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Thursday, June 6, 2024



Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light


Charles Pigden said...

Against Dylan Thomas
I hope this counter-poem won't be regarded as impertinence form a much younger man (I'm 67). But after all, Dylan Thomas probably thought, when he wrote the original poem, that the dying light would not be an issue for him personally for many a long year. (He was of course mistaken).

‘Rage Rage against the dying of the light?’

Yes - if there were a God who made it die

Then rage might be the right way to respond.
A God who makes the marvel of a man 

Only to wreck him bit by squalid bit -

We might well rage against so cruel a God

Who makes, only to mar, his handiwork

But if there is no God, no hidden hand 

Whose handiwork we are; if minds emerge

From undirected mindlessness, who then 

Should be the target of our ageing rage?

Anger at nothing, anger at no one 

Consumes the remnant of our fading days,

Deprives us now of joys we yet might taste,

Fists shaken at the all unknowing void 

Cannot be used to work what good we may!
So do not rage against the dying light,

Rather make what use of it you can.

Do not despise the sunset but make hay

Whilst red and gold illuminate the land
Perhaps as twilight deepens there’s a chance

Of love to feel or one last thing to do –

Don’t waste last chances, don’t waste the last light!

Rage is a waste for we were born to die.

John Rapko said...

It's not for nothing that Jean Améry's book On Aging is subtitled (in English) Revolt and Resignation.--I've been reading daily Charles Taylor's new 600-page tome on poetry, one of whose central claims is that Romantic poetry (for him Wordsworth, Hölderlin, Novalis, Shelley, and Keats) exemplifies a poetics wherein the work first of all invokes semi-transparently, in a novel and highly individualized way, a kind of cosmic order that is meant to be understood as a fragile and fugitive successor to the Renaissance chain of being (in Lovejoy's sense); and further that the reader is mean to feel, experience, and be moved by this new sense of order. This claim is coupled with Taylor's own taste in poetry, which seems to me to favor the sententious, with homilies about life and death and beauty and such, and great yeses and noes. I suppose it's all highly individual and non disputandum, but I'm find the conception more richly realized in, e.g. 'I got to keep movin', I got to keep movin'/Blues fallin' down like hail, blues fallin' down like hail./And the days keeps on worryin' me/ There's a hellhound on my trail, hellhound on my trail.'-- Taylor discusses at some length the work of about a dozen poets, not one of whom is among the dozen poets that I most favor from the past couple of hundred years. I'd counter Dylan Thomas with some favorite bits from a favorite, Whitman in 'The Song of Myself': 'And there will never be any more perfection than there is now' + 'And to die is different from what anyone supposed, and luckier.' + 'I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love, If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.'

Fritz Poebel said...

Given that today is the 80th anniversary of D-Day, I would like to add classicist Richmond Lattimore’s poem “Witness to Death” to the list here. Lattimore’s lines about the feeding face of the great pig of time present an image that is hard to forget.

“Witness to Death”

Disconsolate I
from the thinning line
have seen friends drop and die.
All I called mine
has gone or will go
from its place in the sun.
This we know,
and nothing can be done.
Villon, Nashe, Dunbar,
to your great testaments
I too assent from afar,
bestow my violence,
and throw my rhyme
and rage in the feeding face
of the great pig of time--
Beauty gone from her place,
wit wasted and lost,
promise killed with blight,
McCarter and George Frost.
Dilys who was delight,
Gilly suddenly gone,
Cartwright killed in the air,
Forrester, Conklin undone
in their prime. Where, where
is the rose, and the great
heart, and the shine of wit?
I hate death. I hate
all who speak well of it.
Dunbar, Nashe, Villon,
we sang as best we could
for the sake of those who are gone,
and it does no good.

Anonymous said...

Just don't mention the carpet bombing of Normandy before and after D-day, I guess. The NYRB has published a good article about it in its latest issue (here:

It seems the bombing made little sense from a military viewpoint and killed thousands and thousands of people - the dead not to be mentioned, let along honoured.

Eric said...

I did not know about that, Anonymous.

So, the wanton carnage of Dresden wasn't a one-off.
It's astonishing that even Air Marshal Harris ("Bomber Harris") had reservations about carpet-bombing Normandy and it was Roosevelt who "vetoed all objections."

