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Thread: Under the spreading chestnut tree

  1. #16
    I found something entirely different in the symbolism of the chestnut tree:
    It is a symbol of foresight.
    Foresight, of course, is applicable in Winston's case, because it is the first time he realizes that he is doomed from the start to betray everything that he loves ("I sold you, and you sold me"), which he will echo in the moments before his capture ("We are all dead.").

  2. #17
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    Jul 2015
    Quote Originally Posted by Whifflingpin View Post
    "Under the spreading chestnut tree
    When I held you on my knee,
    we were happy as can be
    Under the spreading chestnut tree.

    Under the spreading chestnut tree
    I'll kiss you and you'll kiss me
    Oh how happy we will be
    Under the spreading chestnut tree"

    A song popular in campfire and community singing in the 20s & 30s. There is film archive somewhere of the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) singing it, with actions, at a rally.

    The tune is the same as used in the children's action song "I'm a little teapot."

    Of course the British were aware of Longfellow's poem - the song would be pointless otherwise. Longfellow is one of the few transatlantic poets who made it across the pond into popular esteem.

    This strikes me as valuable data. I agree that both the song and the poem, and even their stark dissonance, are unmistakeably present in what Orwell is trying to accomplish here.

    Julian Syme, one of Orwell's contemporaries, in his introduction to the Everyman's Library edition of 1984 I just finished reading, also offered up this juicy quote by Orwell:

    "To dislike the machine, or even to want to limit its domination, is backward-thinking, reactionary, and slightly ridiculous."

    Machinery (of every kind) is a prolific theme in 1984. And like the Chestnut Tree, so is provision. I think Orwell's poem - like his entire book - is a lament of what mankind had already lost by surrendering itself to both industrial and political machinery in the name of provision. It is also an indictment of our collective, willful naivite regarding the lust of men - all men - for power. And finally, I would say the poem (again, like the book) is a harbinger of all that we still stand to lose if we will not "wise up" to at least that one thing: man's horrific, self-destructive bloodthirst for power. And perhaps a second thing: the seismic abandonment terrors within all of us that are, perhaps being the flip side of the same coin, just as strong as our lust for control.

    Many people do not realize that Orwell was an outspoken socialist in his young adult years. He was bitterly disappointed - perhaps to the point of embarassment, by all that came to light during and after the war , including the mass murders in Russia under Stalin.

    It is not hard to imagine that Orwell would have "doubleplusbellyful unlove" for socialism. Perhaps even more so for himself. Julian Syme seemed to suggest in his essay that a great deal of the energy and creativitivity for 1984 (and Animal Farm) eschewed from Orwell's "bellyful" dismay in both socialism . . . and himself.

    It is also noteworthy that Orwell wrote this book amid the agonizing throws of terminal tuberculosis during the final two years of his life. He had become father to an adopted son who he barely knew when he died, a toddler whom he left in the care of the young woman (who I think was his nurse) he married narry two years before his death. He had already lost his first love.

    I am not sure how all of this relates specifically to the poem or even the book. But given my interpretation of the poem (and the book) as a being at once a lament, an indictment, and a warning, I think it is all relevant. 1984 is not a more than a grim vision of the future. Indeed, I think it is first and foremost an expression of grief, regret, and perhaps even self-reproach.

    In that sense, I regard it as quite a heroic work.

    I imagine it was soul-rending for Orwell to write it in his condition, under the doom of a two year death sentence (a two-step check-mate?). It's a lot of stark reality to face. Most of us would rather have a bullet to the back of the head, no?
    Last edited by MACB; 07-15-2015 at 02:13 PM.

  3. #18
    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Somewhere in the South East of England
    I think it was Edward VII's brother, George VI (father of the present Queen). He was more likely to join with boy scouts than his fast elder brother.

    My mother had the sheet music which included diagrams for the actions. Touch chest, touch head (nut) and spread arms.

    She was the blacksmith's daughter.
    I was the village swain.
    We didn't do our courting
    Down any old country lane.
    Underneath the spreading Chest Nut Tree (actions)
    There she said she'd marry me.
    Now you ought to see our Fam Il Ee (action)
    Neath the spreading Chest Nut Tree (actions)
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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