13 November 2007

In Memoriam A.H.H. CXXVI (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Love is and was my Lord and King,
And in his presence I attend
To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.

Love is and was my King and Lord,
And will be, tho' as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompass'd by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.

26 October 2007

from Grimble, chapter 1, Monday (Clement Freud)

One Monday Grimble came back from school, opened the door and shouted, 'I am home.' No one shouted anything in answer. So he went round the house looking for messages because his parents always left messages. It was the one thing they were really good at.

On a table in the sitting-room there was a globe. And stuck into the globe were two pins each with a triangle of paper on it. One of these was stuck into England and said GRIMBLE, and the other was stuck into Peru and said US. He went into the kitchen and here was another note: TEA IS IN THE FRIDGE, SANDWICHES IN THE OVEN. HAVE A GOOD TIME.


In the bathroom a message TEETH.

He. walked round the house thinking they've really been very good, and then he went to the back-door and saw a note MILKMAN. NO MILK FOR FIVE DAYS.

He changed the note to NOT MUCH milk for five days, and sat down in the kitchen and started to think about things.

20 October 2007

from The Pilgrim's Progress, part I, section 1 (John Bunyan)

Then he took him by the hand, and led him into a very large parlour that was full of dust, because never swept; the which after he had reviewed it a little while, the Interpreter called for a man to sweep. Now, when he began to sweep, the dust began so abundantly to fly about, that Christian had almost therewith been choked. Then said the Interpreter to a damsel that stood by, "Bring hither water, and sprinkle the room;" the which when she had done, it was swept and cleansed with pleasure.

Then said Christian, What means this?

The Interpreter answered, This parlour is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel. The dust is his original sin, and inward corruptions, that have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep at first, is the law; but she that brought water, and did sprinkle it, is the Gospel. Now whereas thou sawest, that so soon as the first began to sweep, the dust did so fly about that the room by him could not be cleansed, but that thou wast almost choked therewith; this is to show thee, that the law, instead of cleansing the heart (by its working) from sin, doth revive, put strength into, and increase it in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it; for it doth not give power to subdue. Again, as thou sawest the damsel sprinkle the room with water, upon which it was cleansed with pleasure, this is to show thee, that when the Gospel comes in the sweet and precious influences thereof to the heart, then, I say, even as thou sawest the damsel lay the dust by sprinkling the floor with water, so is sin vanquished and subdued, and the soul made clean, through the faith of it, and consequently fit for the King of glory to inhabit.

08 October 2007

from Where Angels Fear to Tread, chapter 8 (E.M. Forster)

In time Philip went to the church also, leaving his
sister a little calmer and a little disposed to think over
his advice. What had come over Miss Abbott? He had always
thought her both stable and sincere. That conversation he
had had with her last Christmas in the train to Charing
Cross--that alone furnished him with a parallel. For the
second time, Monteriano must have turned her head. He was
not angry with her, for he was quite indifferent to the
outcome of their expedition. He was only extremely interested.

It was now nearly midday, and the streets were
clearing. But the intense heat had broken, and there was a
pleasant suggestion of rain. The Piazza, with its three
great attractions - the Palazzo Pubblico, the Collegiate
Church, and the Caffe Garibaldi: the intellect, the soul,
and the body - had never looked more charming. For a moment
Philip stood in its centre, much inclined to be dreamy, and
thinking how wonderful it must feel to belong to a city,
however mean. He was here, however, as an emissary of
civilization and as a student of character, and, after a
sigh, he entered Santa Deodata's to continue his mission.

There had been a festa two days before, and the church
still smelt of incense and of garlic. The little son of the
sacristan was sweeping the nave, more for amusement than for
cleanliness, sending great clouds of dust over the frescoes
and the scattered worshippers. The sacristan himself had
propped a ladder in the centre of the Deluge - which fills one
of the nave spandrels - and was freeing a column from its
wealth of scarlet calico. Much scarlet calico also lay upon
the floor - for the church can look as fine as any theatre - and
the sacristan's little daughter was trying to fold it up.
She was wearing a tinsel crown. The crown really belonged
to St. Augustine. But it had been cut too big: it fell down
over his cheeks like a collar: you never saw anything so
absurd. One of the canons had unhooked it just before the festa began, and had given it to the sacristan's daughter.

"Please," cried Philip, "is there an English lady here?"

The man's mouth was full of tin-tacks, but he nodded
cheerfully towards a kneeling figure. In the midst of this
confusion Miss Abbott was praying.

He was not much surprised: a spiritual breakdown was
quite to be expected. For though he was growing more
charitable towards mankind, he was still a little jaunty,
and too apt to stake out beforehand the course that will be
pursued by the wounded soul. It did not surprise him,
however, that she should greet him naturally, with none of
the sour self-consciousness of a person who had just risen
from her knees. This was indeed the spirit of Santa
Deodata's, where a prayer to God is thought none the worse
of because it comes next to a pleasant word to a neighbour.
"I am sure that I need it," said she; and he, who had
expected her to be ashamed, became confused, and knew not
what to reply.

"I've nothing to tell you," she continued. "I have
simply changed straight round. If I had planned the whole
thing out, I could not have treated you worse. I can talk
it over now; but please believe that I have been crying."

"And please believe that I have not come to scold you,"
said Philip. "I know what has happened."

