Doris Lessing    Cressida Lindsay    Naomi Mitchison
Jack Beeching    Charles Hobday    David Holbrook
Roy Fuller    R. A. Leeson    John Manifold
Thomas McGrath    Arnold Rattenbury
Edgell Rickword    Alan Sillitoe    Eric E. White

Decorations by Charlotte Mensforth


20 OCTOBER 1980

No excuse is needed to celebrate on any day the life and work of Jack Lindsay. His achievements as poet, scholar, historian, biographer, novelist, essayist, and printer are permanent celebrations.

Why then, is 20 October, 1980, being singled out? First, because the day is his 80th birthday: an event always worth particular celebration in the life of any human being; secondly, because the occasion provides his friends and admirers with a chance to send him greetings in a signal and enduring manner.

For the editor, his task of preparing the Garland has been a happy privilege, much lightened by the readiness with which the distinguished contributors responded.



The Cathedral Tree

When I was a child and inside the cathedral
we stood together in the damask dusk.
The crown, the arch, the tinsel light
were my captors and I their slave.
You led me among its timeless
treasures of paint and stone
and even in your home Saint Prokoviev
(by designing chance) clapped hands
with Pan through the reeded
altar rails. They held me
banded under your dome tinted
with your gentle laughter, touched
by your wisdom.
The wisdom of a guide who long ago
shed chains of judgment but
who is no less familiar with its pain.

I was still in the cathedral when
you moved to Quarry Cottage
and would have lost my way
until coming to a tree
(to me it looked like all the others)
you brushed its bole
with freckled hand and said,
Turn left here.
I followed close behind.

Now I am sitting on the tower
of our cathedral. The view is not remote
still less the silent people touring its interior.
Yes, here are the town and hills beyond and
close is the ocean when eons past
we shared a common element.
And there is the tree to show the way
never standing awkwardly. It
returns the compliment you once paid
to my saplings:
You grow more like yourself every day.



Dear Jack

Dear Jack
I'm asked to scratch your back
Because you're eighty.
Good and fine!
But—I scratch your back,
You scratch mine!

     Purr, purr, purr.

This year I'm sixty.
I wish for you:
In twenty years you'll still be here
To rub my ears
And smooth my fur.

     Purr, purr, purr, purr.

These days we may live long, they say,
With bran, Vit E, and yog, Vit B.
All viruses, contagions too,
Contained and safely kept at bay.
But— if I ask you
And you ask me:
‘My wish for you,
Your wish for me:
In forty years we'll still be here,
To rub each other's ears and purr. . . ?’

     Oh mew, mew, mew, mew . . . niow, niew.



North Queensland Coast

The river bends, pushing slowly down-stream
End at last, and there is no reprieve,
In the mud flats at the end of the dream
Beyond whatever joys a man can conceive.

Yet under the warm, wide, Australia-encompassing sea
The river bends slide gently and silently along
To islands of bright sand and sun and song,
As it might happen also to you and me.


Dancing Albion: 1780

The giant Albion, confined
Within Vitruvius' geometric limits,
Stood crucified, trapped in a circle traced
By the compasses Urizen gave to Newton.

William Blake raised his eyes from his graver
In Broad Street as he heard the deathcarts rattling
From Newgate, built with stones of Urizen's moral law,
Over Holborn's cobbles to the druids' fatal tree
In mournful ever-weeping Paddington.

But Orc, a human fire sprung from the Atlantic,
Burned through the chartered streets calling Albion to awake
And Albion heard him where, eyeless in London,
He laboured at the Satanic mill with slaves.
Three men in Newgate bound for Tyburn tree on Friday,
Hearing his cry, strained at their rattling shackles.
In Broad Street William Blake, laying aside his graver,
Rose and ran exulting through Holborn to black Newgate.
He watched Orc's sinewy arms, red as anger, golden as love,
Tear down Urizen's towers. As the bolts and hinges melted
The redeemed captives ran out laughing into the bright air
And three men with shackled limbs stumbled back to life
Looking behind at every step, believing it a dream.

At Tyburn tree the druids wept for their unfed altar
But Albion, his ruddy limbs and flaming hair
Freed from from the web of dark Urizen's circle,
Danced in the morning glory on the mountain tops
With unchained arms flung wide in all-embracing joy.



An Exhibition from Pompeii

‘What is it’ you say to yourself,
After a long wait in the rain in the courtyard
Shuffling forward with the crowd under an awning.
It is a girl, lying down, in plaster,
Her scanty clothes wreathing her lightly,
Her hair with a soft curl in it
Gathered into a loose bun,
One or two strands straying as she fell.

