We'll put the poem first today. The fragment that has been bouncing around in your editor's head this afternoon is the first stanza of Wallace Stevens'
Anecdote of the Jar
"I placed a jar in Tennessee
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill."
This is one of those poem in which different readers have found different meanings. For us, at least today, the message it conveys is the inestimable value of the definite, unwavering statement. We'll come back to that idea in a minute.
If you tried to follow the Brexit saga on the web today, you probably came across this headline from
Theresa May under fire for secret talk of Brexit fears.
" The basis for the story is a tape of remarks Ms. May gave at a Goldman Sachs meeting back in April, that is, over a month before the referendum. In a sense, there is no news here. She may have been more explicit in her Goldman Sachs comments than in other settings, but Ms. May's pre-referendum preference for the "remain" side of the debate was well known.
Untangling the United Kingdom from the European Union would be a long and complex process in the most straightforward of circumstances. In the course of that process, every other EU member will be taking Britain's measure every step of the way. They will be asking: What do the British want? How serious are they about getting it? Can they set a course and stick with it?
But it isn't only the EU's other 27 members who will be asking those questions. All of Britain's trading partners will be asking them. And if British resolve is doubted, those trading partners will, at the very least, hedge their bets. Perhaps it was only a technical comment, but the recent statement by Australia'a Trade Minister,
- namely that there could be no formal trade talks with the UK until after the British have completed the Article 50 process with the EU - seemed to suggest that, Down Under, they are indeed hedging their bets.
"Brexit means Brexit."
It is Prime Minister May's signature line, and it has become the symbol of the UK's determination to follow through on the June 23 referendum. Yet
is uncomfortable with it. And he is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the UK's Department of International Trade. If the UK wants to signal resolve to a questioning world, it needs to curb that kind of quibbling or Brexit
mean something else.
With apologies to Wallace Stevens, if you place a jar in Tennessee, at the very least you've got to leave it there for a while ...and defend it.