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Epigraphs in Lucifer before Sunrise: some background



Title page epigraphs


Epigraphs fronting Book One: The Island Fortress

Book One: Part Two – ‘Woodland Idyll’

Book One: Part Three – ‘The Dark and Abysm of Time’

Book One: Part Four – ‘A Cad’s War’


Epigraphs fronting Book Two: The Malevolent Glint:

Book Two: Part One – ‘Crux’

Book Two: Part Two – ‘Still are thy Pleasant Voices’

Book Two: Part Three – ‘Death of the Doppelganger’



I must stress here once again that it is not necessary for the enjoyment of the novel to take note of HW's extensive use of epigraphs and their meaning to his work, but the background does add another layer to one's understanding; while for the serious researcher they are of prime importance.



Title page epigraphs:


The first epigraph is:


'If a poet is sensitive enough to his age and brave enough to face it directly, it will kill him through exacerbation of his senses alone.'

Author unknown


The 'author unknown' produced a somewhat complicated puzzle. Michael Coultas, in his 'Epigraphs from the Chronicle' (HWSJ 49, September 2013, p. 63), states that Ian Abernethy (an HWS member) had traced this quotation to M. L. Rosenthal, in an essay on Sylvia Plath in a book published in mid-1967, and Coultas makes the supposition that HW must therefore have added it from this source at a late stage in the production of Lucifer, which was published on 26 October 1967. But if this were so, then HW could hardly have forgotten the source of the quotation (and indeed, as he had dealt with the Lucifer proofs over 12/13 June 1967 and returned them to the publisher the next day, this makes such a source almost impossible). Coultas also supposed that HW was hinting that 'he' was 'not brave enough to face it directly' but does not tell us what 'it' was. Supposition is not good enough: careful interpretation of the words and their context tell a very different story.


In actual fact HW had noted this quotation – twice – two years previously in his 1965 diary, in the 'Notes' section at the end of September, on two consecutive pages, where he indicates it is to be used in Lucifer for 'Death of Doppelganger', i.e. Part III of Book Two. Unfortunately he did not note the source at the time.



lucifer app diary2



lucifer app diary1



Contacting Ian Abernethy about this discrepancy, he very kindly quickly found, via the internet, the correct original source:


M. L. Rosenthal, review of Sylvia Plath, Ariel (compiled and edited by Ted Hughes after Plath's death in 1963 and published in March 1965): 'Poets of the Dangerous Way', The Spectator, 19 March 1965.


M. L. Rosenthal (1917‒1996), poet and critic, was Professor of English at New York University, and a forerunner in charting the development of modern and contemporary poetry. He had earlier coined the phrase 'Confessional Poetry', or 'Poetry as Confession', particularly to cover the intimate details of the style of poetry of Robert Lowell, but also of Lowell's pupil and successor, Sylvia Plath (and indeed other similar poets). The whole background to this is a study on its own and cannot concern us here.


What we do need to consider is that HW, as a creative writer, fits into this 'Poetry as Confession' genre. More importantly, within the context of his chosen quotation, HW is telling his readers that he is indeed sensitive to his age and in telling its story directly, as it actually was without embellishment, he is paying the cost within his own being.


In his essay 'Poetry as Confession' (Nation, 19 September 1959), Rosenthal had written that


such poets focus on particularly painful moments in their lives which they often relate to more general historical or cultural problems.


That statement is totally applicable to the mainspring of HW's writing. His particular painful moment was the First World War and he related the world's problems to its cause and effect.


I would point out here that, at the time he noted that quotation in his diary, HW was in London and staying at the Savage Club where, I would surmise, he picked up that copy of The Spectator, and, with a mild interest in Sylvia Plath as the deceased wife of Ted Hughes, read that review of Ariel – and saw how appropriate the words were to himself and his writing, especially the current volume Lucifer before Sunrise. There is no evidence (as Coultas implies) that HW was interested in Plath's actual poetry: indeed, I would suggest the opposite – far too way out and modern for his tastes!


The second title-page epigraph is equally (possibly more) complicated, although for a different reason.


‘If way to the better there be, it enacts a full look at the worst.’

