It’s often argued that The Lord of the Rings owes much to Tolkien’s experiences in the First World War. In many ways that’s kind of a no-brainer.

1. Once

We built our Babel out of bricks
And black granite slabs hauled on rollers
Sliding up the slope to pile on the piles.

We only got so far, of course: a fraction
Of that whole we blueprinted, or sketched
In sand — a stump, no soaring στυλος.

It…

Historians and analysts are still arguing how it is that we of the Earth were able to overwhelm the vastly more numerous and powerful inhabitants of the Sun. There are, of course, many factors that enabled our victory. As a species we worked hard to overcome our manifest disadvantages, our…

I’ll say something about Wordsworth’s ‘Daffodils’. Which Wordsworth, though? Well, for one, William’s short lyric ‘Daffodils’, one of the most desperately famous poems in the canon. And for another the (prior) entry Dorothy wrote in her private journal, which Wordsworth raided to write his poem. This, having students discuss the…

Below the thunders of the upper teeth,
Far, far beneath in the abysmal throat,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Croaking sleepeth: faintest rumblings float
As I begin to try to speak; unwell,
Faint crackles and a groaning dart around
My indistincted words and sickness sound
In ev’ry mumbled scratchy syllable:
My faint attempts at speech are just a joke
These rough-hewn grumblings are hardly words.
Afflicting virus-thorns do, krackling, choke
My audible attempts at utterance,
And clog my ev’ry vocal circumstance;
And so, doomed though I am to be unheard
In speaking I shall try and in the end just croak.

Blake, ‘Song of Los’ (1795) plate 3

The Song of Los (1795) is one of Blake’s ‘prophetic books’. Though little read in comparison to the Songs of Innocence and Experience, it is a fascinating piece: not lengthy, and divided between a section called ‘Africa’ and one called ‘Asia’. It is not actually about ‘Los’, the entity created…

Thel

This is the motto to Blake’s early poem, The Book of Thel (self-published 1789, written maybe 1788 or perhaps, as some critics suggest, 1790 or even later). I’m not going to get into the whole poem here, although there is a lot that is fascinating about its pastoral, Revolutionary, proto-feminist…

Live twice, die once

The name of the game here is spoilers. Bond spoilers. You have been warned.

The general critical reaction to Daniel Craig’s last Bond has been remarkably positive. Sure, it’s eleven hours long, or thereabouts. OK: the theme song is lame. Alright, the throughline plot is bonkers, the dialogue often risible…

Live twice, but die once

The name of the game here is spoilers. Bond spoilers. You have been warned.

The general critical reaction to Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie has been remarkably positive. Sure, it’s eleven hours long, or thereabouts. OK: the theme song is lame. Alright, the throughline plot is bonkers, the dialogue often…

[This is the second of what will, I think, be an ongoing series, pursuant to a larger project on Dickens and Spirit. See the opening paragraphs of this post for more on that, should you find yourself so moved.]

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Let’s talk about Oliver Twist, Dickens’s second novel, published in…

Adam Roberts

Writer and academic. London-adjacent.

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