"What?" asked Miss Abbott. Instinctively she led the
way to the famous chapel, the fifth chapel on the right,
wherein Giovanni da Empoli has painted the death and burial
of the saint. Here they could sit out of the dust and the
noise, and proceed with a discussion which promised to be important.

"What might have happened to me - he had made you believe
that he loved the child."

"Oh, yes; he has. He will never give it up."

"At present it is still unsettled."

"It will never be settled."

"Perhaps not. Well, as I said, I know what has
happened, and I am not here to scold you. But I must ask
you to withdraw from the thing for the present. Harriet is
furious. But she will calm down when she realizes that you
have done us no harm, and will do none."

"I can do no more," she said. "But I tell you plainly I
have changed sides."

"If you do no more, that is all we want. You promise
not to prejudice our cause by speaking to Signor Carella?"

"Oh, certainly. I don't want to speak to him again; I
shan't ever see him again."

"Quite nice, wasn't he?"


"Well, that's all I wanted to know. I'll go and tell
Harriet of your promise, and I think things'll quiet down now."

But he did not move, for it was an increasing pleasure
to him to be near her, and her charm was at its strongest
today. He thought less of psychology and feminine
reaction. The gush of sentimentalism which had carried her
away had only made her more alluring. He was content to
observe her beauty and to profit by the tenderness and the
wisdom that dwelt within her.

"Why aren't you angry with me?" she asked, after a pause.

"Because I understand you - all sides, I think, - Harriet,
Signor Carella, even my mother."

"You do understand wonderfully. You are the only one of
us who has a general view of the muddle."

He smiled with pleasure. It was the first time she had
ever praised him. His eyes rested agreeably on Santa
Deodata, who was dying in full sanctity, upon her back.
There was a window open behind her, revealing just such a
view as he had seen that morning, and on her widowed
mother's dresser there stood just such another copper pot.
The saint looked neither at the view nor at the pot, and at
her widowed mother still less. For lo! she had a vision:
the head and shoulders of St. Augustine were sliding like
some miraculous enamel along the rough-cast wall. It is a
gentle saint who is content with half another saint to see
her die. In her death, as in her life, Santa Deodata did
not accomplish much.

"So what are you going to do?" said Miss Abbott.

Philip started, not so much at the words as at the
sudden change in the voice. "Do?" he echoed, rather
dismayed. "This afternoon I have another interview."

"It will come to nothing. Well?"

"Then another. If that fails I shall wire home for
instructions. I dare say we may fail altogether, but we
shall fail honourably."

She had often been decided. But now behind her decision
there was a note of passion. She struck him not as
different, but as more important, and he minded it very much
when she said -

"That's not doing anything! You would be doing
something if you kidnapped the baby, or if you went straight
away. But that! To fail honourably! To come out of the
thing as well as you can! Is that all you are after?"

"Why, yes," he stammered. "Since we talk openly, that
is all I am after just now. What else is there? If I can
persuade Signor Carella to give in, so much the better. If
he won't, I must report the failure to my mother and then go
home. Why, Miss Abbott, you can't expect me to follow you
through all these turns -"

"I don't! But I do expect you to settle what is right
and to follow that. Do you want the child to stop with his
father, who loves him and will bring him up badly, or do you
want him to come to Sawston, where no one loves him, but
where he will be brought up well? There is the question put
dispassionately enough even for you. Settle it. Settle
which side you'll fight on. But don't go talking about an
'honourable failure,' which means simply not thinking and
not acting at all."

"Because I understand the position of Signor Carella and
of you, it's no reason that -"

"None at all. Fight as if you think us wrong. Oh,
what's the use of your fair-mindedness if you never decide
for yourself? Any one gets hold of you and makes you do
what they want. And you see through them and laugh at
them - and do it. It's not enough to see clearly; I'm
muddle-headed and stupid, and not worth a quarter of you,
but I have tried to do what seemed right at the time. And
you - your brain and your insight are splendid. But when you
see what's right you're too idle to do it. You told me once
that we shall be judged by our intentions, not by our
accomplishments. I thought it a grand remark. But we must
intend to accomplish - not sit intending on a chair."

"You are wonderful!" he said gravely.

"Oh, you appreciate me!" she burst out again. "I wish
you didn't. You appreciate us all - see good in all of us.
And all the time you are dead - dead - dead. Look, why aren't
you angry?" She came up to him, and then her mood suddenly
changed, and she took hold of both his hands. "You are so
splendid, Mr. Herriton, that I can't bear to see you
wasted. I can't bear - she has not been good to you - your

"Miss Abbott, don't worry over me. Some people are born
not to do things. I'm one of them; I never did anything at
school or at the Bar. I came out to stop Lilia's marriage,
and it was too late. I came out intending to get the baby,
and I shall return an 'honourable failure.' I never expect
anything to happen now, and so I am never disappointed. You
would be surprised to know what my great events are. Going
to the theatre yesterday, talking to you now - I don't suppose
I shall ever meet anything greater. I seem fated to pass
through the world without colliding with it or moving it - and
I'm sure I can't tell you whether the fate's good or evil.
I don't die - I don't fall in love. And if other people die
or fall in love they always do it when I'm just not there.
You are quite right; life to me is just a spectacle,
which - thank God, and thank Italy, and thank you - is now more
beautiful and heartening than it has ever been before."