Thomas Hardy


These words are from In Tenebris (I, II, III), written during 1895–96, but first published in Poems of the Past and the Present (1902). In Tenebris translates as 'In Darkness'; one of HW's early titles for this volume was 'A Chronicle Writ in Darkness'. HW would have seized on that connection; but the quotation itself also reflects his attitude and his purpose. The quotation HW uses is from In Tenebris II, fourth stanza, slightly misquoted – the full line should be:


Who holds that if way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst.


(I suspect the erroneous word may have been due to a typist misreading HW's handwriting – and then the mistake going unnoticed at the book's proof reading stage.)


However, the actual background of Hardy's poem needs to be known to understand fully why HW used it to head his novel – and therefore what he wanted his readers to understand about the book. Hardy had published at least fifteen novels before, when over 60 years of age, he began to publish his poetry, although he had been writing poetry for many years. There are about ten volumes in total. HW was a great admirer of the work of Thomas Hardy (18401928) and understood his foremost position in the literary world. That in itself would merit a 'Hardy' quotation, and there is an immediate appropriateness in those words anyway. But of course there is more to it than that.


Each part of In Tenebris is headed with a quotation from the Psalmsin Latin; and indeed Hardy's Psalm numbers are not those in the Authorised Version of the Bible, thus creating his own little mystery! They actually are, and translate as:


I: Psalm 102, verse 4: ‘My heart is smitten, and withered like grass.’


II: Psalm 142, verse 4: ‘I looked on my right hand and beheld, but there was no man that would know me . . . no man cared for my soul.’

(And continues) verse 6: 'Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.’

(And) verse 7: ‘Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name . . .’


III: Psalm 120, verse 5: ‘Woe is me that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar. My soul dwelleth with him that hateth peace.’

(And continues most significantly) verse 6: 'My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace.

(And) verse 7: 'I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.


Readers who already know the story of Lucifer will understand the import of these, as it were, ‘hidden’ quotations. The poem and its background are complicated, but even a little study rewards the reader with some indication of HW's purpose within his own volume. All three sections need to be read and taken into account with further reference to the particular Psalms to absorb the total message. HW would have expected his readers to be either already familiar with Hardy's poem and the Psalms, or to make themselves familiar with them.


The overall messages of each of the Psalms used here give the biggest clue:


Psalm 102: Prayer of the afflicted when he is overwhelmed and poureth out his affliction before the Lord.

Psalm 142: David showeth that in his troubles all his comfort was in prayer with God. A prayer when he was in the cave. (i.e. in 'Darkness')

Psalm 120: David prayeth against Doeg and reproveth his tongue.


A further point of particular interest is another line within Part II of In Tenebris:


Till I think I am one born out of due time, who has no calling here.


This is a direct reference to a line from I Corinthians, ch. 15, verse 8: 'And last of all he [the resurrected Christ] was seen by me also, as of one that was born out of due time.'


The Epistle to the Corinthians evidently meant a great deal to HW, for he makes reference to it in various works; and he would have recognised Hardy's allusion. He too felt he had been ‘born out of due time’: that is, he was totally misunderstood by the world around him.


(Just as a matter of interest: this same chapter from Corinthians contains the well-known verse as part of Handel's Messiah:


We shall be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound

and the dead shall be raised, incorruptible, and we shall be changed.)


In an introductory 'Apology' to a later volume of his poetry, Late Lyrics and Earlier (1922), Hardy referred particularly to the words HW quotes:


If way to the Better there be, it exacts a full look at the Worst: that is to say, by the exploration of reality and its frank recognition stage by stage along the survey, with an eye to the best consummation possible: briefly, evolutionary meliorism.


('Meliorism' is the doctrine that the world may be made better by human effort.)


Again, in his Preface to the volume in which In Tenebris was printed (Poems of the Past and Present) Hardy noted that:


A true philosophy of life seems to lie in humbly recording diverse readings of its phenomena as they are forced upon us by chance and change.


I hope the above explanation gives a little idea of the ramifications of HW's mind and the affinity that obviously existed between him and Hardy in their thinking; and that it can be seen how the two quotations in tandem shed some light on HW's purpose for Lucifer before Sunrise: Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness – the angel fallen out of the light into the darkness.



