Socialism is one of the simplest ideas in the world. It has always puzzled me how there came to be so much bewilderment and misunderstanding and miserable mutual slander about it. At one time I agreed with Socialism, because it was simple. Now I disagree with Socialism, because it is too simple. Yet most of its opponents still seem to treat it, not merely as an iniquity but as a mystery of iniquity, which seems to mystify them even more than it maddens them. It may not seem strange that its antagonists should be puzzled about what it is. It may appear more curious and interesting that its admirers are equally puzzled. Its foes used to denounce Socialism as Anarchy, which is its opposite. Its friends seemed to suppose that it is a sort of optimism, which is almost as much of an opposite. Friends and foes alike talked as if it involved a sort of faith in ideal human nature; why I could never imagine. The Socialist system, in a more special sense than any other, is founded not on optimism but on original sin. It proposes that the State, as the conscience of the community, should possess all primary forms of property; and that obviously on the ground that men cannot be trusted to own or barter or combine or compete without injury to themselves. Just as a State might own all the guns lest people should shoot each other, so this State would own all the gold and land lest they should cheat or rackrent or exploit each other. It seems extraordinarily simple and even obvious; and so it is. It is too obvious to be true.

— Eugenics and Other Evils  (1922).

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 9:33 am  Leave a Comment  

“Smash it to atoms”

Capitalism, of course, is at war with the family, for the same reason which has led to its being at war with the Trade Union. This indeed is the only sense in which it is true that capitalism is connected with individualism. Capitalism believes in collectivism for itself and individualism for its enemies. It desires its victims to be individuals, or (in other words) to be atoms. For the word atom, in its clearest meaning (which is none too clear) might be translated as “individual.” If there be any bond, if there be any brotherhood, if there be any class loyalty or domestic discipline, by which the poor can help the poor, these emancipators will certainly strive to loosen that bond or lift that discipline in the most liberal fashion. If there be such a brotherhood, these individualists will redistribute it in the form of individuals; or in other words smash it to atoms.

— The Superstition of Divorce (1920).

Published in: on April 17, 2013 at 10:36 pm  Leave a Comment  


I saw a mirror like the moon
Made splendid by a sunken sun
Framing the wrinkled face of kings
And haloed harlots one by one
And many a judge with livid lips,
And many a thief with thankful eyes,
Like his who climbed the torturing tree
And drank that night in Paradise;
And something like a floating word
Behind a curtain, overheard
By chance, from a strange chamber, found me
“The mirror is a woman’s eyes.”
(Speculum Justitiae, ora pro nobis.)

Rose up through one clear rent of sky
The midmost of a monstrous tower
Far up, far down, all earthly scale
Escaping in its pathless power
Such strength as only burst from sight
In some lost epic vast and wild
Where giants piling up their tower
Were pygmies by the thing they piled.
And the heart knew without a word
A strength below all strength had stirred
Lifting the load of all the world
A woman’s arms under a child.
(Turris Davidica, ora pro nobis.)

Broad was the house of burning gold
Like sunrise standing on the mountains
A million mirrored flames that glowed
On golden peacocks, golden fountains,
As tree by tree stood rayed with flame
Like seven-branched candlestick or fan
All glories in the Age of Gold
Glowed equal when the world began
But a voice speaking dreamily
Said in my ear, but not to me,
“One gold thread of a woman’s hair
Has blown across the eyes of man.”
(Domus Aurea, ora pro nobis.)

Deep in a silver wintry wood
In secret skies where sleepers rove
An ivory turret from the trees
Rose clearer than the sky it clove
Too wan for flame, too warm for snow,
Which gold most delicate would defile
And near but never nearer growing
Though one should labour mile on mile.
And with it — in the flash that brings
Sight of the world of little things,
A woman’s finger lifted up,
A finger lifted with a smile.
(Turris Eburnea, ora pro nobis.)

Down through the purple desolation
Of deserts under stars they strode
Who bore the dark and winged pavilion
Of their ungraven god for load;
Strange if the secret of the skies
Behind low crimson curtains hid,
Or if that vagrant booth defied
The huge hypnotic Pyramid.
Then in an image come and gone,
Green fields and one that stood thereon
Flashed like green lightning; and the thunder
“A woman was his walking home”
(Feoderis Arca, ora pro nobis.)

O breakers! Great iconoclasts!
When will your raking hammers find
What statues spring up with a word,
What icons have built up the mind,
Or learn by hacking if the Form
Be all a part or part a whole,
Or grind out of your gods made dust
What is the sign and what the soul
Or chase what images have hung
In the air where any song was sung,
Seeing if the sword can put asunder
All that was wedded with the tongue?
(Sedes Sapientiae, ora pro nobis.)

— (1926).

Published in: on April 10, 2013 at 8:08 am  Leave a Comment  

“The end of life and the end of love”

It is exceedingly characteristic of the dreary decades before the War that the forms of freedom in which they seemed to specialise were suicide and divorce. I am not at the moment pronouncing on the moral problem of either; I am merely noting, as signs of those times, those two true or false counsels of despair; the end of life and the end of love. Other forms of freedom were being increasingly curtailed.

The Superstition of Divorce (1920).

Published in: on April 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm  Leave a Comment