She said solemnly, "I wish something would happen to
you, my dear friend; I wish something would happen to you."

"But why?" he asked, smiling. "Prove to me why I don't
do as I am."

She also smiled, very gravely. She could not prove it.
No argument existed. Their discourse, splendid as it had
been, resulted in nothing, and their respective opinions and
policies were exactly the same when they left the church as
when they had entered it.

10 September 2007

from The Work of Iron, in Nature, Art, and Policy (John Ruskin)

If it were asked of us, by a single characteristic, to distinguish the dwellings of a country into two broad sections; and to set, on one side, the places where people were, for the most part, simple, happy, benevolent, and honest; and, on the other side, the places where at least a great number of the people were sophisticated, unkind, uncomfortable, and unprincipled, there is, I think, one feature that you could fix upon as a positive test: the uncomfortable and unprincipled parts of the country would be the parts where people lived among iron railings, and the comfortable and principled parts where they had none. A broad generalization, you will say! Perhaps a little too broad; yet, in all sobriety, it will come truer than you think. Consider every other kind of fence or defence, and you will find some virtue in it; but in the iron railing, none. There is, first, your castle rampart of stone - somewhat too grand to be considered here among our types of fencing; next, your garden or park wall of brick, which has indeed often an unkind look on the outside, but there is more modesty in it than unkindness. It generally means, not that the builder of it wants to shut you out from the view of his garden, but from the view of himself: it is a frank statement that as he needs a certain portion of time to himself, so he needs a certain portion of the ground to himself, and must not be stared at when he digs there in his shirt-sleeves, or plays at leapfrogs with his boys from school, or talks over old times with his wife, walking up and down in the evening sunshine. Besides, the brick wall has good practial service in it, and shelters you from the east wind, and ripens your peaches and nectarines, and glows in autumn like a sunny bank. And, moreover, your brick wall, if you build it properly, so that it shall stand long enough, is a beautiful thing when it is old, and has assumed its grave purple red, touched with mossy green.

Next to your lordly wall, in dignity of enclosure, comes your close-set wooden paling, which is more objectionable, because it commonly means enclosure on a larger scale than people want. Still it is significative of pleasant parks, and well-kept field walks, and herds of deer, and other such aristocratic pastoralisms, which have here and there their proper place in a country, and may be passed without any discredit.

Next to your paling comes your low stone dyke, your mountain fence, indicative at a glance either of wild hill country, or of beds of stone beneath the soil; the hedge of the mountains - delightful in all its associations, and yet more in the varied and craggy forms of the loose stones it is built of: and next to the low stone wall, your lowland hedge, either in trim line of massive green, suggestive of the pleasances of old Elizabethan houses, and smooth alleys for aged feet, and quaint labyrinths for young ones, or else in fair entanglement of eglantine and virgin's bower, tossing its scented luxuriance along our country waysides: - how many such you have here among your pretty hills, fruitful with black clusters of the bramble for boys in autumn, and crimson hawthorn-berries for birdsd in winter. And then last, and most difficult to class among fences, comes your hand-rail, expressive of all sorts of things; sometimes having a knowing and vicious look, which it learns at race-courses; sometimes an innocent and tender look, which it learns at rustic bridges over cressy brooks; and sometimes a prudent and protective look, which it learns on passes of the Alps, where it has posts of granit and bars of pine, and guards the brows of cliffs and the banks of torrents. So that in all these kinds of defence there is some good, pleasant, or noble meaning. But what meaning has the iron railing? Either, observe, that you are living in the midst of such bad characters that you must keep them out by main force of bar, or that you are yourself of a character requiring to be kept inside in the same manner. Your iron railing always means thieves outside, or Bedlam inside; - it can mean nothing else that that. If the people outside were good for anything, a hint in the way of fence would be enough for them; but because they are violent and at enmity with you, you are forced to put the close bars and the spikes at the top. Last summer I was lodging for a little while in a cottage in the country, and in front of my low window there were, first, some beds of daisies, then a row of gooseberry and currant bushes, and then a low wall about three feet above the ground, covered with stone-cress; outside, a cornfield, with its green ears glistening in the sun, and a field path through it, just past the garden gate. From my window I could see every peasant of the village who passed that way, with basket on arm for market, or spade on shoulder for field. When I was inclined for society, I could lean over my wall, and talk to anybody; when I was inclined for science, I could botanize all along the top of my wall - there were four species of stone-cress alone growing on it; and when I was inclined for exercise, I could jump over my wall, backwards and forwards. That's the sort of fence to have in a Christian country; not a thing which you can't walk inside of without making yourself look like a wild beast, nor look at out of your window in the morning without expecting to see somebody impaled upon it in the night.

And yet farther, observe that the iron railing is a useless fence - it can shelter nothing, and support nothing; you can't nail your peaches to it, nor protect your flowers with it, nor make anything whatever out of its costly tyranny; and besides being useless, it is an insolent fence; - it says plainly to everybody who passes - 'You may be an honest person, - but, also, you may be a thief: honest or not, you shall not get in here, for I am a respectable person and much above you; you shall only see what a grand place I have got to keep you out of - look here, and depart in humiliation.'

