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Ernest Hemingway's 1954 Noble Acceptance Speech

Ernest  Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.
No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.
It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my country to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writes, and in this sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.
Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.
For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed.
How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.
I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it. Again I thank you.

Ernest Hemingway: Old Man At The Bridge

Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)
Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961)

An old man with steel rimmed spectacles and very dusty clothes sat by the side of the road. There was a pontoon bridge across the river and carts, trucks, and men, women and children were crossing it. The mule-drawn carts staggered up the steep bank from the bridge with soldiers helping push against the spokes of the wheels. The trucks ground up and away heading out of it all the peasants plodded along in the ankle deep dust. But the old man sat there without moving. He was too tired to go any further.
   It was my business to cross the bridge, explore the bridge-head beyond and find out to what point the enemy had advanced. I did this and returned over the bridge. There were not so many carts now and very few people on foot, but the old man was still there.
   'Where do you come from?' I asked him.
   'From San Carlos,' he said, and smiled.
   That was his native town and so it gave him pleasure to mention it and he smiled.
   'I was taking care of the animals,' he explained.
   'Oh,' I said, not quite understanding.
   'Yes,' he said, 'I stayed, you see, taking care of the animals. I was the last one to leave the town of San Carlos.'
   He did not look like a shepherd nor a herdsman and I looked at his black dusty clothes and his steel rimmed spectacles and said, 'What animals were they?'
   'Various animals,' he said, and shook his head. 'I had to leave them.'
   I was watching the bridge and the African looking country of the Ebro Delta and wondering how long now it would be before we would see the enemy, and listening all the while for the first noises that would signal that ever mysterious event called contact, and the old man still sat there.
   'What animals were they?' I asked.
   'There were three animals altogether,' he explained. 'There were two goats and a cat and then there were four pairs of pigeons.'
   'And you had to leave them?' I asked.
   'Yes. Because of the artillery. The captain told me to go because of the artillery.'
   'And you have no family?' I asked, watching the far end of the bridge where a few last carts were hurrying down the slope of the bank.
'No,' he said, 'only the animals I stated. The cat, of course, will be all right. A cat can look after itself, but I cannot think what will become of the others.'
   'What politics have you?' I asked.
   'I am without politics,' he said. I am seventy-six years old. I have come twelve kilometres now and I think now I can go no further.'
   'This is not a good place to stop,' I said. 'If you can make it, there are trucks up the road where it forks for Tortosa.'
   'I will wait for a while,' he said, 'and then I will go. Where do the trucks go?'
   'Towards Barcelona,' I told him.
   'I know of no one in that direction,' he said, 'but thank you very much. Thank you again very much.'
   He looked at me very blankly and tiredly, then said, having to share his worry with someone, 'The cat will be al right, I am sure. There is no need to be unquiet about the cat. But the others. Now what do you think about the others?'
   'Why, they'll probably come through all right.'
   'You think so?'
   'Why not?' I said, watching the far bank where now there were no carts.
   'But what will they do under the artillery when I was told to leave because of the artillery?'
   'Did you leave the dove cage unlocked?' I asked.
   'The they will fly.'
   'Yes, certainly they'll fly. But the others. It's better not to think about the others,' he said.
   'If you are rested I would go,' I urged.' Get up and try to walk now.'
   'Thank you,' he said and got to his feet, swayed from side to side and then sat down backwards in the dust.
   'I was only taking care of the animals,' he said dully, but no longer to me. 'I was only taking care of the animals.'
   There was nothing to do about him. It was Easter Sunday and the Fascists were advancing toward the Ebro. It was a grey overcast day with low ceiling so their planes were not up. That and the fact that cats know how to look after themselves was all the good luck that old man would ever have.

This Be The Verse

Philip Larkin (1922 - 1985)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.  
  They may not mean it but they do.
They fill you with faults they had
  And add some extra just for you.

But there were fucked up in their turn
   By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
   And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
   It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as fast as you can,
   And don't have any kids yourself.


