Are My Tastes Hopelessly Proletarian?

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell twice quotes a song popular among the proles of his imagined future, “composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator”. He calls it “dreadful rubbish” and a “driveling song”, but it seems to me that it would fit right in to the Great American Songbook. Of course, we cannot judge the music, but I have certainly heard worse words. Here are the lyrics, with the proletarian (Cockney) mispronunciations edited out:

It was only a hopeless fancy,
It passed like an April day,
But a look and a word and the dreams they stirred
They have stolen my heart away!

They say that time heals all things,
They say you can always forget;
But the smiles and the tears across the years
They twist my heartstrings yet!

(George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, II.iv and II.x)

It is not deep, but other than the awkward rhythm of the fifth line, I don’t see anything embarrassingly wrong with it. Do I need a taste-bud transplant?

This entry was posted in Culture: Fiction, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Are My Tastes Hopelessly Proletarian?

  1. Al Kriman says:

    Maybe he had something against limericks.

  2. James Enge says:

    Song lyrics are usually pretty inane without their music, I guess. Orwell’s complaint reminds me a little of stuff from Saki’s “The Secret Sin of Septimus Brope”–where the title character is complaining about the stupid lyrics he writes to Clovis (who has his usual sly solution).

    Come to think of it, Kingsley Amis has a pretty harsh takedown of “Darktown Strutters Ball” in Lucky Jim, too.

    Maybe these are just variants of an oft-heard complaint among bookish Brits around the time of the World Wars?

Leave a Reply to James Enge Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>