Epigraphs fronting Book One: The Island Fortress:


As noted in the main text, 'The Island Fortress' is derivative from Shakespeare's Richard II:


This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle . . . This fortress built by nature . . .


The epigraphs here are:


'Whoever lights the torch of war in Europe can hope for nothing but chaos . . .'

—Adolf Hitler in the Reichstag, May, 1935


'Set Europe ablaze!'

Winston Churchill, in a broadcast to European partisans, June, 1940


HW is setting out his stall: England and Germany are at war, the consequences of which will be chaos for Europe. Hitler's comment had already been proved true by mid-summer 1940; and Churchill's call was a rallying cry to foreign allies. HW's thinking here follows that of Professor Thomas Callander, from whose book The Athenian Empire and the British (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1961) HW quotes extensively as he proceeds: in effect, that objectively one should take the view that Germany was not solely to blame for the Second World War because the 1919 Versailles Treaty, imposing punitive reparations on Germany, was in fact the root cause.


However, it is apparent that HW originally planned to have just:


'We shall never surrender!' W. S. Churchill


deciding to change it when the book was at proof stage – which he regretted as soon as he saw the published copy, noting this both in a copy he gave us:



lucifer app title



and also in a copy given to his first wife, Loetitia (Gipsy), where he wrote:


For Gipsy, faithful lady, who as 'Lucy' herein, suffereth long & is kind withal. From her errant husband & father of her children. 26 November 1965.


The epigraphs here are crossed through, and he has written:


A cardinal mistake to substitute this provoking juxtaposition in galley proof, in lieu of the simple & unexceptionable 'We shall never surrender!' W. S. Churchill.



Book One: Part Two – 'WOODLAND IDYLL'


HW fronts this section with a quotation from his beloved Richard Jefferies:


'They have not laboured in mental searching as we have; they have not wasted their time looking among empty straw for the grain which is not there. They have been in the sunlight. Since the days of ancient Greece the doves have remained in the sunshine; we who have laboured have found nothing. In the sunshine, by the shady verge of woods, by the sweet waters where the wild dove sips, there alone will thought be found.'

Richard Jefferies, in

The Pigeons at the British Museum


(This is from The Life of the Fields, published in 1884.)


HW's thought here is to get away from the nervous tension of the farm and its constant reminders of the state of the war, and enjoy the peace and sunshine of 'the West' (his Devon refuge, here in the novel at Malandine in South Devon, but in real life of course at his Field at Ox's Cross), where he will be able to think clearly. However, Jefferies’ reference to 'doves' (as opposed to the pigeons of the essay) would have its own meaning for HW: that of the turtle doves that he tends to use in connection with T. E. Lawrence – and indeed it was at this time (in 1941) that he would have been preparing his essay on TEL, Genius of Friendship, for publication; so, although of course writing Lucifer at a much later date, he is in thought mode for 1941.



Book One: Part Three – 'THE DARK AND ABYSM OF TIME'


'The dark and abysm of time' is in itself a quotation from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act I, Scene 2, where Prospero is explaining, for the first time, their real background to his daughter Miranda:


What seest thou else

In the dark backward and abysm of time?


A foul deed has led to their banishment on an isolated and wild island. Here HW uses it as an allegorical statement: it is indeed a dark and abysmal time, both for the farm and for his country at war. The Tempest was a particular favourite of HW's – and indeed at the time of his affair with Ann Quin they referred to each other as 'Prospero' and 'Ariel', so the play was to the forefront of his mind.


The section is fronted by two epigraphs, first:


'The most awful calamity in history has overtaken Europe. Do not ask me who is the enemy – I do not know. It may be ourselves. We do not know what is going to breed out of this war. Forces that have been kept under by civilisation are now unchained. The world will be alive with danger.'

Field-Marshal Jan Smuts


Jan Smuts (1870–1950) was a leader of the Boer War and South African Prime Minister from 1919–24 and 1939–48. He worked tirelessly for reconciliation with Britain against considerable opposition within his own country. His words above are self-explanatory, and very chilling and apt to the context of the Second World War.


What is not made clear here is that the quotation is actually taken from Callander’s The Athenian Empire and the British, p. 111. This is a book from which HW quotes considerably within Lucifer before Sunrise. In Callander's book the quotation above is followed by further words by Smuts, also marked by HW:


Europe, a fragmented, broken-up continent filled with people glaring at each other in hate is the greatest problem facing mankind.


