The Baker Street Babes recently released “Always 1895: Translating Starrett’s 221B” on their website for free. It’s a e-book of the Vincent Starrett sonnet “221B” translated into song and numerous different languages. You can download it on THIS page.
Every month, at the end of the meeting, everyone in my local scion society listens to a recitation of Vincent Starrett’s “221B.” How does the sonnet resonate for you? Why does it have such a lasting impact on generations of Sherlockians?
by Vincent Starrett
Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears–
Only those things the heart believes are true.
A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
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These lines have meaning for any Sherlockian. For those of us who remember what we heard from London during WW II, the last two lines of the octet and the sestet recall special emotions. Even safe in the US, we knew England was still there “for all our fears” but that, indeed, the world was exploding as Starrett wrote.
For some, that poem recalls bombs heard over the radio, or even at first hand, and the stubborn feeling that there were, nevertheless, things that endured.
With all the modernized versions of Sherlock Holmes being so popular, I have the feeling the ‘it’s always 1895’ will not have a similar impact on Generation-Next. I’ve just finished an essay on the New Russian Sherlock Holmes series, awaiting publication so I won’t go to deep into it here, but a key point brought up for the failure of the series was that it no longer is 1895. (If you’d like to read the essay e-mail me at howardostrom.gmail.com).
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