Sydney Thompson Dobell was a poet who in his day was perhaps of some minor notoriety and merit, but not much. Born on April 5, 1824, Syd was the son of a wine merchant on his father’s side and on his mother’s, the daughter of Samuel Thompson, a London political reformer. He grew up as all good products of Victorian Era middle-class England, a “dandy” of sorts but in his case, with a fierce desire to change the world through political reform, and his poetry.
As a sentient, somewhat worldly Englishman during the last half of the 19th Century, STD was undoubtedly aware of political and/or artistic events and movements as the Crimean War, Franco-Prussian War, Age of Romanticism and the Belle Époque Era (Golden Era) of French and Western history. During this time, the modernization and attendant carnage of war led to the call for a new type of art, of painting, sculpture and writing to address the pain, suffering and horrors of war previously hidden from public view but now exposed via telegraphed reports from the front and wide access to, at least, for the times, modern photography.
One of the movements produced by the blending of art, intelligence, pathos and political commentary involved a group of poets often called the Spasmodic school. Reportedly dubbed by no less than Lord Byron, the Spasmodic movement created a kind of realistic, worried about our very existence and heavy (probably too much so) on metaphor style and method to describe the state of enlightened 19th Century thought. I guess you could say it was at the time romantic to live one’s life in vain trying to obtain the unobtainable. Existentialism on steroids I tell you.
Religion at the time was, for the most part, an internal struggle between the individual and the present-life. Little thought was given to the afterlife. As Plato, most likely quoting Socrates at his trial before he was forced to drink hemlock, said many centuries before,
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
These words, meant to show the banality of living one’s life in a routine dictated by the rules of others, without question, became the rallying cry of enlightened thinkers who, in many ways, wanted nothing more than the ability to make decisions for oneself and to let the chips fall as they may, or may not.
Writing under the nom de plume Sydney Yendes, Dobell began writing and publishing a series of spasmodic minor poems about life, death, more death, tragedy and political reform including his generally acknowledged masterwork, “The Roman”, to be followed shortly thereafter by “Balder” another dramatic poem of mid-level accomplishment and notoriety.
T. Dobell was an early and outspoken advocate of Women’s rights and openly championed the cause of the oppressed. He died on August 22, 1874.
So, why am I writing about this guy? It’s because via his unique blend of metaphor, extravagance, drama, politics, spirituality, unrequited life and death and struggle, he furnished one of my all-time favorite quotes.
“It is a zealot’s faith that blasts the shrines of the false god, but builds no temple to the true.” – Sydney Thompson Dobell
True then, perhaps even truer today. Reminds me of Bernie, to be honest. Big Business/Banks suck, yeah, yeah, but what is the alternative? The Solution? Ain’t nothing free. And then there’s Trumpus Unelecticus the fattest of the fatted golden shower manna calves hissself. You are remembered, and admired my friend. Yes, you still are.