HW has written here ‘1949’, not given in Callander, but presumably this is the date Smuts spoke those words, showing that not only did HW read and mark the words, but sought further information.


Apart from the overall content – and I should point out here that it is a considered examination of historical facts – Callander's book has its own rather interesting background which would have intrigued HW.


Thomas Callander (1880–1959) was Professor of Greek at Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario from 1904 to 1934, and was one of the few writers of his era to compare the ancient world with modern times. The title (and content) of the book under discussion reflects this concept.


In early May 1966 HW received a letter (dated 9 May 1966) from a Mr George Robinson, a soldier of the line in the First World War, who had listened to HW's talk on BBC I the previous Sunday (this was the TV film The Survivor, made by Patrick Garland, and broadcast on 8 May 1966), and who wrote that:


when towards the end we were taking large numbers of prisoners and saw how like ourselves they were, any hatred towards them vanished and we often remarked we should have been fighting with not against them.


One can see immediately the resonance here to HW's own thinking. Robinson's letter also reveals that in 1947, while Chairman of a Local Peace Group in Guernsey, he had met Professor Callander, with whom he became close friends, 'whose book I am sending you'. Callander was examining 'the true facts about the war' and was convinced that the Versailles Treaty had treated Germany in a 'most abominable fashion' and was the root cause of the subsequent resurgence of war (i.e. the Second World War) – a view, of course, held by HW. Callander was then working on a book on the subject, but had died before it was finished (apparently it was still in manuscript form, and possibly parts of it still only as notes). Robinson continues:


but we managed to get his manuscripts made into a book and got it published.


Only 600 copies were sold, but Robinson, with loyal altruism, distributed 1400 copies to:


Universities, Colleges, Public Libraries, etc.: So I send you a copy . . . There can be no possibility of lasting friendship between the Two Nations until the stigma of German sole guilt is removed.


That HW was extremely impressed by this book is evident by the number of passages he has marked, together with the fact that he uses several long quotations from it to head various sections of Lucifer.


Callander's book is not an easy read, and would need considerable knowledge of political history to follow and truly understand it, but the gist is obvious. It is the author's prologue that is actually titled 'The Athenian Empire and the British', stating the premise that Plato's Republic is a fitting work 'for the education of the [human] race.' That would have had resonance with HW's own innate thinking (I have in various places expounded on the underlying thread of Platonic philosophy in HW's writing: see in particular 'Dual Heritage', HWSJ 42, September 2006, and my 'Editorial', HWSJ 28, 1993). What HW does not quote, although he has marked the passage, is the telling phrase:


The very core of Platonism is the exalting of the claims of the soul over the body, mind over matter, which carries with it the renunciation of war. [My underlining.]


In Chapter 1, Callander states 'nothing matters but the truth' (again resonant with HW's own thinking), and continues with an outline of Victorian politics (Conservative and Liberal) and expansionism (the root of many problems), with all that implied – and so the book continues, examining recent historical themes. Most of the passages quoted by HW in Lucifer come from Chapter 5, 'The Second Cardinal Tragedy': i.e. the Second World War.


For HW, these various quotations from illustrious post-war sources illuminate not just the war recently ended but in fact all wars of recorded civilisation. They provide evidence that he was not alone in his thinking, and that his attitude, if one likes to look at it from that perspective, had a sound basis, and was not just the outlandish view that so many have ascribed to him. His attitude had nothing to do with fascism as such, but a profound regard for the brotherhood of man and so of Nations. 'Peace not war', is the cry from his innermost being. Callander's book reinforces and supports his ideas.


But there is a final twist to this already rather convoluted item. I noted earlier that Callander died leaving his work in draft form: George Robinson reveals its provenance in a further letter. After Callander's death the manuscript and notes were sent to:


Capt. Liddell Hart, as he then was, and induced him to revise the manuscript and see it through the printers. The title is quite misleading, the Prof. had chosen 'Concerning the Anglo-German Quarrel' . . . parts also of his writings were deleted for fear of libel but still as Correlli Barnett said in his review it is a 'Piledriver of a book'.