John Donne: Meditation XVII

Now this bell, tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die.(Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris)

John Donne (1573 - 1631)

Perchance, he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that. 
The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; 
No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the SeaEurope is the lesse, as well as if  a  Promontorie were, as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

Rudyard Kipling: Gypsy Vans

Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

Unless you come of the gypsy stock
That steals by night and day,
Lock your heart with a double lock
And throw the key away.
Bury it under the blackest stone
Beneath your father's hearth,
And keep your eyes on your lawful own
And your feet to the proper path.
Then you can stand at your door and mock
When the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't right that the Gorgio stock
Should live as the Romany do.

Unless you come of the gipsy blood
That takes and never spares,
Bide content with your given good
And follow your own affairs.
Plough and harrow and roll your land,
And sow what ought to be sowed;
But never let loose your heart from your hand,
Nor flitter it down the road!
Then you can thrive on your boughten food
As the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't nature the Gorgio blood
Should love as the Romany do.

Unless you carry the gipsy eyes
That see but seldom weep,
Keep your head from the naked skies
Or the stars'll trouble your sleep.
Watch your moon through your window-pane
And take what weather she brews;
But don't run out in the midnight rain
Nor home in the morning dews.
Then you can buddle and shut your eyes
As the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't fitting the Gorgio ryes
Should walk as the Romany do.

Unless you come of the gipsy race
That counts all time the same,
Be you careful of Time and Place
And Judgment and Good Name:
Lose your life for to live your life
The way that you ought to do;
And when you are finished, your God and your wife
And the Gipsies'll laugh at you!
Then you can rot in your burying place
As the gipsy vans come through...
For it isn't reason the Gorgio race
Should die as the Romany do.

Alec Guinness: 'Money for Jam' published in 1945

Alec Guinness (1914 - 2000)
During World War Two Alec Guinness served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve  first as a seaman and then as a commissioned officer. In the invasion of Sicily he commanded a landing craft and later ferried supplies to Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia. His short story 'Money for Jam' appeared in 1945 in Penguin New Writing. 

It is not widely known that Guinness wrote short stories nor that he was notoriously superstitious. The following is an excerpt from the story which is believed to be autobiographical.

~ ~ ~

The sun was hot and the foreign sea like plate-glass, the colour of peacock's tails. Little breezes played around a salt, low, bare, rocky Arcadia, and at noon, when we sailed, the day sang with prettiness. It was like the sound of a flute. Or an oboe. Or was that the wind? The wind? No, little breezes pirouetting down from the north, a trifle cold, for they come from high, snow-covered mountains. Even in retrospect the day held nothing sinister, not until the sun went down. There was nothing that wasn't quite as it ought to be. Yet this was the day dated 31 December, 1943. Curiously enough, I still have my diary for that time, somewhat battered and stained, but legible, and a proof to myself what life was like before the storm and what I was after it. There is no entry under 31 December except a jotting in pencil, , 'St Luke 12. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.' Why does this fascinate? Then it is blank for three days. Finally in ink, with a strange borrowed pen and writing mine, but not like my own, are the words, ' January 2nd. Not the second or third watches. Unprepared in the morning, but resigned in the Dogs.' For January 3rd there is entered up, 'We took the rings off Broadstairs' hand.' After that I didn't bother to keep a diary.

This was the situation. The enemy, thirty miles up the coast, also held all the opposite shore except the island of K. During the week ending 28th December they had attacked and overrun the three large islands that are grouped round K. It was apparent they would land on K. at any moment. They had complete air superiority in that part of the world, and no Allied craft could sail in those waters except under cover of darkness. The idea was that the ninety-foot schooner, of which I was the captain, should run fifty tons of ammunition to the resistance group on K., and take off as many women and children as possible. K., being the last link on the opposite coast, must be saved at best, or turned into a battlefield at worst. Losing it was out of the question. It meant a trip of two hundred and twenty miles for us, there and back. The plans were hurried, but reasonably good and simple.  We were to arrive at midnight and leave not later than 2 A.M. That would give us six hours of darkness at ten knots to get away from enemy reconnaissance planes. Everything had to be done in the dark, and if, by some misfortune, such as breakdown or encountering an enemy vessel off the island, it would be imprudent for us to get away at the prescribed time, we were to find a small creek, run the schooner alongside rooks, disguise her with branches an camouflage netting and try our luck the following night. That is if we weren't spotted during the day. When loaded with the 'ammo' the Peter - for that was her name - sat down squarely in the water.

