It is a cliché to say that we live in a time of political and historical uncertainty. Many commentators have quoted Yeats’ Second Coming (1919) as indicative of the atmosphere of the present:The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity… In this paper I would like to talk about Arthur Hugh Clough’s epistolary poem Amours de Voyage, which describes Clough’s first-hand experience of the events of 1840s Europe, another time of uncertainty and rising nationalist agendas. Amours de Voyage was largely written during Clough’s stay in Rome from April to July, 1849, the brief period in which the Roman Republic existed, and the city was under siege from the French. The poem is an unusual, unromantic and bemused depiction of nationalistic conflict. By the time it was finally published in Britain in 1862, the Italian struggle for independence had become one of the most celebrated and romantic causes of the century. Clough, with his questioning turn of mind, was inherently wary of such emotional responses. This poem epitomises the detached and constructive scepticism with which Clough approached political and national manifestos, questioning blind certainties and often undermining the pomposity of fanaticism through humour. Today, when the results of twentieth and twenty first century fanaticisms should demonstrate the folly of unthinking belief, it is perhaps surprising that the positive and affirmative nature of Clough’s scepticism is not more widely celebrated.
Cora Lindsay, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
Stream: Humanities - Literature/Literary Studies*
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