Sir Basil Liddell-Hart (1895–1970) was a highly esteemed soldier, military historian and military theorist. He served in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on the Western Front, but due to injuries and gas was sent out of the line on 19 July 1916. He became military correspondent for the Daily Telegraph (1925–35) and The Times (1935–39). He wrote various books on the history of war and major military figures, and was a huge influence on Chamberlain and Hore-Belisha. He interviewed German generals in captivity post-Second World War. However, there were many who were suspicious of him and his 'theories of war'. Many also were sure that he had leaked vital information to the Germans to the extent that he was said to have almost 'blown' D-Day.


There appears to be no mention anywhere else that this well-known and prestigious gentleman had anything to do with this interesting but (in some circles) possibly contentious book (indeed his name does not even appear within its covers). It is suggested that Liddell-Hart did not want to be associated with a book that might perhaps be seen as pro-German, as it would reinforce the suspicions held by the establishment. There is of course no way of knowing exactly how much of this book can be attributed to Liddell-Hart, but the inference from Robinson suggests that it was considerable. HW himself made a note on the reverse of Robinson's letter:



lucifer app hart



And also wrote on the book's title page:



lucifer app callander



The second epigraph fronting 'The Dark and Abysm of Time' is:


'You can only help to find a lasting solution if you have learned to see the other objectively, but, at the same time, to experience his difficulties subjectively.'

—Dag Hammerskjöld


(HW was annoyed to note the error here: the correct spelling is Hammarskjöld.)


Dag Hammarskjöld (1905–61), Swedish international politician (whose father was Prime Minister of Sweden during the First World War), became General Secretary to the United Nations in 1953. He was killed in an air crash and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. The words quoted are taken from Hammarskjöld's private diary (19–20 November 1954), published as Markings. HW wrote the words that he quotes in his diary in the Notes section opposite week 7–12 February 1966, but there is no indication as to his particular source.



lucifer app diary3



Book One: Part Four: 'A CAD'S WAR'


There are two epigraphs fronting this section.


The first (placed opposite the Part Title) is again from Thomas Callander’s book (op. cit.), p. 107–8 (I don't think the placing has any more significance than utilising an empty page!):


'The menace must be presented as preceding from a malignant enemy, unprovoked by our rulers; and so World War II is depicted as a struggle forced on the Allies by "the sole wicked nation in Europe" led by the Ogre from Austria, not as a war rendered inevitable by the chain of follies and crimes reaching from 1906 to 1919, and foreseen by countless observers long before Churchill and Vansittart resumed the defamation of Germany which had paved the way to World War I.'

Thomas Callander, formerly Professor of Greek, Queen's University, Kingston, Canada, in his book 'The Athenian Empire and the British'.


The passage quoted follows a question posed, or rather, a presented scenario: basically that the populace are persuaded by nefarious means that war is just. For HW it supports the thesis that responsibility for the war does not lie solely with Germany. Objectively, if one lays aside the collective wickedness of the Nazi regime, which tends to over-ride any such objectivity, this surely (certainly when following Callander/Liddell-Hart's argument) has to be admitted.


The second epigraph, placed on separate page after the Part Title, is:


'Should it happen that a man of action, exercising supreme power, is also an artist, then God help him. He will have to change his nature to survive.'

Lord Moran


The quotation is from Lord Moran's book, The Anatomy of Courage (Constable, 1945), an unusual little book written by a very experienced man. Under the title Lord Moran quotes:


“The thing in the world I am most afraid of is fear.”



The book is:




who was without fear




who is less fortunate

Sir Charles McMoran Wilson (1882–1977) served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War and was awarded the MC in 1916. During the Second World War he was personal physician to Winston Churchill. He was President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1941–50.


The Anatomy of Courage arose from his experiences in both wars – but particularly from the First World War. The subject of the book is fear and man's ability to overcome it (i.e. courage). Moran asks:


Why can a man appear to be as brave as a lion one day and break the next?


He discusses what can be done to delay or prevent 'the using up of courage'. This is a subject as pertinent today as it was then. Moran sets out many instances and examples of fear/courage, but does not draw any overall conclusions: every human being has its own levels of tolerance and has to find its own way (possibly with help) of overcoming them.


