Stemming The Tide

(From Sifting for Gold, Paul Martin 2014)

Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else….nothing else will ever be of any service to them.

Hard Times – Charles Dickens

 That old perplexity an empty purse/Or the day’s vanity, the night’s remorse

                                                                                                 The Choice – W.B. Yeats


When my boys grow up I don’t want them to read.

Insidious past-time – it will just plant a seed

That will send them adrift like a wandering Jew.

The destruction it wreaks, the harm it can do.


Cultural amnesia or an imaginary life?

All fine for Keats in his quarter century of light.

But what about later, as a man grows older

With the cold light of day looking over his shoulder?


Tilting at windmills, glass bead games

Is that all there is, is that where life aims?

Glimpsing the marvels, then hope denied

Is that how Grand Meaules and Post Office Girl died?


Young Rimband chose well to leave it behind

To stem the wild tide and focus the mind.

This world is too hard, too insecure.

Keep the head down, don’t seek a cure.


Steer clear of books and the elixir they hold,

They’re just smoke and mirrors, alchemy’s gold.

Like sirens of old, they only tempt and enchant

To break you on rocks as you crumble and pant.


To stem it or not? It’s too late for me.

You best decide, and my blessings with thee.




STEM: acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics typically used to describe education policy and curriculum choices…to improve the nation’s competitiveness in the new economy – Wikipedia

Line 9 – Cultural  Amnesia….An imaginary life:   

Cultural Amnesia is the title of the collection of literary essays by Clive James. An Imaginary Life is the title of a novel by the Australian Booker prize-winner, David Malouf. The book recounts the story of the ancient Roman poet Ovid’s exile to Tomis (in modern Romania) after he displeased the Emperor Augustus for a reason which has never been clearly established.

Line 10 – quarter century of light. In 1821 John Keats the English Romantic poet died aged 25 in Rome of tuberculosis

Line 11 – As a man grows older: The title of Italo Svevo’s novel Senilitá which is often translated into English as As a Man Grows Older

Line 13 – Rimbaud: Charles Rimbaud is considered one of the greatest of the French Symbolist poets although he essentially wrote only between the ages of 17 and 21. He then gave up poetry before travelling extensively on three continents and dying in 1891 aged 37.

Line 15 – Glass bead games: The Glass Bead Game is a novel by Hermann Hesse.

Line 18 – Grand Meaules..Post Office girl: Grand Meaules is the title of the only novel by Alain Fournier who was killed in the First World War. It is a staple of most French school educations.

The Post Office Girl was written by Stefan Zweig, the Jewish Austrian writer. He was one of the outstanding figures of Viennese culture during its exalted interwar period. On the rise of Hitler, he fled Austria in 1934 for England. In 1940 he moved to Brazil where he and his wife committed suicide in 1942.

Line 22 – my blessings with thee: from Polonius’ famous speech of advice to his son, Laertes, before he goes into the world from Hamlet Act I Scene III

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