19th February 2016
When we writers sit at our desks staring off into middle earth, we should bear in mind that we are not just creating something of beauty, but of force with untold power. I don't mean because art is a place for proselytizing - it's not - but because a certain configuration of words has the power to move hearts, and the heart, as was so elegantly stated in The English Patient, is an organ of fire.
So choose your words well. Tread softly, says Yeats. I am still going on about WB Yeats this week, because he understood how to distill words and create a flammable potion:
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
In 1921, Ireland was granted its freedom after years of bloody resistance. But before that, in 1903, Yeats and Lady Gregory founded the Abbey Theatre in Dublin to become a centre for a national revival of the arts. They weren't putting on chest-beating nationalistic plays in there. But they were kindling Irish artists, and, as we all know, eventually kindling is liable to combust.
In 1995, two years before Scotland voted to have its own parliament, Braveheart hit the cinemas, revealing to Scots their history, to some for the first time. No manifesto could have stirred the hearts of the Scottish people as that film did. The arts are a weapon, let no one mistake it. Conquerer nations don't mistake it. Kill the language, kill that organ of fire. So languages are removed; history goes out the window, too.
As you sit at your desk fighting for focus, don't mistake what you are dealing with: what you have in your hands, what the gods have gifted you with, is holy fire.