As I Please
Tribune, 14 February 1947
are some excerpts from a letter from a Scottish Nationalist. I have cut out
anything likely to reveal the writer’s identity. The frequent references
to Poland are there because the letter is primarily concerned with the
presence of exiled Poles in Scotland:
The Polish forces have now discovered how untrue it is to say ‘An Englishman’s word is his bond’. We could have told you so hundreds of years ago. The invasion of Poland was only an excuse for these brigands in bowler hats to beat up their rivals the Germans and the Japs, with the help of Americans, Poles, Scots, Frenchmen, etc. etc. Surely no Pole believes any longer in English promises. Now that the war is over you are to be cast aside and dumped in Scotland. If this leads to friction between the Poles and Scots so much the better. Let them slit each other’s throats and two problems would be thereupon ‘solved’. Dear, kind little England! It is time for all Poles to shed any ideas they may have about England as a champion of freedom. Look at her record in Scotland, for instance. And please don’t refer to us as ‘Britons’. There is no such race. We are Scots and that’s good enough for us. The English changed their name to British, but even if a criminal changes his name he can be known by his fingerprints . . . Please disregard any anti-Polish statement in the –––. It is a boot-licking pro-English (pro-Moscow you would call it) rag. Scotland experienced her Yalta in 1707 when English gold achieved what English guns could not do. But we will never accept defeat. After more than two hundred years we are still fighting for our country and will never acknowledge defeat whatever the odds.
is a good deal more in the letter, but this should be enough. It will be
noted that the writer is not attacking England from what is called a
‘left’ standpoint, but on the ground that Scotland and England are
enemies as nations. I don’t know whether it would be fair to read
race-theory into this letter, but certainly the writer hates us as bitterly
as a devout Nazi
would hate a Jew. It is not a hatred of the capitalist class, or anything
like that, but of England. And though the fact is not sufficiently
realized, there is an appreciable amount of this kind of thing knocking
about. I have seen almost equally violent statements in print.
To change the subject a bit, here is an excerpt from another letter. It is from a whisky distiller:
We regret we are reluctantly compelled to return your cheque as owing to Mr Strachey’s failure to fulfil his promise to release barley for distilling in Scotland we dare not take on any new business . . . . When you have difficulty in obtaining a drink it will be some consolation to you to know that Mr Strachey has sent 35,000 tons of barley to NEUTRAL Eire for brewing purposes.
People must be feeling very warmed-up when they put that kind of thing into a business letter which, by the look of it, is almost a circular letter. It doesn’t matter very much, because whisky distillers and even their customers don’t add up to many votes. But I wish I could feel sure that the people who make remarks like the one I overheard in the greengrocer’s queue yesterday – ‘Government! They couldn’t govern a sausage-shop, this lot couldn’t!’ – were equally few in numbers.
Skelton is not an easy poet to get hold of, and I have never yet possessed a complete edition of his works. Recently, in a selection I had picked up, I looked for and failed to find a poem which I remember reading years ago. It was what is called a macaronic poem – part English, part Latin – and was an elegy on the death of somebody or other. The only passage I can recall runs:
est among the weeds,
has stuck in my mind because it expresses an outlook totally impossible in
our own age. Today there is literally no one who could write of death in
that light-hearted manner. Since the decay of the belief in personal
immortality, death has never seemed funny, and it will be a long time before
it does so again. Hence the disappearance of the facetious epitaph, once a
common feature of country churchyards. I should be astonished to see a comic
epitaph dated later than 1850. There is one in Kew, if I remember rightly,
which might be about that date. About half the tombstone is covered with a
long panegyric on his dead wife by a bereaved husband: at the bottom of the
stone is a later inscription which reads, ‘Now he’s gone, too’.
close around, ye Stygian set,
It would almost be worth being dead to have that written about you.
The Estate of Eric Blair
Reproduced here under educational Fair Use law