12 comments on “‘Rise Like Lions’

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  3. Lions sleep around 20 hours per day and then don’t really do much when they’re awake. The image ‘rise like lions’ thus seems particularly inept for a social uprising. One imagines them yawning, stretching and dawdling along, wondering if the lionesses have caught dinner yet. What’s the British fascination with lions in any case? Is the bulldog not a mighty beast?


    • That’s the way with a cat, you know — any cat; they don’t give a damn for discipline. And they can’t help it, they’re made so. But it ain’t really insubordination, when you come to look at it right and fair — it’s a word that don’t apply to a cat. A cat ain’t ever anybody’s slave or serf or servant, and can’t be — it ain’t in him to be. And so, he don’t have to obey anybody. He is the only creature in heaven or earth or anywhere that don’t have to obey somebody or other, including the angels. It sets him above the whole ruck, it puts him in a class by himself. He is independent. You understand the size of it? He is the only independent person there is. In heaven or anywhere else. There’s always somebody a king has to obey — a trollop, or a priest, or a ring, or a nation, or a deity or what not — but it ain’t so with a cat. A cat ain’t servant nor slave to anybody at all. He’s got all the independence there is, in Heaven or anywhere else, there ain’t any left over for anybody else. He’s your friend, if you like, but that’s the limit — equal terms, too, be you king or be you cobbler; you can’t play any I’m-better-than-you on a cat — no, sir! Yes, he’s your friend, if you like, but you got to treat him like a gentleman, there ain’t any other terms. The minute you don’t, he pulls freight.
      Mark Twain, “The Refuge of the Derelicts”


    • I’m inspired all the way over here. Militant, conscious young people demanding their future makes my day any day. Let’s hope they’re right and this is ‘just the beginning’.

      Sending solidarity from the States, now we need a movement against student cuts ourselves. Hopefully the good folks of California where UC just voted in a 15% tuition hike are readying to accommodate.


  4. In all there would be at least 654 casualties, and eighteen would die from their injuries at Peterloo. More than at first reported.

    Shelly’s poem still inspires nearly 200 years after it was written.

    Paul Foot’s inspiring work brought Shelly to a new audience when he ‘discovered’ him in the 1970’s at the height of the British upturn of the 1970’s when Foot was editor of Socialist Worker. A new audience awaits Shelly today.

    Your post is well timed with the birth of a new rebellion starting now in Britain after a long ‘slumber’.

    One misconception about Peterloo is that although the protesters wore their ‘Sunday best’, the ‘biggest demonstration ever seen in Britain’ took place on a Monday. Everyone was on strike.


    • I’ve got Red Shelley on my shelf. Thanks for the Peterloo clear-up. These myths have long legs. Yeah, I agree it’s appropriate for the moment. To quote another London poet of a sort,

      No man born with a living soul
      Can be working for the clampdown
      Kick over the wall, cause government’s to fall
      How can you refuse it?
      Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
      D’you know that you can use it?


  5. There was no need for the slam against Byron. He was a close friend of Shelley’s and equally radical. He died in Greece, where he’d gone to help in their struggle for freedom after being kicked out of England. He’s considered a hero in Greece to this day.


    • I know far more about Shelley than I do about Byron, but the quote is Marx’s not mine. And without prejudicing my future with Byron I have to say that I’ve found Marx to be a pretty keen observer of poets and poetry. Mind you, Marx loved Byron too, as the quote makes clear, It wasn’t what he did in life that Marx was concerned with (he quite approved, even of the licentious stuff), it was that, knowing Byron as he felt he did (again, Marx was pretty sharp on poets, he was one himself once and counted a few of the greats as his friends and acquaintances) he felt Byron might end up in a way as to sully his life’s good works. It wouldn’t be the first time. My god, look what has become of the Rolling Stones.


      • to be fair, Marx wasn’t the greatest poet 😉 … especially during the period around 1848, Marx worked together with some of the major German poets of that period: Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-1876) who also translated Burns and Longfellow into German, he later became a nationalistic liberal, Georg Weerth (1822-1856) and Georg Herwegh (1817-1875), who remained a socialist and a revolutionary his whole life; Marx was also friend of Heinrich Heine … like most revolutionaries from Germany of his period, Marx displayed some hostilities towards poetry of the romantic period which in Germany (unlike in Britain) was generally a-political or conservative


      • Paul Lafargue on some of Marx’s literary tastes…..

        He knew Heine and Goethe by heart and often quoted them in his conversations; he was an assiduous reader of poets in all European languages. Every year he read Aeschylus in the Greek original. He considered him and Shakespeare as the greatest dramatic geniuses humanity ever gave birth to. His respect for Shakespeare was boundless: he made a detailed study of his works and knew even the least important of his characters. His whole family had a real cult for the great English dramatist; his three daughters knew many of his works by heart. When after 1848 he wanted to perfect his knowledge of English, which he could already read, he sought out and classified all Shakespeare’s original expressions. He did the same with part of the polemical works of William Cobbett, of whom he had a high opinion. Dante and Robert Burns ranked among his favourite poets and he would listen with great pleasure to his daughters reciting or singing the Scottish poet’s satires or ballads.

        Cuvier, an untirable worker and past master in the sciences, had a suite of rooms, arranged for his personal use, in the Paris Museum, of which he was director. Each room was intended for a particular pursuit and contained the books, instruments, anatomic aids, etc., required for the purpose. When he felt tired of one kind of work he would go into the next room and engage in another; this simple change of mental occupation, it is said, was a rest for him.

        Marx was just as tireless a worker as Cuvier, but he had not the means to fit out several studies. He would rest by pacing up and down the room. A strip was worn out from the door to the window, as sharply defined as a track across a meadow.

        From time to time he would lie down on the sofa and read a novel; he sometimes read two or three at a time, alternating one with another. Like Darwin, he was a great reader of novels, his preference being for those of the eighteenth century, particularly Fielding’s Tom Jones. The more modern novelists whom he found most interesting were Paul de Kock, Charles Lever, Alexander Dumas Senior and Walter Scott, whose Old Mortality he considered a masterpiece. He had a definite preference for stories of adventure and humour.

        He ranked Cervantes and Balzac above all other novelists. In Don Quixote he saw the epic of dying-out chivalry whose virtues were ridiculed and scoffed at in the emerging bourgeois world. He admired Balzac so much that he wished to write a review of his great work La Comedie Humaine as soon as he had finished his book on economics. He considered Balzac not only as the historian of his time, but as the prophetic creator of characters which were still in the embryo in the days of Louis Philippe and did not fully develop until Napoleon III.

        Marx could read all European languages and write in three: German, French and English, to the admiration of language experts. He liked to repeat the saying: “A foreign language is a weapon in the struggle of life.”

        More: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lafargue/1890/xx/marx.htm#art1


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