This, however, being in the present state of civilization a frequent manner of discourse, and there being unfortunately many districts where the iron railing is unavoidable, it yet remains a question whether you need absolutely make it ugly, no less than significative of evil. You must have railings round your squares in London, and at the sides of your areas; but need you therefore have railings so ugly that the constant sight of them is enough to neutralise the effect of all the schools of art in the kingdom? You need not. Far from such necessity, it is even in your power to turn all your police force of iron bars actually into drawing masters, and natural historians. Not, of course, without some trouble and some expense; you can do nothing much worth doing, in this world, without trouble, you can get nothing much worth having, without expense. The main question is only - what is worth doing and having: - Consider, therefore, if this is not. Here is your iron railing, as yet, an uneducated monster; a sombre seneschal, incapable of any words, except his perpetual 'Keep out!' and 'Away with you!' Would it not be worth some trouble and cost to turn this ungainly ruffian porter into a well-educated servant; who, while he was severe as ever in forbidding entrance to evilly-disposed people, should yet have a kind word for well-disposed people, and a pleasant look, and a little useful information at his command, in case he should be asked a question by the passers-by?

05 September 2007

from Arthur and George, Part One, Beginnings (Julian Barnes)

George has no interest in skating or sledding or the building of snowmen. He has already embarked on his future career. He has left Rugeley and is studying law at Mason College in Birmingham. If he applies himself, and passes the first examination, he will become an articled clerk. After five years of articles, there will be final examinations, and then he will become a solicitor. He sees himself with a desk, a set of bound law books and a suit with a fob chain slung between his waistcoat pockets like golden rope. He imagines himself being respected. He imagines himself with a hat.

27 August 2007

Locksley Hall (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 'tis early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.

'Tis the place, and all around it, as of old, the curlews call,
Dreary gleams about the moorland flying over Locksley Hall;

Locksley Hall, that in the distance overlooks the sandy tracts,
And the hollow ocean-ridges roaring into cataracts.

Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

Here about the beach I wander'd, nourishing a youth sublime
With the fairy tales of science, and the long result of Time;

When the centuries behind me like a fruitful land reposed;
When I clung to all the present for the promise that it closed:

When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be. -

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

Then her cheek was pale and thinner than should be for one so young,
And her eyes on all my motions with a mute observance hung.

And I said, "My cousin Amy, speak, and speak the truth to me,
Trust me, cousin, all the current of my being sets to thee."

On her pallid cheek and forehead came a colour and a light,
As I have seen the rosy red flushing in the northern night.

And she turn'd - her bosom shaken with a sudden storm of sighs -
All the spirit deeply dawning in the dark of hazel eyes -

Saying, "I have hid my feelings, fearing they should do me wrong";
Saying, "Dost thou love me, cousin?" weeping, "I have loved thee long."

Love took up the glass of Time, and turn'd it in his glowing hands;
Every moment, lightly shaken, ran itself in golden sands.

Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.

Many a morning on the moorland did we hear the copses ring,
And her whisper throng'd my pulses with the fullness of the Spring.

Many an evening by the waters did we watch the stately ships,
And our spirits rush'd together at the touching of the lips.

O my cousin, shallow-hearted! O my Amy, mine no more!
O the dreary, dreary moorland! O the barren, barren shore!

Falser than all fancy fathoms, falser than all songs have sung,
Puppet to a father's threat, and servile to a shrewish tongue!

Is it well to wish thee happy? - having known me - to decline
On a range of lower feelings and a narrower heart than mine!

Yet it shall be; thou shalt lower to his level day by day,
What is fine within thee growing coarse to sympathize with clay.

As the husband is, the wife is: thou art mated with a clown,
And the grossness of his nature will have weight to drag thee down.

He will hold thee, when his passion shall have spent its novel force,
Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse.

What is this? his eyes are heavy; think not they are glazed with wine.
Go to him, it is thy duty, kiss him, take his hand in thine.

It may be my lord is weary, that his brain is overwrought:
Soothe him with thy finer fancies, touch him with thy lighter thought.

He will answer to the purpose, easy things to understand -
Better thou wert dead before me, tho' I slew thee with my hand!

Better thou and I were lying, hidden from the heart's disgrace,
Roll'd in one another's arms, and silent in a last embrace.

Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!

Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature's rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten'd forehead of the fool!

Well - 'tis well that I should bluster! - Hadst thou less unworthy proved -
Would to God - for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved.

Am I mad, that I should cherish that which bears but bitter fruit?
I will pluck it from my bosom, tho' my heart be at the root.

Never, tho' my mortal summers to such length of years should come
As the many-winter'd crow that leads the clanging rookery home.

Where is comfort? in division of the records of the mind?
Can I part her from herself, and love her, as I knew her, kind?

I remember one that perish'd; sweetly did she speak and move;
Such a one do I remember, whom to look at was to love.

Can I think of her as dead, and love her for the love she bore?
No - she never loved me truly; love is love for evermore.

Comfort? comfort scorn'd of devils! this is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things.

Drug thy memories, lest thou learn it, lest thy heart be put to proof,
In the dead unhappy night, and when the rain is on the roof.

Like a dog, he hunts in dreams, and thou art staring at the wall,
Where the dying night-lamp flickers, and the shadows rise and fall.