HW's copy of this book has been particularly marked in several places. He had already quoted from it in A Test to Destruction (1960, vol. 8 of the Chronicle). The sentence he quotes here is particularly applicable to his own (and thus Phillip's) nature and situation. He is an artist trying to be a man of action. Survival of his family depends on him – and he is at the end of his tether, and feels that neither he nor the farm can survive. He is in a state of nervous breakdown. For HW – and so here in the novel for Phillip – the situation on the farm is as much 'A Test to Destruction' as was his situation in the First World War; and so he uses quotations from Moran's book on courage for both.


I also note that he marked a phrase he did not use:


These men had come out of some rending explosion with their skins intact but with dishevelled minds.


Against which he wrote simply: 'HW'.




Epigraphs fronting Book Two: The Malevolent Glint:


I feel sure that this title is also a quotation – but I have been unable to track it down. It is intended as a reference to the explosion of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima which heralded the end of the Second World War.


The actual epigraph here is again from Callander, The Athenian Empire and the British (op. cit.), Chapter 4, 'The Fundamental Issue':


'Lloyd George could bludgeon the German delegates at the London Conference in 1921 and could solemnly pronounce undivided German responsibility a closed question. But he could not hinder Professor Sidney Fay of Harvard from supporting the Germans in his classic work, The Origins of the World War, and proclaiming urbi et orbi: 'The verdict of the Versailles Treaty that Germany and her Allies were responsible for the War, in view of the evidence now available, is historically unsound.'

—Thomas Callander


Callander is reiterating very clearly here (p. 87) that the war grew out of events that cannot necessarily be blamed on Germany. Lloyd George saw Germany as 'solely guilty', but many other eminent men did not agree; and Callander gives several examples.


This is immediately followed by another epigraph (again on an empty page) fronting:


Book Two: Part One, 'CRUX'


I have explained the meaning of 'Crux', used by HW in the sense of 'a particular point of difficulty'. The quotation here is:


'Surely it is infinitely sad that in a futile effort to arrest the inevitable march of humanity towards liberation and a full life, a few handfuls of arrogant and incompetent rulers endowed with vast, if brief, authority should have been able to touch off in 1914 the train of atrocious disasters which threatens to bury the civilisation of 1900 in a dishonoured radio-active grave.'

—Thomas Callander


This is the closing paragraph from Chapter 6, 'Moribund Empire' (the same chapter that the earlier Smuts quotation is from), and is marked by HW 'For Malevolent Glint'. Its meaning is obvious, particularly in relation to HW's own thought processes. Note the 'dishonoured radio-active grave' – the explosion of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima – emphasising the 'malevolent glint'.





This part title is taken from the poem below which is given as the fronting quotation:


They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead,

They brought me bitter news to hear and bitter tears to shed.

I wept as I remember'd how often you and I

Had tired the sun with talking and sent him down the sky.


And now that you are lying, my dear old Carian guest,

A handful of grey ashes long, long ago at rest,

Still are thy pleasant voices, thy nightingales, awake;

For Death, he taketh all away, but them he cannot take.

Catullus, translated by William Cory.


The poem those words are taken from is actually Heraclitus 'Epigram 2' by the Greek poet and scholar Callimachus (305–240 BC), not Catullus as stated. Heraclitus (c.535–475 BC) was a Greek philosopher known as 'the Obscure', whose most well-known sayings are 'You can't step twice into the same river', and 'Everything flows and nothing stays still.' William Cory (1823–92), whose translation was made in 1858, is perhaps best remembered today for writing the Eton Boating Song.


These words are of course apt for the immediate situation of the death of Francis Yeats-Brown, but also remember that 'Ginger' has died, and of course many brave men known to HW, particularly in the First World War.





'Then I have ploughed my last furrow.'

Hotspur, before his death at Berwick.


The quotation is not, as one might expect, from Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I, which depicts the story of Hotspur (Henry Percy, son of the Earl of Northumberland) and his rebellion against Henry IV, culminating in Hotspur's death in the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403. Originally a supporter and indeed a prime mover in the accession of Henry Bolingbroke to the throne, Hotspur felt himself to have been slighted, indeed betrayed, and so turned against the king and led a revolt against him.