From a lecture by Kurt Vonnegut I quoted from in a past post:

"When we got back to the United States, I asked another war buddy, now dead, Pvt Bernard V. O'Hare, what he'd learned, if anything. He said he learned not to believe everything his government said anymore.

Here was a lie we had been told. Our enemies bombed civilian populations whereas our side did not. Our side had bombsights which were incredibly accurate so we destroyed only military targets as much as possible, leaving their surroundings unharmed. We saw for ourselves it simply wasn't true....

Well, that was supposedly a big difference between us and our inhuman enemies. At the beginning of WWII and before our country got into it ... the Germans bombed civilian populations in Spain, and then in Holland, and then in England simply to be terrifying. To demoralize those who opposed them. Our side, basically the democratic societies of the United States and England and the British Commonwealth would never behave that heartlessly. But by the end of the war, as those of us who were in Dresden saw first-hand, obliterating whole cities with no particular targets in mind, had for our side, for 'the good guys,' become perfectly ordinary, a logical thing to do....

And every nation with such a capability has a large number of persons coming to work every day, earning their livings by being perpetually ready to bring about the total destruction of vast areas of the planet. Of millions of human beings, no questions asked. Should that seem, under the circumstances, to make good sense."

Gaza shows that the American ruling class learned nothing (good) from that experience in WWII.

Eric said...

No man is an island,
Entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were:
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were.

Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.

Eric said...

james wilson said...

Eric @ 12:48 pm
“and then in England”???

Don’t forget Scotland:

s. wallerstein said...

Raul Sohr, the nightly international news analyst on CNN-Chile, noted that the fact that
it was largely the Soviet Union which defeated Nazism was completely missing from the
D-Day memorial events.

That has something to do, Sohr speculated, with the fact that Russia is once again the bad guy du jour, but in honor of the historical facts perhaps they should have mentioned the battle of Stalingrad.

Without the Eastern Front, Hitler would have concentrated all his forces to counter an invasion of occupied WesternEurope from Great Britain and D Day would have failed.

Eric said...

james wilson,

I don't know that Vonnegut was drawing a distinction there between Scotland and England. For most Americans of his generation, "England" meant the whole of the UK. They would either refer to the region as "England" or "Great Britain," and would tend to only mention Scotland in reference to something that uniquely involved Scotland.

OTOH it's true that the bombing of Scotland is almost never mentioned these days. The UK film industry churns out countless films and tv shows set during that period, many prominently featuring the London blitz, but I don't recall any mentioning the bombing of Scotland.

A 2016 article in The Scotsman says that even the majority of Scots today have a very limited knowledge of the air raids on Scotland.

aaall said...

Of course, there is that Earth version where Stalin and Molotov didn't sign a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany and divide up other nations including Poland, thereby facilitating the beginning of what became WWII. I believe Khrushchev in his memoirs quotes Stalin as acknowledging that absent Lend-Lease from 1941 to 1945 matters would have turned out differently for the Soviets. Both regimes deserved what they got - too bad it wasn't more.

Russia might have gotten a shout out for helping defeat fascism if it hadn't helped start WWII and then taken its post-Soviet fascist heel-turn and started yet another land war in Europe.

Eric, I believe Roosevelt deferred to Eisenhower and Ike and Montgomery, believing they faced casualties of 50% - 80%, insisted on what, in retrospect, was overkill. The days of set-piece battles where folks could pack a picnic basket and ride out to watch the action were long over by 1944.

s. wallerstein said...



"Use every man according to his desert and who shall scape whipping?"

james wilson said...

Eric: Since there really are so many of them in the comments section of this blog, I don’t suppose it makes much sense to say I hope to avoid raising a side issue. At the same time, it isn’t merely trivial, and not just to Scots, to consider how certain national parts become identified with nation-state wholes. It reflects something, I suppose about power and the power of propaganda. Continuing: what you say about the Scotsman’s report is very likely true. But that again has something to do with the workings of power within the British system, including especially in the media. Interestingly, such slights surely had something to do with the rise of Scottish nationalism as a recent political force. I’m not at all fond of the SNP, but I do hope they’ll manage to retain their seats at Westminster in the upcoming General Election, if only to constitute some sort of brake on the seemingly inevitable electoral triumph of what now passes for the Labour Party in Britain led by the awful Starmer.