Then a hand shall pass before thee, pointing to his drunken sleep,
To thy widow'd marriage-pillows, to the tears that thou wilt weep.

Thou shalt hear the "Never, never," whisper'd by the phantom years,
And a song from out the distance in the ringing of thine ears;

And an eye shall vex thee, looking ancient kindness on thy pain.
Turn thee, turn thee on thy pillow; get thee to thy rest again.

Nay, but Nature brings thee solace; for a tender voice will cry.
'Tis a purer life than thine, a lip to drain thy trouble dry.

Baby lips will laugh me down; my latest rival brings thee rest.
Baby fingers, waxen touches, press me from the mother's breast.

O, the child too clothes the father with a dearness not his due.
Half is thine and half is his: it will be worthy of the two.

O, I see thee old and formal, fitted to thy petty part,
With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter's heart.

"They were dangerous guides the feelings - she herself was not exempt -
Truly, she herself had suffer'd" - Perish in thy self-contempt!

Overlive it - lower yet - be happy! wherefore should I care?
I myself must mix with action, lest I wither by despair.

What is that which I should turn to, lighting upon days like these?
Every door is barr'd with gold, and opens but to golden keys.

Every gate is throng'd with suitors, all the markets overflow.
I have but an angry fancy; what is that which I should do?

I had been content to perish, falling on the foeman's ground,
When the ranks are roll'd in vapour, and the winds are laid with sound.

But the jingling of the guinea helps the hurt that Honour feels,
And the nations do but murmur, snarling at each other's heels.

Can I but relive in sadness? I will turn that earlier page.
Hide me from my deep emotion, O thou wondrous Mother-Age!

Make me feel the wild pulsation that I felt before the strife,
When I heard my days before me, and the tumult of my life;

Yearning for the large excitement that the coming years would yield,
Eager-hearted as a boy when first he leaves his father's field,

And at night along the dusky highway near and nearer drawn,
Sees in heaven the light of London flaring like a dreary dawn;

And his spirit leaps within him to be gone before him then,
Underneath the light he looks at, in among the throngs of men:

Men, my brothers, men the workers, ever reaping something new:
That which they have done but earnest of the things that they shall do:

For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rain'd a ghastly dew
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue;

Far along the world-wide whisper of the south-wind rushing warm,
With the standards of the peoples plunging thro' the thunder-storm;

Till the war-drum throbb'd no longer, and the battle-flags were furl'd
In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe,
And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapped in universal law.

So I triumph'd ere my passion sweeping thro' me left me dry,
Left me with the palsied heart, and left me with the jaundiced eye;

Eye, to which all order festers, all things here are out of joint:
Science moves, but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point:

Slowly comes a hungry people, as a lion, creeping nigher,
Glares at one that nods and winks behind a slowly-dying fire.

Yet I doubt not thro' the ages one increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widen'd with the process of the suns.

What is that to him that reaps not harvest of his youthful joys,
Tho' the deep heart of existence beat for ever like a boy's?

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and I linger on the shore,
And the individual withers, and the world is more and more.

Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast,
Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.

Hark, my merry comrades call me, sounding on the bugle-horn,
They to whom my foolish passion were a target for their scorn:

Shall it not be scorn to me to harp on such a moulder'd string?
I am shamed thro' all my nature to have loved so slight a thing.

Weakness to be wroth with weakness! woman's pleasure, woman's pain -
Nature made them blinder motions bounded in a shallower brain:

Woman is the lesser man, and all thy passions, match'd with mine,
Are as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine -

Here at least, where nature sickens, nothing. Ah, for some retreat
Deep in yonder shining Orient, where my life began to beat;

Where in wild Mahratta-battle fell my father evil-starr'd, -
I was left a trampled orphan, and a selfish uncle's ward.

Or to burst all links of habit - there to wander far away,
On from island unto island at the gateways of the day.

Larger constellations burning, mellow moons and happy skies,
Breadths of tropic shade and palms in cluster, knots of Paradise.

Never comes the trader, never floats an European flag,
Slides the bird o'er lustrous woodland, swings the trailer from the crag;

Droops the heavy-blossom'd bower, hangs the heavy-fruited tree -
Summer isles of Eden lying in dark-purple spheres of sea.

There methinks would be enjoyment more than in this march of mind,
In the steamship, in the railway, in the thoughts that shake mankind.

There the passions cramp'd no longer shall have scope and breathing space;
I will take some savage woman, she shall rear my dusky race.

Iron-jointed, supple-sinew'd, they shall dive, and they shall run,
Catch the wild goat by the hair, and hurl their lances in the sun;

Whistle back the parrot's call, and leap the rainbows of the brooks,
Not with blinded eyesight poring over miserable books -

Fool, again the dream, the fancy! but I know my words are wild,
But I count the gray barbarian lower than the Christian child.

I, to herd with narrow foreheads, vacant of our glorious gains,
Like a beast with lower pleasures, like a beast with lower pains!

Mated with a squalid savage - what to me were sun or clime?
I the heir of all the ages, in the foremost files of time -

I that rather held it better men should perish one by one,
Than that earth should stand at gaze like Joshua's moon in Ajalon!

Not in vain the distance beacons. Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.

Thro' the shadow of the globe we sweep into the younger day;
Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

Mother-Age (for mine I knew not) help me as when life begun:
Rift the hills, and roll the waters, flash the lightnings, weigh the Sun.

