I came across the title of this post in my Twitter feed; despair is the only word that can describe my feelings after the referendum vote on Thursday.
Today, in the Guardian, Blake Morrison captured the same mood in a poem, called ‘After Housman’:
Into my heart an air that kills
from Wales and England blows.
Who put the poison in the wells?
Whose razor wires are those?
Theirs is the land of lost content.
They see it shining plain.
The fortress-isle old lags lament
And hope to build again.
Something else in today’s Guardian is a preview of a forthcoming exhibition of the work of Winifred Knights – illustrated with a reproduction of her most familiar painting, ‘The Deluge’. Although the author of the article writes that ‘The Deluge remains the default option of any picture editor in need of an easy notation for any number of Very Bad Things from cultural despair to the Third World War’, I can’t resist appropriating the image once again for this new disaster of epic proportions.
Winifred Knights’ 6ft canvas is packed with 21 anguished, beseeching figures and a worried-looking dog. The nominal subject is the biblical story of Noah’s ark, but the timeless look of the clothes and the distant buildings suggests that the moment depicted is actually the unplaceable now. Strikingly absent from Knights’ landscape is the ark itself, and with it any hope of safety or salvation. Instead, terrified men, women and children scrabble up a mountain that is soon to be submerged by the rising tide. Anguish is bitten into their upturned faces, while desperation stiffens their imploring bodies into racked diagonals.
Is there any waking up from this nightmare, a glimmer of light?
– Polly Toynbee, Guardian
My only consolation is that I live in a city that bucked the national trend by voting for Remain. For Liverpool has benefited from £2.3bn of European Union investment in the shape of Objective One and Two Funding for local infrastructure improvements, as well as European Social Fund actions aimed at reducing inactivity among young people and the long-term unemployed which have benefited working class communities. Where such investment- that has also benefited most of the ‘left behind’ areas that voted for Remain – is likely to come from in the future is anyone’s guess.