Ash all the morning, ash all the afternoon:
A glass column shows how ten feet high
White cinders buried her, after the first fall-out.

They pumped liquid plaster of Paris
Into the hole that was her: so,
We have her form, her prostration.

The silver drinking cups, the necklaces,
The lares and the weighing devices
Seem so domestic and familiar:
Carved masks and portrait busts in stone
So full of confidence and vitality.
Bold sweeps of bronze folds in a black statue,
Maximillius making a public gesture:
How well one knows that Roman signature
Upon the world, upon our consciousness.

But she is something new, or, rather,
The imprint of this girl-shaped hole in ash is:
Her gown pulled up like my woman's nightdress;
The movement of her subjection to fire,
The flower of her body, held here
Quite without morbidity, lithe and slender
As she was, the day before the end of the world.



Odd Man Ode

Spending a lifetime in trying to measure
The curve of the life-giving spiral; where
Ten generations of fat-arsed professors
Conclusively proved it's a circle—and square!

Endlessly searching the past for new questions,
Poking around in the rubble and schist,
Seeing below on the slopes of the mountain
Faint plumes of steam from the buses he missed.

Trooper disorderly, holding his outpost,
Others withdrawn from untenable truth.
Demobbed, he discovers his former companions
Re-writing the war for the guidance of youth.

Having accepted exclusion from Heaven,
Several times warned hopes of Hell are for fools;
‘Prometheus unbound is now feeding the eagles,
Plato's in charge by a catch in the rules.’

Picturing often, in times of frustration,
Moments of ease, he has many times heard,
Deep in the void, Heraclitus still muttering:
‘Change is the state, if repose is the word.’

Still then conceiving his duties as freedoms,
The restless old devil returns to the well,
Divining the past to design for the future
Charters of Heaven and route maps of Hell.



Blake: Deudraeth Forest
   In honour of old obstinate Jack

There is a patch on the slope
Above this hill, where the wise
Paths and the fine ditches
Of old collapse. Hope
Continues in the smeared guise
Of a Forestry Commission
Road—for all these hills
These latter days are conifer-
              Deep in pine
And larch shepherding spills
Its walls where would have gone
The wise paths and the fine
Ditches of old. No sheep
And precious little breath—
Like shrews—shift, to unsettle
The stone-mossings of sleep.

Blake is awake. In death
Up here, he treads that battle-
Ground no?one has won,
Between where the wise paths
And the fine ditches of old
Run and where may run
The modern road: halves,
He avers, to be made whole.
Neither mystic to me
Nor hectoring rebel—though,
To be sure, it's hard to appear
As neither.
                 Such as he—
That obstinate few—are both.
The road reaches a clearing,
And the wise paths and the fine
Ditches of old reach back.


We'd not know of this patch
Except by road—a line
That needs must drive, hack,
Fell. Nor feeling snatch
These constant glimpses of Blake
Enforested by the wise
Paths and the fine ditches
Of old—here, where the brake
              How do we realise
The whole, and not seem mystic
Rebel halves in a cold
Body?—for the world is halved.
Or link to the wise paths
And the fine ditches of old
New ways? But bless
Great obstinancy's wakefulness.


Australian Poem

‘I went down the Wingicarribee and found an excellent place for a crossing, either by bridge or without. The natives' name I found to be Berrima, meaning Black Swan.’ Surveyor-General Mitchell.

Black swans float on the river's surface.
A black man wades through the river bed.
His toes dip into potholes,
       kneading mud,
       combing bedraggled weeds and bark.
Berrima. Berrima.
Dipping their beaks, the black swans explore
This watery underworld of weeds and mud.
As the bubbles and ripples subside,
They resume their scorpion masks.
On the far bank the black man
Continues his walkabout,
Sprinkling water drops from his drying skin—
A boomerang that will return
To the treasure in the mud,
The secret grubs at the welcoming ford.



Lucifer the Mechanic

Lucifer invented speed, and taught
How one slow pulley drives a fast
A single stress revolves a mill
How fire melts and wind moves
And iron floats and alloys fly.

Lucifer's willing pupils learned
How one steel cuts another
And steel that speeds on a spindle
Is in its weakness flaked and shaved
And shaped by a still blade
Placed against it.

The sharpened lubricated tip
Of a steel drill tempered to diamond strength
Spins down to the steel clamped in a jig.

By playing one speed to another
Steel teeth in a circle
Mill into a shelf of steel.

