Saturday, 9 April 2011

Storming the barricades

I have had such an exciting afternoon and evening: a plenary lecture by H. Gustav Klaus, the great polymath and expert in working-class literature, who spoke about forgotten Chartist and subsequent poets: Hugh Williams, T E Nicholas, Idris Davies and others, and the relationships between nation and people, amongst other things. 

Williams produced a collection of National Songs and Poetical Pieces (1839-40), dedicated to the new Queen Victoria, whose royal wedding was generating much sycophancy (plus ça change…): whether he was being funny or genuinely hoped she'd be a reformer (she wasn't) is unclear, but one of the songs is an alternative national anthem which I rather liked, so here's an extract:

God save our native land,
Vouchsafe they fost’ring hand,
             God save the land-
From bread-tax, tolls, bastiles,
Barracks, and cat-nine tails,
Game laws, excise, and jails,
             God save the land!
From ignorance and pride
The SONS of LABOUR guide –
Save ere we fall.
Save us from sordid lies -
From bigots, traitors, spies,
And factions’ tools and ties,
That us enthral!
Williams may also have been one of the brains behind South Wales Rebecca Riots, in which men dressed up as women (supposedly referencing some Bible verse) to smash up road tolls.  A great man!

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