WE SIT STARVING AMIDST OUR GOLD

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For the Bed at Kelmscott

by William Morris

The wind`s on the wold

And the night is a-cold,

And Thames runs chill

Twixt mead and hill,

But kind and dear

Is the old house here,

And my heart is warm

Midst winter`s harm.

Rest then and rest,

And think of the best

Twixt summer and spring

When all birds sing

In the town of the tree,

As ye lie in me

And scarce dare move

Lest earth and it`s love

Should fade away

Ere the full of the day.

     I am old and have seen

     Many things that have been,

     Both grief and peace,

     And wane and increase.

     No tale I tell

     Of ill or well,

     But this I say,

     Night treadeth on day,

     And for worse and best

     Right good is rest.

William Morris was a 19th century British Socialist whose philosophy harkened back to a bucolic, pre-industrial past, and a deep hatred of a modern, so called, civilisation, which dehumanised and degraded humanity, turning the vast majority of people into little more than inadequately paid, over worked mules who created the wealth for the few to enjoy their frivolous lives. It was immense riches made possible by those whose living standards were not only through the floor, but were virtually without any kind of health and social care unless they voluntarily enlisted their souls into an inhuman workhouse system which crushed the human spirit underfoot, and treated paupers as nothing more than slaves undeserving of pity or tenderness. For Morris, the inequality and suffering of ordinary people was alleviated by the satisfaction of rewarding work. Some would say that this pie in the sky, misty eyed view of the past was a typical utopian viewpoint of the Victorian intellectual chattering classes; but nonetheless, Morris fervently believed that industrialisation made workers unhappy because it turned them into nothing more than cogs in a machine. The dignity of labour was no more; so Morris set up his own company which would produce hand crafted products and employed a skilled workforce to produce the textiles he designed, and in return, give them satisfaction from their labours.
hsmithsl Ironically, the one fly in the ointment for Morris of course, was that the very people he wished to free from their lives of machined drudgery were those who could not afford his creations. This, and the fact that his business had made him a millionaire, worried him greatly, and so in 1883 he declared himself a socialist; enabling his misty eyed concept of the romantic past he had read in all the books of Sir Walter Scott, to be merged with his vision of a more humane and pleasant society, which could well stand up as a blue print for the core principles of the modern Green Party. All of his writings reflect his love of an impossible past that never quite was, with his deeply held socialist beliefs; “When all birds sing in the town of the tree”, as Morris lies deep within the warm, inviting bosom of his old bed, “As ye lie in me And scarce dare move Lest earth and it`s love Should fade away.” There is a wonderful humanity about Morris which is reflected in his writings and designs; a man who cares deeply about those not as fortunate as himself; who have never known work as pleasure, but as a harsh, unrelenting passage of existence from one day to the next. He wished with all his might to reach down and give them all a hand up and give their lives the dignity of meaning , and make the times gentler, more compassionate and understanding of their plight. Something which wonderfully highlights William Morris the man, is succinctly shown in Jeremy Deller`s 2013 painting of Morris hurling the yacht of the modern Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich into the sea, after his grotesquely enormous boat had parked up in the Venetian lagoon and blocked everyone`s view of the old city. The UK is one of the world`s richest economies, and yet millions survive on hand-outs from food banks to prevent themselves starving to death, while Abramovich sails around the world in a boat the size of a planet…………“We sit starving amidst our gold.”

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