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This article is taken from PN Review 157, Volume 30 Number 5, May - June 2004.

The Burning Baby and the Bathwater 10: 'Planning New Apocalypses' James Keery

10: `Planning New Apocalypses'

`The word was in the air of course.' So J.F. Hendry observes, in `Apocalypse Now: The Image and the Myth':

William Jeffrey had used it in his work. Aldous Huxley had written about `the apocalypse of flowers'. Joseph Macleod used it in The Ecliptic, and Edwin Muir was later, in his poem `Salem', actually to refer to the `New Apocalypse', which was the title of our first anthology.1

Huxley's account of `apocalypses of flowers', in visions experienced under the influence of mescalin, appears in The Doors of Perception (1954); Hendry is mistaken about The Ecliptic (1930), though `revelation' occurs; and `Salem, Massachusetts' dates from the 1950s (`They walked black Bible streets and piously tilled/ The burning fields of the new Apocalypse').2 Alone of the four, William Jeffrey (1894-1946), a poet of the Scottish Renaissance, may well have used the word in the 1930s, but hardly suffices to clinch Hendry's point.

For all its inevitability, in retrospect, the A-word seems to have had surprisingly little mainstream currency during the 1930s. The nil returns by Hynes and Cunningham might be cited in evidence. There is, to say the least, a remarkable mismatch between usage and quotation in their writing. Insofar as it was current, the word seems to have been employed more freely by acknowledged or recognisable precursors of the Apocalyptic movement, almost invariably non-`canonical' writers. Barker is a prime example:

On being asked ...


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