’s “London”
I wonder thro' each charter'd street. Near where the chartere'd Thames does flow And mark in every face I meet Marks of weakness, marks of woe. In every cry of every Man. In every Infants cry of fear. In every voice; in every ban. The mind-forg'd manacles I hear How the Chimney-sweepers cry Every blackning Church appalls. And the hapless Soldiers sigh Runs in blood down palace walls But most thro' midnight streets I hear How the youthful Harlots curse Blasts the new-born Infants tear And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse
In the context of the recent riots in London town, when you study the underlying causes one wonders where Blake’s sympathies would have been? It is well known that he did take to the streets in the Gordon Riots of 1780.
This coming week: more of Blake’s songs; Australian Literature of the early 19th Century; and the first week of Art and Spirit in the Twentieth Century where we explore the huge spiritually motivated upheaval in the arts that was attempting to counterbalance the war and blood lust still fomenting in Europe.
In your groups, if you get a chance, explore the new Clemente (Mission Australia) Introduction to Literature Group. Give them some supportive feedback on their blogs as they make their way into ACU. They may be sitting next to you in a year or so.
Thank you all for a great week. See you soon