Wednesday, 25 January 2012
Dust and Dustmen
Posted by M.H. Forsyth
Dust used to be the subject of poetry. Hamlet, in his great prose speech, asks of mankind:
And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not
Because men are made of dust, and to dust we return. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, fun to funky. So Auden also asked:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
In which he merely adds sexual appetite to the vacuum-fodder. It was therefore rather pleasant to find this entry in an old slang dictionary of 1811:
DUSTMAN. A dead man: your father is a dustman.
Which lends a certain poignancy to this song: