Jack Lindsay

Collected Poems

Illustrated by Helen Lindsay

Lake Forest, Illinois


(Poems 1926‑1930)

The poems of 1926‑30 express the impact of the English scene, social and cultural, and the struggle to preserve the positions arrived at in Australia, partly through an attempt to revalue Nietzsche and Blake, and to set out the Dionysian attitudes in terms that seem more adequate to the situation. The increasing inner division finds a personal expression, which the love poems seek to define and control.


The shock of experiences round 1930 (as told in Fanfrolico, and After) led to the breakdown of the synthesis which, one way or another, had carried on through the 1920s. The collapse of the idealist concept of life and art, which had been both the strength and the weakness of the earlier decade, involved the loss of the unifying element which had previously asserted itself. As a result we meet the dissolution of the formative element in the imagery, in what I have called a flight into the surrealist underworld. At the same time that dissolution leads into a nihilistic set of attitudes, an analytic method tearing life to pieces and moving towards a bitter disillusion.

But soon a counter movement begins, an effort to find some purpose or constructive movement in history, in the creative work of the past: what is here summed up as the search for Clues of History. There is a movement towards a pantheism with a materialist basis.

But though this movement involves positive aspects, the struggle to find an effective relationship between those elements and the poet himself continues in a sharp way, with many resistances to a new synthesis, a scepticism about any easy solutions of the inner tensions. The sense of loss keeps reasserting itself, and nothing less than a total renunciation, a total asceticism, is felt to be capable of resisting a fall‑back into the old lures and acceptances. Gradually however the pantheist sense of communion with nature and all things living grows stronger, and the poet feels that it is possible to return to the world of people without betrayal of the lessons he has learned. His experiences give him a sense of unity with all in humanity that suffers, is downtrodden, exploited. He bursts into the political world, seeking the causes with which he can thus identify himself. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War provides him with a scene, a situation, in which the drama of his lonely struggle appears suddenly objectified, extended in history and demanding full solidarity.


Flight into Surrealist Underworld ending with Analytic Disillusion.
Clues of History leading out of the Maze.
Kinship with Tree and Bird.
4th. Cataract of Political and Social Process.


This poem was conceived as an expression of the way in which the Hero (History, the People) had found his way through the Maze and slain the (Fascist) monster of division. But in following out the Myth I was forced to see the Hero as in turn himself becoming a betrayer and failing to actualise the new potential union (with Ariadne, the earth‑bride). I was thus driven to make a far more correct evaluation of the way things were than I had consciously intended. In a sense the structure of the poem thus becomes a prophecy of the way taken in the following three decades and expressed in the poems then written: the sense of a vast liberation, with immense new potentialities for human development and integration, and at the same time of unresolved problems which were to check the liberation and raise afresh in worsened forms the question of how to make the next large‑scale break‑through, how to avoid world‑destruction.

(POEMS 1947‑1956)

Poems expressing the hopes of regeneration and renewal as a result of the unity built up in the Antifascist struggle, then in support of the Peace Movement against the Cold War, with finally the terrible blow of the Kruschev revelations in 1956, which brought out how much more deeply we needed to go into the contradictions and deformations of our world.

(Poems 1957‑79)

In the post‑1956 poems there is an increasing effort to analyse history afresh, and to address each poem to a particular person, as if only thus the poet could feel assured of the human content of what he says. At the same time the poems are more than ever linked with the work being done in other spheres. Problems of history are linked with problems of science, of the methods by which men seek directly to get inside nature and to use its laws and principles for purposes of integration and disintegration. The poet is not satisfied that he has been able fully to live up to the principles he arrived at in 1956 (‘Cast all illusions aside, but reject disillustionment too’); but he is trying to keep them before him as he faces what is happening to men, both in the socialist and in the capitalist worlds.

SOURCE: Lindsay, Jack. Collected Poems, illustrated by Helen Lindsay. Lake Forest, IL: The Cheiron Press, 1981. xvi, 605 p., [40] leaves of plates. Signed. Copy #31. Prefatory notes to sections: pp. 127, 170, 426, 482, 564.

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

"The Poet explains the Situation to Los and Elza-Enitharmon" by Jack Lindsay

Form as Content, Content as Form” by Jack Lindsay

"Courage" by Jack Lindsay

"Spinoza" poem by Jack Lindsay

Vincent Van Gogh” poem by Jack Lindsay

"Request for Help" (to William Blake) by Jack Lindsay

"Giordano Bruno" by Jack Lindsay

The Poems Hidden in the Ghetto:
to Julian Tuwim in Warsaw

by Jack Lindsay

"A Note on My Dialectic" by Jack Lindsay

"Towards a Marxist Aesthetic" by Jack Lindsay

Adorno and the Frankfurt School by Jack Lindsay

A Garland for Jack Lindsay

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

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

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

Marx and Marxism Web Guide

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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Links added 23 & 25 July 2018

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