This counterpoint to Wittgenstein's famous 7th proposition in TLP is from Auden's Secondary Worlds published in 1968. I wish I had read it then.
In recent years, I have used this blog and these posts to work out positions and identify issues. Not exclusively, but primarily. Seldom do I have a preconceived argument to advance in advance, and my faux-Oulipian approach (500-ish words and no more than an hour at the keyboard) is intended to sharpen my focus.
It also serves to establish priorities. In the last few weeks, there has been and remains much to consider. Ukraine, of course, but also Syria and Afghanistan; the expulsion of a friend and comrade from the Labour Party for anti-semitism (yes, of course he's Jewish); the awesome shows from Dylan on the Spring leg of the Rough & Rowdy Ways tour; the imminence of a new baseball season (we play the Yankees in the Bronx tomorrow); the selling-off of Channel 4; the fact that Covid has preventing me seeing many of my grandchildren for months; the culling of a beautiful tree in a nearby garden.
You will note that, even half way through this post, I still do not have the words ready to do my bidding. In fact, I have not yet even an inkling of what my bidding should be. So some random thoughts on a recent discovery.
Venning concerns himself with the ‘what-ifs’ of history. In the volume I have read, the chapter headings give the game away. His Edgehill chapter, for example, is entitled Could the war have been won quickly by the King? The year 1644 is headed Was the war winnable in 1644 - by the King, or by parliament without resorting to the creation of the New Model Army?
Not snappily worded, I agree. But good questions. And inside these larger questions are small details of what might have happened has something happened or not happened.
A new one for me is the fact that Parliamentary cavalry commander Stapleton had a clear shot, at close quarters, at the charismatic Prince Rupert during the first battle of Newbury. His pistol misfired.
Would Rupert's death have destroyed morale in the Royalist cause? Would the King have given in? Or would he continued his stubborn approach? Would he, perhaps, have refused to engage at Marston Moor?
Venning describes it as “the most vital what if of the battle”. Of such mishaps is history made.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Not actually in the vaults but it will be. It is PJ Proby reading from Eliot’s The Waste Land and its bloody brilliant. The recommendation comes from the poet Roy Kelly (@stanfan49) who writes: “Summer and PJ surprised us.” Thanks, Roy.