The attacks on environmental journalism, environmental advocates and sustainable energy proponents seem so strong, so vicious, and so ill-omened in winter of 2014-15, that many people are temped to give up and accept that planetary destruction is inevitable. But this is why we need the arts and humanities — history and poetry especially — to help us renew and rekindle the human and humane spirit. For history, no one compares with Winston Churchill, relentless old imperialist though he was. And for poetry …
In the worst moments facing down the most evil empire in history, Churchill would recite an old Victorian poet, otherwise long since forgotten, by the name of Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1916). He read this poem over BBC at the end of his speech on April 27, 1941.
Say not the struggle naught availeth,
The labor and the wounds are vain,
The enemy faints not, nor faileth,
And as things have been they remain
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;
It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,
Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,
And, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in the main.
And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!
But westward, look, the land is bright!