You have to admit he was groovy,
in the hipster sense (say around 1959)
this William Morris
He made things, well-limned and beauteous
and sold them in his shop
He had a genius for design and form
a high metabolism and hundreds of projects
He was very very sympathetic to the struggling worker
and was driven to the barricades by the rage-stirring question:
"How could people starve in a culture of plenty?"
They still sell his wallpapers in fancy catalogues
Rich people forgive
forays into communism
from the guard towers of the commune of ultrawealth.
In the late 1870s and early '80s
Morris became a Socialist
It was what William Gaunt termed "Pre-Raphaelite Socialism"
—that "everyone should be an artist"
as in "art is the expression of pleasure in labour"
as in why not cut the haikus of Basho
on the woodsman's axe
The way Morris saw it the world was riven with Commercial War
State 'gainst State & Seller v. Seller
and the v. those who toil for wages
It was a way of keeping the Machine in Check!
If hand-fashioning could be done as effectively
and pleasantly for the worker
as by a machine
then set aside the machine!
King Arthur's Round Table
so symbolic to the painters and poets
was a paradigm for communism
it seemed to Wm Morrisk
who wrote "My business is to stir up revolution"
and so he gifted his skills upon
the Muse of Pamphleteering
as surely and steadily as, say, George Bernard Shaw
several decades later.
In 1883 Morris signed on with the Democratic Federation
just about the only overt socialist group around
It soon changed its name to the
Social Democratic Federation
to make its politics more translucent
William Morris, to his garlanded praise in the time-track
began to walk the talk
He even sold some rare books to pay for socialist pamphlets
In Socialism he sought the unblemished beauty of religion
and antique form
but of course he ran headlong into the World of Splinters
Careerists and Twisting Factions
and also the brutalized facts of the masses
who even today would have preferred the fumes of NASCAR
to the utter thrill of the Rouen cathedral.
If he had stuck in his lectures to Art
it would not have created hostility
but there's nothing quite like raising the banners of the Left
to bring on the snarls of the press, the hostility of acquaintances
and the dismaying disorder of the Inside
Ahh, factions! How Many Factions can You Fit on a Bristle
of a Printing Press Inking Brush?
as many as there are foxed old pamphlets in the British Museum
Some of the Origins
Thomas Carlyle's 1843 Past and Present
on the Chartist movement
in a time of "great industrial distress"
One of the remedies was the concept of escaping
to find ideas for reform
John Ruskin writing fiercely of "industrial wrong"
just as writers in other countries
scalded the "political wrong"
William Morris was fueled by the Middle ages
and began to make glass, fabrics, chairs, tables
as if a medieval craftsperson-
that Morris foresaw
as surely as his hand shaped brilliance