Further complication here occurs because Michael Coultas stated (in his 'Epigraphs from the Chronicle', HWSJ 49, September 2013) that HW had made an error in saying that Hotspur was killed at Berwick. Determined to get to the bottom of this I enlisted the help of HWS member Tony Boakes, and between us we hunted it down. The background historical facts of Henry Percy (Hotspur), his family, Henry Bolingbroke and other historical personalities and events are an interesting story in themselves, but are too detailed to go into here – and indeed do not concern our immediate problem. They do show, however, that Shakespeare manipulated the facts to make his own dramatic story – and yet, rather oddly, did not use those fateful words. (A small point of interest: in Shakespeare's play the word 'Esperance' is shouted out more than once – 'Esperance' was the Percy family motto.)


Historical sources for the final battle and for Hotspur's life reveal the why and wherefore.


The confusion lies in the fact that Hotspur was born in Berwick, Northumberland and in most modern sources his place of death is given as at the Battle of Shrewsbury. Shakespeare sets the battle scenes in 'Camps outside Shrewsbury'. Tony Boakes established very quickly that there is a village called Berwick very near Shrewsbury (see below).



lucifer hotspur



The map shows the position of Berwick village and Berwick House and estate, two miles north-west of Shrewsbury; the 1403 battleground is about two miles to the east of Berwick.


Recourse to historical sources reveal the information that Hotspur spent his last night camped at this village, although he does not seem to have known its name until the next day. The importance of that is that it had been prophesied that he would die at Berwick – which he had presumed to be his home in Northumberland. So, despite the odds against him, he had no qualms about the forthcoming battle.


On arrival at the battle site he asked for his favourite sword, to be told that it had been left behind at the camp site in Berwick. Hotspur is said to have gone white and to have exclaimed:


‘Then I have ploughed my last furrow, for a wizard in Northumberland told me that I should perish at Berwick, which I interpreted as that town in the north.’


Thus HW is correct in both the quotation and in placing Hotspur's death at Berwick. It shows that HW knew his history very well indeed.


The significance of HW's use of the quotation is twofold. The first is obvious: by the end of Lucifer before Sunrise he has sold the Norfolk Farm – and so has ploughed his last furrow. The second is more hidden. Hotspur (and his father) had helped Henry Bolingbroke to usurp the throne and become king – and he could do no wrong in Hotspur's eyes. But once king, Henry IV became despotic and ambitious – in fact a villain (no doubt that was his nature anyway). I would suggest that HW, in this volume with its 'Luciferian' undertone, is identifying himself with Hotspur, and making an analogy of Henry IV's perfidy with that of Hitler; and possibly, for as we know HW was in a state of breakdown and had suicidal thoughts, even inferring his own death 'in battle'.


HW places a second epigraph here, another passage from the Callander book (p. 106–7):


'Finis coronat opus, or rather finis declarat opus. The world order in 1945 and after is the finis which lights up the opus of the preceding forty years. Let us concentrate on this glorious triumph and see, not in general terms but in statistical form, what the policy of blood, sweat and tears has in a generation yielded.

    The International Review of Diplomatic Science, Geneva, stated the following as the cost of World War II:


21 million men killed in action;

29¼ million wounded, mutilated, or incapacitated;

21¼ million evacuated, deported, interned or otherwise removed from their homes;

30 million homes reduced to ashes;

150 million left without shelter, a prey to famine and disease.

    Up to 1946 World War II cost . . . enough to provide a house costing £12,000, furniture worth £4,000, a cash present of £20,000 for every family in the U.S.A., Canada, Austria, Britain, France, Germany, U.S.S.R. and Belgium. In addition each town of over 200,000 population could have been allotted a cash donation of £25 million for libraries, £25 million for schools, and 25 million for hospitals.'


Thomas Callander, 1961.


HW is emphasising here that the war (a war he had desperately wanted to prevent) had been a disastrously costly event from every viewpoint: and that the monetary cost could have been better employed.


He then uses a phrase from that quotation as the title for chapter 33: 'FINIS DECLARAT OPUS’ ('The end shows the work').  This chapter encompasses the death of Billy returning from an operation over Germany; the death of Hitler – and the death of the marriage between Phillip and Lucy.







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