'You know what to look for, don't you?' said the very little naval officer who brought me my sailing orders. 'There's no moon, but it is a clear night you should see the mountains of B. fine on your port bow by 22:00. Z. island is very low, but as you can see on the chart, there's plenty of water round it. Keep as close inshore as possible in case of mines. When you come into the bay keep the guns closed up and slow down. And for God's sake tell the crew to keep their mouths shut. Silence is vital.  When the chaps on K. spot you they will light a bonfire for ten minutes. If they light two bonfires or no bonfires, buzz off - it means we are too late. If it's all O.K. and they are ready for you, they will swing a red lantern at the end of the jetty. There's a Major Backside there, a drunken old so-and-so, but he knows his onions. He'll give you the latest dope which, incidentally, we'd like in the office when you get back. So long! It's money for jam.'

'One moment,' I said. 'What other craft are out tonight?' 

'Well, there's the usual patrol, but they won't touch you.Anything you see will be enemy. Except for twelve schooners, including Mother of God, Topaz and Helena, which are leaving here a few hours after you and working their way up the coast. Secret Job. But you won't see the on the outward passage. Possibly coming back, though.

He went as briskly as he came, leaving my first lieutenant muttering 'Money for jam!' Jimmy had an instinctive and often unreasonable, dislike of the people who issued orders from offices. But really it wasn't a bad-looking little job, so long as the weather lasted. Never cared for the Peter when the sea got up. Always considered her top heavy.

So we sailed at noon on this cloudless day, hardly apprehensive, Pleased to think we were on a mission of some small importance, but grumbling that it was going to mean New Year's Eve at sea. This annoyed the Scots lads in particular, but Tuffey said 'Think of the WOMEN we will be bringing back'; and the coxswain said, 'Got a tin of turkey and two of ham. Big eats!' Able Seaman Broadstairs went down to the mess-deck, stripped, and vigorously applied hair-oil to his chest. 'You'll never get it to grow by to-morrow night, son,' grunted Stoker White, the oldest member of the crew. Broadstairs had a fine figure, and was a decent living kid, but he had no hair on his chest, which distressed him deeply. Whenever women were mentioned out came the violently-smelling hair-oil. Now he put it away and took to cleaning his silver signet rings with metal polish. He wore five of them and had a ring tattooed on the little finger of his left hand.

'Money for jam' said Jimmy. 'I could kick the tight little arse of that office boy!'

We sailed up the coast for ten miles, then pushed out to sea. I came off watch at tea-time and Jimmy took over. The crew consisted of the two of us and fourteen ratings, and we worked it watch and watch about, which is easy going on these short trips. Off watch in the daytime I usually sat in the cabin reading. Thinking to myself, I'm bound to be up all night, I turned in to get some early sleep after tea. The sun had grown dim, the bright blue sky was overcast with pale grey, and the sea was oily looking, shot with patches of dark satin-like water. No stars, tonight, I thought, I thought, and turned away from the scuttle and the light. A minute later Broadstairs entered the cabin to 'darken ship.' Very easily and swiftly I fell asleep. No dreams that I can remember. I slept for nearly two hours. When I woke it was with the strangest notion I have ever had in my life.

I am not a deeply religious man, and before the war was avowedly irreligious. I did not have convictions that could be called atheistic, but they were certainly agnostic. The war brought me back to an acceptance of the doctrines of the Church of England. I suppose I believe in ghosts. Certainly in good and evil spirits. But all that speculation always seemed unimportant - chit-chat for a winter's evening at home, by a log fire, in the good old days of indifference. All thoughts of religious subjects, angelology, demons and what not were far from my mind that evening. I had no worries, other than the navigational one of successfully finding the island K.; and there was no obvious difficulty about that; I only call it 'worry,' because i have never sailed anywhere without wondering whether I would find the place. It is difficult to describe what happened to me at six o'clock that evening, yet I must attempt it, for on it hangs the whole significance of this experience from a personal point of view. It was as if ---. It is impossible to state it simply enough and sound credible.  It was as if ---. I woke up with a start, the sweat pouring off me. I trembled. The cabin was filled with an evil presence and it was concentrated twelve or eighteen inches from my left ear. Fully awake, I heard with my ear, so it seemed to me, the word  'TOMORROW.' ...

~ ~ ~

[And what happened 'TOMORROW' is almost out of this world.]