Sic Transit

by Revilo P. Oliver

THE CONTINUING civil war in Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka according to the dubious tradition that the island is the Lanka of the Ramayana) and the frequent reports of riots and massacres there remind me that thirty years ago, in 1958, I read with appreciation a charming little book, A Garland of the Muses, distributed by Blackwell in Oxford. It was the work of L. W. de Silva, who was, until his retirement, Judge of the High Court in Ceylon, which, until a few years before, had been part of the British Empire. It consisted of translations in admirably adroit and sensitive Latin verse of poems or parts of longer poems by more than two dozen English poets. The translations were some of the best Latin verse that has been written in this century, and what made them the more remarkable was the fact that Mr. de Silva was not an Englishman and had not been trained in the British schools in which the tradition of a high and difficult art still precariously survived. He was of Portuguese ancestry, of course; he had been born in Ceylon, and educated in a college there. As few would be prepared to believe, he had taught himself to write excellent Latin poetry. And I suppose he included in his little book no original Latin verse of his own in obedience to the tradition that the real test of scholarly skill in poetry is translation, in which the writer must render as accurately as possible the poetic conceptions of another, and is not free to modify the sentiment to suit prosodic or rhetorical convenience.

India, as I believe Sir John Littleton was the first to remark, was
never ruled so well as when it was it was governed by gentlemen who wrote
Latin verse. Some Hindus today nostalgically agree.

The unending civil war in Ceylon is only the inevitable result of the
suicidal mania of our race, the “anti-colonialism” inspired by the Jews
and carried out by their shock troops, neurotic Aryan twerps who think
it intellectual to defame their ancestors and sabotage their own civilization.

Anyone who had even a smattering of the history of Ceylon and some idea of the biological diversity on an island that is inhabited by persons who belong to fifty distinct ethnic groups, each of them incompatible with most of the others,(1) could have predicted with certainty the chaos that now prevails there – and will prevail until the problem has been simplified by decisive massacres. And I am sure the prime movers of the “anti-colonial” agitation were intelligent enough to know what would happen and planned it that way.

They will deny it, of course. The intelligent “Liberal” has always disclaimed
responsibility for the ruin he creates. He is like a man who throws a bomb
into a crowded room and then shows distress when he sees the bodies of
the dead and maimed. He protests that he did not know that the bomb would
explode. If we are charitable, we will believe him; and if we are rational,
we will see to it that he never again has an opportunity to display his
idealism and good intentions.


(1) There are two major groups, separated by irreconcilable racial, religious, and linguistic differences. The Sinhalese are racially a typical Hindu amalgam in which an Aryan element is still perceptible; their religion is Buddhism in its purest extant form; their language is Indo-European, a dialect of Pali. The “Tamils” are a purely Dravidian people; their religion is a debased form of Hinduism adulterated with the aboriginal cults of the Deccan; and they speak Tamil, a Dravidian language slightly influenced by more civilized tongues.

* * *

Source: Liberty Bell magazine, February 1987

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