John Rapko said...

Jeffrey St. Clair posted today the results of a poll by something called 'Redfield and & Wilston Strategies' asking British voters which country did the most to defeat Nazi Germany. The results:
The United Kingdom 42%
The United States 12%
France 6%
The Soviet Union 6%
Canada 3%
Poland 3%

I'm reminded of Xenophanes's wisecrack: "Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black;Thracians that theirs are are blue-eyed and red-haired. If horses and oxen had hands and could draw pictures, their gods would look remarkably like horses and oxen.”

LFC said...

s. wallerstein wrote:

Raul Sohr, the nightly international news analyst on CNN-Chile, noted that the fact that
it was largely the Soviet Union which defeated Nazism was completely missing from the
D-Day memorial events.

I've got news for Raul Sohr: as far as I can recall, the crucial role of the Soviet Union in helping defeat Nazism is never really acknowledged properly in commemorations surrounding D-Day, at least in the media coverage in the U.S. Contrary to Sr. Sohr's speculation, it probably has little to do with the fact that Russia is the "bad guy du jour" and a lot to do with how the memory of WW2 in general and D-Day in particular has been "constructed" in the U.S.

As for the 20 million Soviets who were killed in the fight against Nazism, they should definitely be honored. (The Nazis did have some Russian collaborators, but I'm not referring to them.) It's not as if ordinary Russians were responsible for the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.

J. Rapko: I understand your point of course, and I assume you'd agree that from a historical standpoint asking which country did most is kind of silly. Britain does have a special place, for lack of a better phrase, in the history of the period (esp. c. May-June 1940 to December 1941).

Eric said...

On a lighter note, Robert Duvall is still acting in his early 90s. He played a small part in the mystery/thriller film "The Pale Blue Eye," which I recently watched. The film is about a series of gruesome murders apparently due to a serial killer at Westpoint military academy. One of the lead characters is Edgar Allan Poe. (I can't recommend the film.)

And I see that Dick Van Dyke has, at 98, just become one of the oldest actors to win an Emmy.

s. wallerstein said...


It couldn't just be the case that the memory of World War and D Day in particular has been
"constructed" in the US and in the UK too I believe in a certain way, excluding the role of the Soviet Union, because Russia was the villain du jour during the Cold War and now once again in the Putin era?

I had a great history class in high school. The first day we saw a documentary The Peoples of the Soviet Union, obviously made during World War 2. The second day we saw the same documentary once again: however the sound track had been changed completely. It reflected the Cold War.

The Soviet troops marching to upbeat martial music were depicted in the first version as our friends and in the second the music had become menacing and they were now planning to conquer the world and do away with our beloved freedom. A whole of constructing of historical narratives going on!!

Thank you Mr. Johnson. An honest man and a great teacher back in 1963.

aaall said...

s.w., I'd suggest that all memories involve at least some construction (e.g. the mission system in California - paternalistic at best but mostly genocidal but school kids don't usually learn those parts) but I don't get Sohr's beef. The Soviet Union played no role, save instigation followed by some chickens coming home to roost, in D-Day being necessary. Twenty million Russians died because Hitler double-crossed Stalin. The U.S.S.R. was fighting Nazis and long insisting on the U.S./UK opening a western front because Stalin made a deal that went south. The U.S. poured resources into the Eastern Front because it made sense strategically. Any honest mention of the Soviet Union's overall role would be a downer so Sohr seems to want yet another sort of just-so story like the ones you find so problematic.

D-Day qua D-Day was a massive undertaking and a high stakes gamble that worked out well - no need for some faux inclusivity.

The problem with the Hamlet reference is that, while all empires suck, the suckage (and fairly applied whippage) does vary. Why all this water-carrying for a Christo-fascist entity anyway?

s. wallerstein said...


Why defend the Soviet Union?

First of all, to stimulate discussion. It's more entertaining than watching sports.

Second of all, because there are already enough voices defending hegemonic common sense ("we" are the good guys) and so the dialectic seems to call for someone to speak up for the bad guys.

I can even understand why Marc S. defends Israel so tenaciously, although his habit of insulting those who differ from him turns me off.

