An English In Kentucky


















Saturday March 2nd 2019Tim Candler9


    Who knows how boring and disjointed your correspondent can be, so let's start with Our Man Walking Stewart's idea of Motion, which isn't complicated if you think about rivers. In us people things move, the only issue was from where to where do things move, and here there are degrees of high tension, dispute and so on. What with the American Colonies winning a war, declaring a Republic and in 1789 actually agreeing on a constitution to guide it, it was during the French Revolution many a European found themselves able to easily visit the idea of Revolutionary Change just next door in Revolutionary France, they wanted to see the New French Republic and how it moved for themselves. It was in Paris, that Walking Stewart became friends with William Wordsworth, the suggestion is they talked about nature, Wordsworth as a Romantic, Stewart as the First Man of Nature as he modestly liked to call himself, and I don't really know whether Stewart knew the French girl Wordsworth had a child called Caroline with, he later wrote a poem called Caroline. But there's a master poem, the big one, Wordsworth wrote called Prelude, it's like an autobiography, it explores himself and why, it's long, and in Prelude Wordsworth does spend time thinking about Paris in the turbulent month of September of 1792. News back then was word of mouth, printed pamphlets and there were newssheets, which being Revolutionary French newssheets invariably aggravated those in power and as a result were closed down, publishers rounded up and given a good talking to. Wordsworth read about and absorbed the aura of a changing Paris, not being French he didn't feel it so much in a visceral sense, except sometimes as he grew disillusioned with revolutionary tactics and he found himself feeling patriotic at the thought of just going back to the tea and muffins of England, which he eventually did because of the 1793 war between England and France. He left his girlfriend and their child in France, didn't see them again until the peace of 1802, by which time Wordsworth had married an English woman, an infant school friend of his called Mary Hutchinson. Wordsworth's father was in the legal profession, employed by an English Earl, I think. For his part Our Man Walking Stewart was more of what they call a Free Thinker, a little allergic to accepted opinions, who many years previously, when he was about 14 years old had been sent to India to work for the East India Company because his father reckoned he was a touch deranged and a little embarrassing to be around.





    And it was in Paris in the early September of 1792 the Revolutionary Authorities afraid of a resurgence by Royalist Forces chose to start guillotining prisoners, many of whom weren't so much loyal royalists, as they were petty criminals, thousands of them, the whole episode was probably a serious gearing up for the possible turmoil amongst less enthusiastic revolutionaries that might follow an act of The Revolution that actually executed a French King, it was no mystery that the role of king had had cohesive value in French society since the 5th Century. Similar problem was shared by the Soviets and the Russian Royal Family, but unlike the French who put on a spectacle, the Russians killed their royal family in secret. Wordsworth describes the passion of that 1792 September in Paris, it was the beginning of what came to be called The Terror, factions, the worry, the sudden quarrels, the fights, the fear, the panoply of uncertainty and he mentioned a moment when he watched a French military officer reading the news and as he read,"(the officer's) sword was haunted by his touch continually, like an uneasy place in his own body."  It's Prelude 9 line 160 of the 1850's edition, if you're interested. Either way, "A tranquillizing spirit presses now on my corporeal frame, so wide appears the vacancy between me and those days, which yet have such self-presence in my mind that sometimes when I think of them I seem two consciousnesses - conscious of myself, and of some other being."  Prelude 2 line 27. Yes indeed, the river stays the same but the water flows. A "tranquillizing spirit presses" but all things go, nothing stays. It's flux, an idea that suggests you can't step in the same river twice. For Walking Stewart the river was nature, us creatures we are the flow. For Stewart the river was more like a truth we people often find ourselves in opposition to.  He called one of his books, The Apocalypse of Nature, and be careful, he used the word apocalypse in the revelation sense. In the end Napoleon crowned himself emperor, Russia reinvented and then more recently reinvented again the idea of a Czar, Wordsworth became Poet Laureate of the English Crown and an ardent supporter of the Church of England, Walking Stewart in his endless walking around searching for understanding visited Boston USA where he was accused of Blasphemy and had to stow away on ship bound for Bristol, England. Meanwhile, as the poet Permenides suggested 2500 years ago "One should both say and think that being is." I quote the translation correctly, it was an 'All I'm Saying' type existentialist instruction from the Ancient Greek I guess.


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