The Cosmic Clock by C.J. Dennis

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Criticising Jacob Epstein's latest piece of sculpture, Eric Gill, the sculptor, says: "If I had discovered this monstrous piece of sculpture on a desert island, I should have said it was a jolly fine piece of work . . . But what is it for? Where is it going?" Sir Charles Allom calls it "filthy modern stuff, equalled only by the work of a few savages in distant times."  

I often wonder when I view 
Some work of art described as "new" 
   If there is not some limit set 
   Beyond which mortals may not get. 
In all man's arts in all his aims, 
Beside a gate a warning flames 
   Set close upon perfection's verge 
   That stays his frantic onward urge. 

But the world goes round and round and round   
And nought survives above the ground 
   Unless it takes the onward way 
   Or else drifts backward to decay. 
The high gods hate 
The static state 
And Nature will not tolerate 
   Stagnation. There is nothing new; 
   So, when there's nothing left to do. 
   Back to the jungle, boy, for you.

Surrealism's rampant paint,   
A negroid image crudely quaint
   Free-verse and jazz, discordant tunes,   
   And that unhappy thing that croons--   
All, all seem signs we're turning back   
Along an old, familiar track   
   From things achieved to things to come   
   As swings the cosmic pendulum.   

And, as stars swing across the sky,   
The rhythm throbs, now low, now high;   
   And all our arts, in peace, in war,   
   Are old; man did it all before,   
For who can say,     
Strive as we may,     
That from some lost Atlanta's day,   
   All we have thought or ever wrought   
   May not be echoes vaguely caught?   ...
   It's not a very cheerful thought.   

First published in The Herald, 27 October 1937;
and later in
The Queenslander, 17 November 1937.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 27, 2013 7:44 AM.

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