O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set.
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet.

Howsoever these things be, a long farewell to Locksley Hall!
Now for me the woods may wither, now for me the roof-tree fall.

Comes a vapour from the margin, blackening over heath and holt,
Cramming all the blast before it, in its breast a thunderbolt.

Let it fall on Locksley Hall, with rain or hail, or fire or snow;
For the mighty wind arises, roaring seaward, and I go.

23 August 2007

from Three Men in a Boat, chapter XVIII (Jerome K. Jerome)

Talking of locks reminds me of an accident George and I very nearly had one summer's morning at Hampton Court.

It was a glorious day, and the lock was crowded; and, as is a common practice up the river, a speculative photographer was taking a picture of us all as we lay upon the rising waters.

I did not catch what was going on at first, and was, therefore, extremely surprised at noticing George hurriedly smooth out his trousers, ruffle up his hair, and stick his cap on in a rakish manner at the back of his head, and then, assuming an expression of mingled affability and sadness, sit down in a graceful attitude, and try to hide his feet.

My first idea was that he had suddenly caught sight of some girl he knew, and I looked about to see who it was. Everybody in the lock seemed to have been suddenly struck wooden. They were all standing or sitting about in the most quaint and curious attitudes I have ever seen off a Japanese fan. All the girls were smiling. Oh, they did look so sweet! And all the fellows were frowning, and looking stern and noble.

And then, at last, the truth flashed across me, and I wondered if I should be in time. Ours was the first boat, and it would be unkind of me to spoil the man's picture, I thought.

So I faced round quickly, and took up a position in the prow, where I leant with careless grace upon the hitcher, in an attitude suggestive of agility and strength. I arranged my hair with a curl over the forehead, and threw an air of tender wistfulness into my expression, mingled with a touch of cynicism, which I am told suits me.

As we stood, waiting for the eventful moment, I heard someone behind call out:

"Hi! look at your nose."

I could not turn round to see what was the matter, and whose nose it was that was to be looked at. I stole a side-glance at George's nose! It was all right - at all events, there was nothing wrong with it that could be altered. I squinted down at my own, and that seemed all that could be expected also.

"Look at your nose, you stupid ass!" came the same voice again, louder.

And then another voice cried: "Push your nose out, can't you, you - you two with the dog!"

Neither George nor I dared to turn round. The man's hand was on the cap, and the picture might be taken any moment. Was it us they were calling to? What was the matter with our noses? Why were they to be pushed out!

But now the whole lock started yelling, and a stentorian voice from the back shouted: "Look at your boat, sir; you in the red and black caps. It's your two corpses that will get taken in that photo, if you ain't quick."

We looked then, and saw that the nose of our boat had got fixed under the woodwork of the lock, while the in-coming water was rising all around it, and tilting it up. In another moment we should be over. Quick as thought, we each seized an oar, and a vigorous blow against the side of the lock with the butt-ends released the boat, and sent us sprawling on our backs.

We did not come out well in that photograph, George and I. Of course, as was to be expected, our luck ordained it, that the man should set his wretched machine in motion at the precise moment that we were both lying on our backs with a wild expression of "Where am I? and what is it?" on our faces, and our four feet waving madly in the air.

Our feet were undoubtedly the leading article in that photograph. Indeed, very little else was to be seen. They filled up the foreground entirely. Behind them, you caught glimpses of the other boats, and bits of the surrounding scenery; but everything and everybody else in the lock looked so utterly insignificant and paltry compared with our feet, that all the other people felt quite ashamed of themselves, and refused to subscribe to the picture.

The owner of one steam launch, who had bespoke six copies, rescinded the order on seeing the negative. He said he would take them if anybody could show him his launch, but nobody could. It was somewhere behind George's right foot.

There was a good deal of unpleasantness over the business. The photographer thought we ought to take a dozen copies each, seeing that the photo was about nine-tenths us, but we declined. We said we had no objection to being photo'd full-length, but we preferred being taken the right way up.

from Little Women, chapter 1, Playing Pilgrims (Louisa M. Alcott)

The four young faces on which the firelight shone ...

22 August 2007

from Principles of Decorative Design, chapter III, Furniture (Christopher Dresser)

When examining certain wardrobes and cabinets in the International Exhibition of 1862, I was forcibly impressed with the structural truth of one or two of these works. One especially commended itself to me as a fine structural work of classic character. Just as I was expressing my admiration, the exhibitor threw open the doors of this well-formed wardrobe to show me its internal fittings, when, fancy my feelings at beholding the first door bearing with it, as it opened, the two pilasters that I conceived to be the supports of the somewhat heavy cornice above, and the other door bearing away the third support, and thus leaving the super-incumbent mass resting on the thin sides of the structure only, while they appeared altogether unable to perform the duty imposed upon them. "Horrible! horrible!" was all I could exclaim.

08 August 2007

An August Midnight (Thomas Hardy)

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,
And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:
On this scene enter
- winged, horned, and spined
- A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;
While 'mid my page there idly stands
A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands ...

