July 7th – August 3rd 2016

Day 18

July 24th 1895
Robert Graves’ Birthday

“It is bad enough when a modern elevator flashes me past twenty storeys. I always have to wait a minute or two at the top for my rustic spirit to follow by the stairs.”
– Robert Graves

Rebel scholar Robert Graves bestrides this festival as easily as he bestrode the 20th century. The war poet who dosed himself with the sacred mushroom, the love poet who dared to address and undress his muse – never fearing for one moment that he might burn up from seeing too much. Who but Graves had such a long and fruitful career purely from exploring at the very edges of their own culture? What pre-LSD author but C. G. Jung himself would have dared to embark on such a world-challenging notion as The White Goddess? Who but Graves could have demanded of his audience that they accept such bizarre Celto-Viking utterances and still receive the commission for a new translation of the Greek Myths? Only Graves. No one could convince him that anything in culture had ever been entirely lost. No one could convince him of the futility of ransacking his own mind in order to demand of himself the keys to the sacred mansions that Christianity and the Christian church had so long before locked and barred, as Graves stated defiantly: “Mythical facts are not beyond anthropological conjecture.”

Graves, sometimes even to his own detriment, sailed so high above the outpourings of his poet contemporaries that it is only fairly recently that we have come even to question some of his more extreme outbursts. Like a Druid officiating at an Iron Age wedding, Graves inhabits Western culture unquestioned and at large. As a World War One poet himself, Graves it was whose timely introduction of Siegfried Sassoon to Wilfred Owen saved the life of the former whilst guaranteeing greatness for the latter. Graves it was who brought form to Lawrence of Arabia’s legendary work The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Several decades later, he would be playing Majorcan host to Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and the Soft Machine. And in between all of this were his daring new interpretations of Christianity: first the novel King Jesus, next the enormous scholarly tome The Nazarene Gospel Restored. The choices he made for his studies long decades ago still resonate and bring meaning to Western explorers and seekers of freedom to this day. And in this SydArthur Festival, which so celebrates the expanding of the mind, Robert Graves – both the artist and the man – sums up the Gnosticism which we in the West have so come to cherish since the advent of rock’n’roll. For Robert von Ranke Graves, no world tradition – no matter how ancient or cherished – was secure from his Promethean excavations.

Today let’s put ourselves in an Ian Curtis kind of mood by searching out Robert Graves’ short but masterful and wildly modern poem, ‘Sick Love’.

Thu Thursday
Fri Friday
Sat Saturday
Sun Sunday
Mon Monday
Tue Tuesday
Wed Wednesday
Day 1: Thursday Jul :7th
Death of Syd Barrett
Day 2: Friday Jul :8th
Death of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Day 3: Saturday Jul :9th
Day 4: Sunday Jul :10th
Day 5: Monday Jul :11th
Day 6: Tuesday Jul :12th
Henry David Thoreau’s Birthday
Day 7: Wednesday Jul :13th
Day 8: Thursday Jul :14th
The Storming of the Bastille
Day 9: Friday Jul :15th
Roky Erickson’s Birthday
Day 10: Saturday Jul :16th
Day 11: Sunday Jul :17th
Day 12: Monday Jul :18th
Death of Nico
Day 13: Tuesday Jul :19th
Full Moon
Day 14: Wednesday Jul :20th
Death of Dieter Moebius
Day 15: Thursday Jul :21st
Day 16: Friday Jul :22nd
George Clinton’s Birthday
Day 17: Saturday Jul :23rd
Day 18: Sunday Jul :24th
Robert Graves’ Birthday
Day 19: Monday Jul :25th
Day 21: Wednesday Jul :27th
Day 22: Thursday Jul :28th
Day 23: Friday Jul :29th
Suicide of Vincent Van Gogh
Day 24: Saturday Jul :30th
Day 25: Sunday Jul :31st
Day 27: Tuesday Aug :2nd
Death of William S. Burroughs
Day 28: Wednesday Aug :3rd
Death of Arthur Lee