I've always had good relations with the commies. I once conversed pleasantly with Gus Hall. My partner's parents were Chilean communists. I managed the election campaign of a communist candidate to city hall in a Santiago suburb. Eric Hobsbawm is my favorite historian.

I got together a few months ago with my ex college room-mate from my freshman year, the guy whom I roomed with because the college bureaucracy put us there. He told me (I don't recall this) that I introduced myself to him when we first met: I'm S....Wallerstein. I'm a communist.

I'm not nor have I ever been, but I'll stand up for them. Out of sheer perverse irritation for hegemonic common sense.

LFC said...


In August 1939, Hitler and Stalin made a deal (as you note). I'm no expert on the diplomacy surrounding that deal, but I wonder whether the less-than-strong diplomatic/military response of Britain and France to Hitler through most of the 1930s played some role in Stalin's calculations. (But put that aside.) When Hitler invaded Poland from the west, Stalin did so from the east, as their pact had called for.

In summer 1941 Hitler invaded the USSR. Is that Stalin's fault? No. Hitler had had a vision/plan of expansion to the east for years; I believe it's in Mein Kampf. The relevant Nazi ministry had produced something called the General Plan for the East (I forget the German title), which was a blueprint for the invasion, population transfers, etc.

Stalin was of course a brutal totalitarian dictator responsible for mass deaths, but it's not Stalin's fault that Hitler invaded the USSR. The U.S. supported the USSR with materiel after the invasion, but it was the Soviet army that did the fighting at Stalingrad, and that battle was an important turning point.

Gordon Wright in The Ordeal of Total War identifies three turning points in the land war in November 1942: El Alamein; the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria; and the Soviet forces' counterattack on Nov. 19 "that four days later pinched off the corridor west of Stalingrad, isolating the German Sixth Army and foreshadowing Hitler's gravest military disaster. From November 1942 onward, the ring steadily closed on the Axis."

So istm that the statement that the USSR played a crucial role (not necessarily the crucial role but certainly a crucial role) in defeating the Third Reich is just a statement of fact.

El Gallo Pelón said...

I remember, a few months ago, a TV show claiming that American GIs, not Red Army soldiers, had liberated Auschwitz.


Since August 1934, when Hitler became Fuehrer, the Soviet Union attempted to forge a military alliance with France and Britain. You may or not hate and despise Stalin and the Soviet Union, that's irrelevant. The Soviets weren't motivated by altruistic feelings and I am not claiming otherwise. Such an alliance was proof only that they were rational enough to know that under Hitler Germany would inevitably move against the USSR.

It wasn't hard to make that guess. Hitler made it clear that he saw Eastern Europe as future German colonies. It was called Lebensraum.

The Soviets did not want to fight against Hitler alone and a Soviet-Western alliance made evident sense: it worked very well during the Great War.

By October 1934 after much Soviet pushing, Maxim Litvinov managed to persuade the French to sign the Franco-Soviet Treaty of Mutual Assistance.

There was no way Britain would accept similar arrangements with the Soviets. It was the times of Appeasement, after all. British elites thought a war with Germany could be avoided, in which case such an alliance would be beneficial to the Soviets, but would gain the Western powers nothing. To put it differently, a war between Germany and the Soviet Union could well be inevitable, and that would be a very bad thing for the Soviets and maybe even for the Nazis, but that wasn't necessarilly a bad thing for France and the UK: With any luck they could be killing two birds with one stone.

Even the French were really intent on an alliance with the Soviets. In order to get them on board the Soviets had to accept that the pact was essentially dead letter, good only for posturing.

So, after being snubbed by France and the UK, when the Nazis proposed a non-aggression pact it was little wonder the Soviets rushed to sign.

Michael Jabara Carley puts it this way:

The USSR, and especially its commissar for foreign affairs, Maxim
Maximovich Litvinov, offered 'collective security', or an anti-Nazi alliance, to France
and Great Britain. Paradoxically, Stalin's blood-drenched wickedness did not mean
that Soviet foreign policy was wicked also. But in France and Great Britain the
determination to resist fascism was sapped by hatred of bolshevism, fear of socialist
revolution, and sneaking admiration for Hitler's repression of the left. Inter-war
anti-bolshevism was in fact so like anti-communism after 1945 that it poses the
question of when the Cold War began and whether it was a cause or an effect of war
in 1939. Anti-bolshevism inspired illusions that Nazi Germany could be encouraged
to expand eastward-peaceably, economically, to be sure-to run up against the
USSR. The two scorpions' parlous embrace would leave France and Great Britain out
of harm's way.