Thus meet we five, in this still place,
At this point of time, at this point in space.
My guests besmear my new-penned line,
Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.
'God's humblest, they!' I muse. Yet why?
They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

from the Book of Common Prayer, Prayers and Thanksgivings upon Several Occasions, Thanksgivings: For fair Weather

O Lord God, who hast justly humbled us by thy late plague of immoderate rain and waters, and in thy mercy hast relieved and comforted our souls by this seasonable and blessed change of weather; We praise and glorify thy holy Name for this thy mercy, and will always declare thy loving-kindness from generation to generation: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

31 July 2007

from Utopia Limited, Act II (W.S. Gilbert)

There's a little group of isles beyond the wave -
So tiny, you might almost wonder where it is -
That nation is the bravest of the brave,
And cowards are the rarest of all rarities.
The proudest nations kneel at her command;
She terrifies all foreign-born rapscallions;
And holds the peace of Europe in her hand
With half a score invincible battalions!

Such, at least, is the tale
Which is born on the gale,
From the island which dwells in the sea.
Let us hope, for her sake,
That she makes no mistake -
That she's all she professes to be!

O may we copy all her maxims wise,
And imitate her virtues and her charities;
And may we, by degrees, acclimatise
Her Parliamentary peculiarities!
By doing so, we shall in course of time,
Regenerate completely our entire land -
Great Britain is that monarchy sublime,
To which some add (but others do not) Ireland.

Such, at least, is the tale
Which is born on the gale,
From the island which dwells in the sea.
Let us hope, for her sake,
That she makes no mistake -
That she's all she professes to be!

Such, at least, is the tale
Which is born on the gale.

26 June 2007

The Ultra-Catholic (E.L. Mascall)

I am an Ultra-Catholic - No 'Anglo-,' I beseech you!
You'll find no trace of heresy in anything I teach you.
The clergyman across the road has whiskers and a bowler,
But I wear buckles on my shoes and sport a feriola.

My alb is edged with deepest lace, spread over rich black satin;
The Psalms of Dâvid I recite in heaven’s own native Latin,
And, though I don't quite understand those awkward moods and tenses,
My ordo recitandi's strict Westmonasteriensis.

I teach the children in my school the Penny Catechism,
Explaining how the C. of E.'s in heresy and schism.
The truths of Trent and Vatican I bate not one iota.
I have not met the Rural Dean. I do not pay my quota.

The Bishop's put me under his 'profoundest disapproval'
And, though he cannot bring about my actual removal,
He will not come and visit me or take my confirmations.
Colonial prelates I employ from far-off mission-stations.

The music we perform at Mass is Verdi and Scarlatti.
Assorted females form the choir; I wish they weren't so catty.
Two flutes, a fiddle and a harp assist them in the gallery.
The organist left years ago, and so we save his salary.

We've started a 'Sodality of John of San Fagondez,'
Consisting of the five young men who serve High Mass on Sundays;
And though they simply will not come to weekday Mass at seven,
They turn out looking wonderful on Sundays at eleven.

The Holy Father I extol in fervid perorations,
The Cardinals in Curia, the Sacred Congregations;
And, though I've not submitted yet, as all my friends expected,
I should have gone last Tuesday week, had not my wife objected.

11 June 2007

Exposure (Wilfred Owen)

Our brains ache, in the merciless iced east winds that knive us...
Wearied we keep awake because the night is silent...
Low, drooping flares confuse our memory of the salient...
Worried by silence, sentries whisper, curious, nervous,
But nothing happens.

Watching, we hear the mad gusts tugging on the wire,
Like twitching agonies of men among its brambles.
Northward, incessantly, the flickering gunnery rumbles,
Far off, like a dull rumour of some other war.
What are we doing here?

The poignant misery of dawn begins to grow...
We only know war lasts, rain soaks, and clouds sag stormy.
Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army
Attacks once more in ranks on shivering ranks of gray,
But nothing happens.

Sudden successive flights of bullets streak the silence.
Less deathly than the air that shudders black with snow,
With sidelong flowing flakes that flock, pause, and renew;
We watch them wandering up and down the wind's nonchalance,
But nothing happens.

Pale flakes with fingering stealth come feeling for our faces -
We cringe in holes, back on forgotten dreams, and stare, snow-dazed,
Deep into grassier ditches. So we drowse, sun-dozed,
Littered with blossoms trickling where the blackbird fusses,
- Is it that we are dying?

Slowly our ghosts drag home: glimpsing the sunk fires, glozed
With crusted dark-red jewels; crickets jingle there;
For hours the innocent mice rejoice: the house is theirs;
Shutters and doors, all closed: on us the doors are closed, -
We turn back to our dying.

Since we believe not otherwise can kind fires burn;
Nor ever suns smile true on child, or field, or fruit.
For God's invincible spring our love is made afraid;
Therefore, not loath, we lie out here; therefore were born,
For love of God seems dying.

To-night, this frost will fasten on this mud and us,
Shrivelling many hands, puckering foreheads crisp.
The burying-party, picks and shovels in shaking grasp,
Pause over half-known faces. All their eyes are ice,
But nothing happens.

