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Racism redux

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Brock
1281665.  Thu Apr 19, 2018 5:48 am Reply with quote

It's actually quite misleading, because it suggests that Powell was predicting actual bloodshed in the streets, whereas in fact - as the context makes clear - he was merely trying to convey his own sense of foreboding. But I doubt whether too many people would have picked up on the classical allusion.

 
suze
1281707.  Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:28 pm Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
I'd imagine some journalist wrote that Powell talked about "Rivers of Blood", and the name stuck.


That seems likely, although no one appears to know which journalist used those words. Possibly one of the older members of the press corps, one who was old enough to have heard Winston Churchill say "We are asking the nations of Europe between whom rivers of blood have flowed, to forget the feuds of a thousand years and work for the larger harmonies on which the future depends".

Churchill said those words in a talk on BBC Wireless in 1948. Contrary to what some have claimed since, he was supporting the then-new idea of creating was to become the EU. He actually was asking them to do that, not decrying the idea as impossible. Churchill was probably quoting Thomas Jefferson, who had used the same expression 150 years earlier.

In those days anyone who went to grammar school studied Latin, so it's likely that more recognized the Virgil quote than would today. Even more would have done had he quoted the line in Latin, as he later said that he wished he had done.

Powell himself very much was a Classicist; he had a Double First from Cambridge and was for a time Professor of Greek at the University of Sydney. He did not involve himself in politics while at Cambridge, and had WWII not happened he might well have spent his entire life either in academia or in diplomacy. He was at one point interested in joining the Indian Civil Service, for which reason he also learned Urdu while at Cambridge.

Professor Mary Beard, writing about Powell for the Times Lit

Boris probably reads the Times Lit, and I have little doubt that Enoch Powell did. It's all a bit highbrow for most of the rest of us.

 

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