Man became a mechanic.
Lucifer in every lathe
Manufactured objects beyond
Man's vulnerable version of himself;
He unmade God, and at his most demonic
Turned Man into
An industrious mechanic.



I first made the acquaintance of Jack in Fleet Street, in a comfortable tavern—the Cheshire Cheese—well-known as the Mecca of all trans-oceanic littérateurs, and where at one time Samuel Johnson was its deity. It was, I think, the eighth day of the General Strike. It was by a singular chance that we encountered one another since we were hardly more than figures in each other's mind. Jack had just arrived from New South Wales, and I from the original South Wales. I had made my way from Pen-y-Bont by devious devices, and it had taken me about three days. I explained to Jack as best I could the meaning of the vehicular silence and absence of newspapers, and the scanty attendance of journalists at the bars. We exchanged addresses and then went our separate ways—on foot, of course. This is only how it might have happened, but I think it has considerable plausibility. After all, by the time Jack had reached the City I had reached my desk in an office in Villiers Street, and there was surely only a stone's throw between us. That is how it might have happened, but because it didn't happen that way, it was an extraordinary long time before it did—that is to say it must have been almost two years before Jack and I made our first steps towards sharing our common purpose. I think it was some time in 1928 that our material conjunction took effect. It was at a meeting with Douglas Garman and myself that we enrolled Jack in the forthcoming second volume of the caustic essays which we had entitled Scrutinies. The target that Jack chose was a critical essay on James Joyce, whose work till then had not received so far-reaching analysis as Jack’s. This was for Jack, if not the first, an early introduction into the sociological media, since his own banner was, as it were, nailed on to the mast of Fanfrolicism—the colourful and even aggressively erotical, as it was manifested in the twelve issues of the journal, The London Aphrodite. There might have been a closer collaboration between the Scrutineers and the Fanfrolicers had it not been for the great slump which hit the world in , 1929, and swept away the last examples of the aesthetic, to be replaced by the new art of the sociological renaissance. It is hard to think of Jack as an octogenarian, because of his amazing energy and vitality. I remember when we first met, when the frequent answer to my inquiry about such and such a book that he was writing was, “Oh, I got that off a couple of weeks ago.”


I first knew of Jack Lindsay in connection with Elizabethan bawdry. At the time, this seemed to me frivolous, for a Marxist. Later, I came to see it as part of his restless interest in all aspects of lives and times. This tendency to range so widely has caused a lot of head-wagging—though in others it has been sanctified as a search for holism. Lindsay might have chosen to become the king of the hill in any number of disciplines, but he has chosen instead to remain impure and unspecialised. He is a "learned man" in the older sense of the term. He gives us the generosity of a large soul, the true good of the intellect.



To Jack Lindsay at Eighty

TRANSLATOR, polymath, biographer, poet —man!
Still more books from your pen would make us glad;
So beat (on our stickier English wicket), if you can,
The life-score of Methuselah, your dad.


Jack: A generic proper name for a man of the common people (OED)

IN the antipodes what jackaroo
Draws pictures from the mediaeval pack
And reaches for the pot? In England who
Treads on the heels of Kings and Queens? The Jack!


To J.L. at 80

THE girls get prettier as I get older;
As I grow more sedate, the girls get bolder.
When I'm your age, Jack, I can plainly see
I'll have Queen Helen sitting on my knee.



SOURCE: A Garland for Jack Lindsay, ed. James Corbett, [contributions by] by Doris Lessing [et al.], decorations by Charlotte Mensforth. St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England: Piccolo Press, 1980. 14 pp.

A Checklist of Jack Lindsay's Books
Includes all of the following Lindsay links & more

"The Origins of Jack Lindsay's Contributions to British Marxist Thought" by Joel R. Brouwer

"A Note on My Dialectic" by Jack Lindsay

"Towards a Marxist Aesthetic" by Jack Lindsay

Adorno and the Frankfurt School by Jack Lindsay

Collected Poems [Section Headnotes] by Jack Lindsay

"Spinoza" by Jack Lindsay

"Giordano Bruno" by Jack Lindsay

Jack Lindsay and British Poetry in the 1930s, by Adrian Caesar

British Marxism in Philosophy, Science, and Culture Before the New Left:
Essential Historical Surveys

Offsite Links:

Jack Lindsay - Wikipedia

Papers of Jack Lindsay (1900-1990) (MS 7168, National Library of Australia)

The Origins of Alchemy in Graeco-Roman Egypt by Jack Lindsay
Poem To Marie Delcourt-Curvers [HMTL]
To Marie Delcourt-Curvers [pdf file]
The First and Concluding Chapters

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