Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Appeal of British History

by S.F. Sharp

British and indeed any history is the recorded memory of mankind. It is an interesting story of past enterprise. Once a deed has been done, once an event has occurred, it is as if written on tablets of stone and can never be undone. While history’s true facts cannot be erased they are open to interpretations, which can be good or bad, true or false.

British history’s events are the cause of our present situation and so of our future. A mirror of what we have been in which we recognise as a family likeness. A reminder of who we are and of what we are capable.

For history is not just a narrative of the past, a chronicle of remembered dates, it is also a record of great men whose lives serve to remind us we too can achieve something worthwhile, something sublime. It is the result of many humble people who laboured to lay the stone stairways up which great men could rise.

Above all, our history may and should be an inspiration for us to emulate the good achievements of the past and to avoid the misdeeds and errors that litter the winding path of ongoing time. It has already inspired great paintings, sculptures and, of course, poetry.

British history, like life itself, is largely unpredictable. It appears to be a series of chapters in a narrative which has no end. Empires rise and while they last seem impregnable they already contain the seeds of their demise. The British could be forgiven for never thinking the Empire would cease, just as Roman Emperors could not envisage their days of triumph would end.

Time, like the River Thames, flows remorselessly on. As Heraditus observed, “You can never step in the same river twice”, fresh waters wash away those that have gone before. This is not something we should ever regret. Change, however unsettling, should be welcomed; it gives life, vitality and freshness. It avoids the boredom of ever-repeated sameness and opens our minds and hearts to new possibilities and opportunities.

I am no trained historian, coming to its rich panorama as a philosopher and a poet. Without the careful painstaking work of historians I could never have penned my flights of poetic imagination. I am grateful to their more exact scholarship.

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S.F. Sharp is the author of poetry and philosophy, including the four-volume Philosophical Explorations in 2007 and Later Gleanings (2013). He has a degree from the Open University, and now lives in active retirement in Milton Regis, Kent.

Enterprise of the English: An appreciation of English history in verse

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1 comment:

  1. What? "a record of great men". History is more than that isn't it?

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