Autumn Journal by Louis MacNeice is a famous piece of work in Irish literature. It is an autobiographical long poem in twenty-four sections. It was written between August and December 1938, when Ireland had many men fighting in the Spanish Civil War, and published as a single volume by Faber and Faber in May 1939. It was written in a discursive form, and it sets out to record the author's state of mind as the approaching World War 2 seems more and more inevitable. I wanted to quote one part to you today, from Part IX, because I think you will enjoy it.

The Glory that was Greece: put it in a syllabus, grade it
Page by page
To train the mind or even to point a moral
For the present age:
Models of logic and lucidity, dignity, sanity,
The golden mean between opposing ills
Though there were exceptions of course but
only exceptions
The bloody Bacchanals on the Thracian hills.
So the humanist in his room with Jacobean panels
Chewing his pipe and looking on a lazy quad
Chops the Ancient World to turn a sermon
To the greater glory of God.
But I can do nothing so useful or so simple;
These dead are dead
And when I should remember the paragons of Hellas
I think instead
Of the crooks, the adventurers, the opportunists,
The careless athletes and the fancy boys,
The hair-splitters, the pedants, the hard-boiled sceptics
And the Agora and the noise
Of the demagogues and the quacks; and the women pouring
Libations over graves
And the trimmers at Delphi and the dummies at Sparta
and lastly
I think of the slaves.
And how one can imagine oneself among them
I do not know;
It was all so unimaginably different
And all so long ago.