29th December 2022

A connection of 200 years since the birth of Matthew Arnold and today

Twelfth Night 2023: continuing from a post about Geoff Mann, in to the here and now; twelve days of Christmas.

As we move towards the close of 2022, in the first half of the present festive season with its bridging twelve days of Christmas, it seems appropriate to mention along with the poetic theme of recent news and YouTube items concerning the Soul to Sun poem ‘A Scapeshifter’ (looking back at the last ten decades), a date which goes back a century before that, to Christmas Eve 1822, when Matthew Arnold was born.

 The 24th of December 2022 was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Matthew Arnold, at the dawn of the progression towards the twelfth night; on the 5th January 2023; the eve of epiphany, and date which commemorates the aim of the journey of the Magi, we can rediscover the original meaning of an epiphany; which was to do with the mystery of an encounter or connection with Divinization. The word was secularised somewhat by the Irish writer James Joyce, who published his novel ‘Ulysses’ in 1922. The book ‘Ulysses’ is a modernist type narrative, about a journey through a day, and plays on the name of the main protagonist and parent of Telemachus (left at home in the care and guidance of Mentor whilst his father went to war) in the epic writing of Homer in ‘The Odyssey’ telling of treacherous; progressive, poetic travel home for Odysseus to his kingdom on the rocky island Ithaca, from the Trojan wars; Ulysses being the latinised version of the name of the mythological Greek hero. T S Elliot also wrote a poem called the  ‘Journey of the Magi’ citing the perils and hardships of their journey, and asks the paradoxical question; “did we come here for Birth or Death” a question we should perhaps all be asking ourselves at some point in the journey through our experience of existence in the body on planet earth. Matthew Arnold questioned the motives and meaning of industrialisation, materialism, and subsequent disconnection from the Source of our Being, conveyed in the form of elegiac poetry; lamenting the erosion of spiritual perspicacity. His poem Dover Beach has a connection to T S Elliot; who in his defining modernist poem ‘The Wasteland’ uses the person of Tiresias, from Greek legend, and Homeric verse to narrate what has become recognised as one of the great poems of the twentieth century, though Four Quartets is often cited by scholars to be his masterpiece. Matthew Arnold alludes to Sophocles, the Greek poet and playwright who includes Tiresias in his tragedian plays; and Matthew Arnold references this same blind seer via the same source of Sophocles in his poem Dover Beach. Dover is one of the Cinque ports, the name derived from antiquated French meaning five ports. As Dover is only twenty one miles from Calais, with the French coast visible from Dover beach it was also sometimes known as the key to England; the Lol Cooper Band opener Minds Eye on their Soul to Sun album uses the poetic symbolism of a coast line an island and a narrow sea to unlock the doors we need to pass through during the inner work of musical alchemy. Music in poetry is a continuous theme with the Lol Cooper Band and part one of the poem A Scapeshifter; call me Carpenter, works with the opening track. The final part five of A Scapeshifter works with the penultimate and final tracks on Soul to Sun album, Right to Ramble and Guinevere. Progressing poetically into the new year of 2023, the bands news channel will continue to explore the link between music and poetry; be that the literal music in poetry of the Lol Cooper Band, or recurring motifs as used by T S Elliot to structure the verse of the poem the way a song writer might compose by blending lyric and melody, along with Mr Elliots objective correlative, or the sad ballad touchstone tone of Matthew Arnold, or even the naturally felt every day sprung rhythm of a poet mentioned now for the first time on the Lol Cooper Band web site; Gerard Manley Hopkins. Geoff Mann who was the subject of the last news item; has a connection to the poem ‘A Scapeshifter’ and additionally was also a poet himself. In Geoff Mann’s early work, in the 1980’s, there is an energy of the artistic spring of life, and this can be seen on a YouTube clip of him performing the song East of Eden, with the progressive rock band Twelfth Night conveying this force across the internet, in the formidable style of a natural front Mann. The Lol Cooper Band enjoy building off a foundation from the past, embracing links to that which was; synchronising often enough to be meaningful, coincidentally; with that which still is; “memory fades yet truth will abide” as the Soul to Sun second song live video “White Nancy” says, along with the penultimate line of a Scapeshifter; “To unlock the presence of the past, shall we? Resurgam.”

 As stated previously in news items on the Lol Cooper Band web site; the original name for the poem the Wasteland, was to be ‘He do the police in different voices’ from a line in the Charles Dickens novel ‘Our Mutual Friend’ before T S Elliot reviewed a book called ‘From Ritual to Romance’ by Jessie L Weston; a researcher on Sir James Frazers book ‘The Golden Bough’, stating that this review had prompted a poetic name change for the ‘Wasteland.’ 

T S Elliot may have drawn inspiration in some respects for the Wasteland from Charles Dickens, as he considered in many instances, that the past was superior to the present, so Mr Dickens railing against utilitarianism; in the book ‘Hard Times’ may have supplied some inspiration; as it parodies the ethos of the inflexible dry teaching, propagated collaboratively by Mr Gradgrind, the dry rigid school master, and what was deemed to be the contemporary politic, spawning the dehumanised computer like Bitzer pupils of the day. Now contrast that with today’s contemporary language of; “critical thinking” and globalised artificial intelligence, and we can start to see the potential for risk and danger, in the midst of misguided education where the baby is thrown out with the bath water. Because of this destructive potential there is a timeless value in poetry, theatre, myth, legend and the allegory of apposite story telling; to offer seekers of truth, a path back to the here and now reality of  I AM.

In summary; it’s looking like there’s work to do in the world of poetry rock in 2023 and beyond, in the here and now and maintaining links to Artistic timeless teaching works of the past. After all, as a wise man once said; “Art is the signature of Mann.”