End of the 'Low, Dishonest Decade': Failure of the Anglo-Franco-Soviet Alliance in 1939
Author(s): Michael Jabara Carley. Source: Europe-Asia Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2 (1993), pp. 303-341

Eric said...

For the upcoming election in the UK, The Times has lifted its paywall this weekend.
You can read Catherine Philp's (Times World Affairs editor) & Gabrielle Weiniger's piece there:

"Israel says Hamas weaponised rape. Does the evidence add up? ... Investigators say the evidence does not stand up to scrutiny."

Anonymous said...

It will never cease to amaze me the casual references to fascism to refer to, well, anything and everything by some people on this blog.

T.J. said...

It will never cease to amaze me how hung up people get on which words other people choose to use when it's perfectly transparent what they mean by them.

Here's a glossary:

fascism - an authoritarian, nationalist populism
apartheid - a legal regime that enforces 2nd class citizenship along racial or ethnic lines

That's all people mean by those words!

Of course that doesn't capture the historical complexity of Europe in the 1930s or South Africa through the second half of the 20th century. But the people using those words in the above ways aren't trying to talk about 20th century history, they're trying to find words to describe their current political situation.

aaall said...

LFC, apt point on the 1930's European response to Hitler which is why some folks would prefer that Biden, et al ditch the Escalation Management foolishness and allow/enable Ukraine to respond appropriately to Russian aggression.

While Hitler's decision to double-cross Stalin and invade the USSR was obviously Hitler's, questions do arise: Absent the pact would Hitler have started the war in the west or, with the UK rearming have decided to start a war in the east? Of course we also have the situation in the Pacific.

"So, after being snubbed by France and the UK, when the Nazis proposed a non-aggression pact it was little wonder the Soviets rushed to sign."

Poor Russia! Always sinned against, never the sinner. Multi-generational tankism.

BTW, the USSR supported and insisted on the bombing of Dresden and other German cities that might facilitate the movement of German assets agaaint the advancing Soviet Army.

Anonymous said...

TJ: not really true that people (all people?) simply mean authoritarian nationalism by the term 'fascism' - in this post alone there's a reference to post-soviet fascism and Christo-fascism (whatever that means), and Wolff himself in various posts from the past has drawn a close analogy between the Republican and the 1920s Europe (not to mention Stanley's insistence on a fascist international or something). It's an abuse of the term and is manipulative; moreover, it explains nothing, serves little purpose, and seems simply a tactic to take the high moral ground in conversations such as the one developing here at present. And in any case, just call it authoritarian nationalism for fuck's sake.

Eric said...

Helena Cobban was interviewed the other day by Ali Abunimah of The Electronic Intifada. She discusses the prospects for peace in Palestine, particularly with regard to Biden's announcement a week ago.

Some of Cobban's commentary was previously discussed in the comments here. See Prof Wolff's October 18, 2023 entry "Rolling My Tub."

El Gallo Pelón said...

Poor Russia! Always sinned against, never the sinner. Multi-generational tankism.

What is they put in the drinking water that makes Americans stupid AND self-righteous?

Jim said...

Did everyone hear the news about Noam Chomsky? It appears his health is in decline. I feel bad about it but even the tireless have to stop at some point. One of my favorite clips:

-- Jim

s. wallerstein said...

Sorry to hear about Chomsky's health problems.

Perhaps the person I most respect and admire in U.S. public life: brilliant, honest,
committed, ethical, convincing, and not tribal, not a left group-thinker or left crowd pleaser.

decesero said...

Professor Pigden,
Been away, hence this late response:
Firstly, sadly, and parenthetically, Dylan Thomas died at the age of 39. You are certainly younger than Professor Wolff who is ninety, but twice as old as Dylan Thomas was when, at 34, he wrote his famous villanelle Do Not go Gentle Into That Good Night.
Your beautiful response deeply resonates with me! You have given soaring poetic wing to thoughts and feelings i harbor. I shall hug to myself these words of yours: "Perhaps as twilight deepens there's a chance of love to feel.."
A thousand thanks!