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This article is taken from PN Review 24, Volume 8 Number 4, March - April 1982.

The Dream Decays Neil Powell

The following essay forms Chapter Twelve of Neil Powell's forthcoming book about the 1960s, So Long on Lonely Street, a personal and partial cultural history of the decade by one who grew up during it. The chronological starting-point of the present chapter is 1968: the author was then an undergraduate at the University of Warwick.


Shelley dreamed it. Now the dream decays.
The props crumble. The familiar ways
Are stale with tears trodden underfoot.
The heart's flower withers at the root.
Bury it, then, in history's sterile dust.
The slow years shall tame your tawny lust.
          (R. S. Thomas, Selected Poems 1946-1968, p. 35)


R. S. Thomas's 'Song at the Year's Turning', of which that is the fine opening stanza, was not written to greet the New Year of 1968, but its images seem appropriate to the disappointments and lost ideals of the dying years of the 1960s. Donald Davie's 'New Year Wishes for the English' were not written for 1968, either: they appeared in The Guardian on 1 January 1966. 'Beware the ball-point lens,' Davie warned: 'Lord Thomson and Lord Snowden be/Far from your door.' And his other wishes include this one:


May you have, against the incessant
Rain of the new, the all-new,
Indifference as an umbrella.


(Donald Davie, Collected Poems 1950-1970, pp. 209-210) It didn't happen that way, of course. The all-new ...


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