Enter Home Planet News In Praise of William Morris                        Page 2

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The Socialist League


There was a factional dust-devil at the Federation in 1885
as the drive for Socialism gathered people and problems

-something about the secession of a body of EEdinburgh
socialists from the Federation

with the result that Wm Morris found himself at the head
of something called the Socialist League

                    you can look it up in the leaflets
                    and position papers of the era


Friends were amazed, and some alarmed, that he
was working to destroy the economic system
that saw the invest in images & art

The art crowd
was like a fluffy salad of talking endives
whose moneyed onions made sure a favored painter thrived.

Down in the garden of art the dancing money lurks
but please don't stand against a war with the Turks

So William Morris left the jive of the endive
the pleasant ride of the scholar-designer
to take the bumpy road from medieval reveler
to analytic Marx and the ancient Leveller

however much for an aesthete and lover of beauty
he perforce had to face the shabbiness and
                   in the big neighborhoods of English cities


A Stink-Bomb from Right Wingers

In 1885 Morris gave a talk "in a music-room in Holywell"
at Oxford in which he spoke of Socialism

Young right wingers yowled and
beat their feet on the floor at his words
Then they moved toward the stage

Someone had a bottle of a stinky chemical
which they opened and spread in fumes of vom-vom
                                        to kill the meeting


Bloody Sunday
November 13, 1887

The weather was bleak and gloomy
of the sort to damp down revolutionary ire

Economic depression had knocked people out of work
The workers were upset
The issue of the Irish and the way the gov't dealt with the Irish
                     were a factor in the disquietude

Thousands were set to converge upon Trafalgar Square
from several directions

William Morris was one of the marchers

The gov't had ordered the police and troops to kill the march
They attacked and sent it scattering
during which one young man, Alfred Linnell,
                               was wounded and died a few weeks later

Morris's speech at the young man's funeral

had a theme of bread and roses

25 years before the great strike at the cloth mills of
Lawrence, Mass
                      came up with the historic banner
                      "We want bread and roses too"

He said, "....if society had been differently constituted,
his life might have been a delightful, a beautiful and a happy one
It is our business to organize.... to try to make this earth
                                                     a beautiful and happy place

That's what we should do
find Alfred's gravesite

and place there loaves and roses day 'pon day
till bread and the flowers of fun
bescent each place beneath the sun


Then in 1889 some avowed anarchists
got control of the Socialist League

and voted Morris out of power

Thereafter, in the words of William Gaunt
it became a "small and bitter sect"

Welcome, o sect, to the tens of thousands of
                      leftist hickory cudgels

     gathered in the great cudgel-stands
                      of dusty hallways
                      by empty meeting rooms


He spent the last seven years of his life
going out in a blaze of publishing

He founded the Kelmscott Press

for which he designed type, selected the best of papers
and worked with the best artists

His last great work was a famous edition of Chaucer
with Edward Burne-Jones doing the drawings
                                                     for the woodcuts

Ahh, Sun-Flower, weary of time

It took him five years to publish the Kelmscott Chaucer
-a folio in pigskin with a silver clasp

Yeats termed it the "most beautiful book in the world"
A blaze of publishing so that the socialist publisher could die
                                                   at 62
                                            that October of '96

in the monumentality of his time-track.

                   Praise William Morris
                   but please know this:

                   Great art and socialism
                   still can kiss Great art & egalité
                   bread and bliss

                   -Edward Sanders
                   April 2007