Reclaiming O’Shaughnessy for Roald Dahl

"Dreamer of Dreams: Glistening White" Edmund Dulac

“Dreamer of Dreams: Glistening White” Edmund Dulac

Arthur O’Shaughnessy

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory;
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.

We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming…
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
And their work in the world be done.

They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man’s soul it hath broken,
A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
Wrought flame in another man’s heart.

And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day’s late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
The dream that was scorned yesterday.

But we, with our dreaming and singing,
Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing’
A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning
And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
Intrepid and hear us cry –
How, spite of your human scorning,
Once more God’s future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry toΒ  the comers
From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song’s new numbers,
And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
And a singer who sings no more.

Poor O’Shaughnessy. The opening lines of this, my favourite of his works, possibly because of its association with Willy Wonka, and the meter so elegantly carried through that film by the wonderful Gene Wilder (read it again in Willy Wonka’s voice during his more reflective moments), has been turned into a myriad of memes popping up in my social media, attributed to Roald Dahl.

Poor Dahl. Just a children’s story writer? He was SO much more, weaving into many of his stories, little gems like this. Indeed, I have often wondered if the entire story of Willy Wonka is not constructed around this very work. Many of O’Shaughnessy’s lines are included in Wonka’s rambling musing during the psychedelic boat ride scene.

Go on. You know you need to read it again, in that context…

So, whilst social media celebrates the 100th birthday of Dahl by wrongly attributing to him the words of O’Shaughnessy, I’ll just throw out there that Dahl brought to the world a much more literary legacy than we possibly give him credit for.

Happy Birthday, Mr Dahl.

About A Misanthropic Bear

Intermittent posting of random touchstones, memories and events. This wasn't meant to be what it would become... But then, is it ever?
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3 Responses to Reclaiming O’Shaughnessy for Roald Dahl

  1. alienorajt says:

    What a lovely post! I do so agree with your comments on Roald Dahl. Gene Wilder’s distinctive voice came through loud and clear and magical. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

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