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This article is taken from PN Review 4, Volume 4 Number 4, July - September 1978.

Poetry and Polemic Michael Vince

DONALD DAVIE's editorial in PNR 2, which contains so many assertions and appealing generalizations, yet steers its way to safe ground ('This is dangerous talk, of course'), prompts me to generalize a little further, in a positive sense, I hope.

Caricaturing the roles of the party leader and of the press, his vision of political life seems itself to take on the quality of journalistic fantasy, the Daily Herald not included; 'different calibre' . . . 'more personal weight' . . .: his politics suggest a drama of great figures, without any very definite examples. Is this to be our education in the nation's history? Nor do we get much sense of politics other than the relationship, which sounds like an equation, between the intelligence of the electorate, all or few, and the worth of the party leaders, including their indifference to 'literary and poetic intelligence'. And we are left wondering, perhaps, whether the equation works both ways; do our politicians get the electorate they deserve?

Apparently the politics he is discussing excludes the majority of people whose lack of education he deplores. What he is really discussing seems to be the idea of intelligence, defined as above, with a few heavy-handed side-swipes at the popular notion of technology, and W. H. Smith. Democracy requires the vision of intelligent men, but also the vision of a certain kind of education; where the electorate lacks this, politics is laughable. What we are not told is precisely ...

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