10 June 2007

from Easter (George Herbert)

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sun arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th' East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Tantum ergo (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
laus et jubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
Procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.

from Phaedrus, 229a-c, 230a-d (Plato, trans. Robin Waterfield)

SOCRATES: Let's turn off the road here and walk alongside the Ilissus. Then we can find somewhere quiet to sit down, wherever we like.
PHAEDRUS: It turns out to be a good thing that I have no shoes on. You never do, of course. It will be very easy for us to wet our feet as we walk by the stream, which will be nice, especially at this time of day in this season.
SOCRATES: Lead the way, then, and at the same time think about where we might sit.
PHAEDRUS: Do you see that very tall plane tree?
SOCRATES: Of course.
PHAEDRUS: It's shady and breezy there, and there's grass for sitting on, or lying on if we like.
SOCRATES: Lead the way, please.
PHAEDRUS: Tell me, Socrates, isn't this or hereabouts the place from where Boreas is said to have abducted Oreithuia from the Ilissus?
SOCRATES: Yes, that's how the story goes, anyway.
PHAEDRUS: Well, wasn't it from here? At any rate, the water has a pleasant, clean, clear appearance - just right for girls to play beside.
SOCRATES: No, this isn't the place. It's about two or three stades downstream, where one crosses to go towards Agra. There's an altar of Boreas somewhere there.
PHAEDRUS: I've not really noticed it. But tell me, Socrates, by Zeus: do you think this story is true?
SOCRATES: It wouldn't be odd for me to doubt it as the experts do. I might give a clever explanation of it [...] But anyway, my friend, if I may interrupt our conversation, isn't this the tree you were taking us to?
PHAEDRUS: Yes, this is the one.
SOCRATES: By Hera, what a lovely secluded spot! This plane tree is very tall and flourishing, the agnus is tall enough to provide excellent shade too, and since it is in full bloom it will probably make the place especially fragrant. Then again, the stream flowing under the plane tree is particularly charming, and its water is very cold, to judge by my foot. The place seems by the statuettes and figures to be sacred to certain of the Nymphs and to Achelous. Or again, if you like, how pleasant and utterly delightful is the freshness of the air here! The whisper of the breeze chimes in a summery, clear way with the chorus of the cicadas. But the nicest thing of all is the fact that the grass is on a gentle slope which is perfect for resting one's head on when lying down. You are indeed a very good guide, my dear Phaedrus.
PHAEDRUS: You're quite remarkable, Socrates! You're like a complete stranger - literally, as you say, as if you were a visitor being shown around, not a local resident. It's proof of how you never leave town either to travel abroad or even, I think, to step outside the city walls at all.

03 June 2007

Quicunque Vult (St. Athanasius)

Whosoever will be saved : before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholick Faith.
Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled : without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
And the Catholick Faith is this : That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
Neither confounding the Persons : nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son : and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one : the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son : and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate : and the Holy Ghost uncreate.
The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible : and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible.
The Father eternal, the Son eternal : and the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet they are not three eternals : but one eternal.
As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated : but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty : and the Holy Ghost Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties : but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God : and the Holy Ghost is God.
And yet they are not three Gods : but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord : and the Holy Ghost Lord.
And yet not three Lords : but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity : to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;
So are we forbidden by the Catholick Religion : to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none : neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone : not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son : neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons : one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other : none is greater, or less than another;
But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together : and co-equal.
So that in all things, as is aforesaid : the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved : must thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation : that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess : that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds : and Man, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God, and perfect Man : of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead : and inferior to the Father, as touching his Manhood.
Who although he be God and Man : yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh : but by taking of the Manhood into God;
One altogether; not by confusion of Substance : but by unity of Person.
For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man : so God and Man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation : descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty : from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies : and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting : and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholick Faith : which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.

29 May 2007

from Guy and Pauline, part III, Spring: May (Compton Mackenzie)

It was after dawn when Guy woke, for he had fallen asleep very tired after his week on the river; still it was scarcely six when he came down into the orchard, and the birds were singing as Guy thought he had never heard them sing before. The apple-trees were already frilled with a foam of blossom; and on quivering boughs linnets with breasts rose-burnt by the winds of March throbbed our their carol. Chaffinches with flashing prelude of silver wings flourished a burst of song that broke as with too intolerable a triumph: then sought another tree and poured forth the triumphant song again. Thrushes, blackbirds and warblers quired deep-throated melodies against the multitudinous trebles of those undistinguished myriads that with choric paean saluted May; and on sudden diminuendoes could be heard the rustling canzonets of the goldfinches, rising and falling with reedy cadences.

20 May 2007

Geistliches Lied (Paul Flemming, trans. anon.)

Lass dich nur nichts nicht dauren
Mit Trauren,
Sei stille,
Wie Gott es fügt,
So sei vergnügt,
Mein Wille.

Was willst du heute sorgen
Auf morgen?
Der Eine
Steht allem für,
Der gibt auch dir
Das Deine.

Sei nur in allem Handel
Ohn' Wandel,
Steh' feste,
Was Gott beschleusst,
Das ist und heisst
Das Beste.


Do not be sorrowful or regretful; be calm, as God has ordained, and thus my will shall be content.

What do you want to worry about from day to day? There is One who stands above all who gives you, too, what is yours.

Only be steadfast in all you do, stand firm; what God has decided, that is and must be the best.

19 May 2007

Song from The Princess (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

Ask me no more: the moon may draw the sea;
The cloud may stoop from heaven and take the shape,
With fold to fold, of mountain or of cape;
But O too fond, when have I answer'd thee?
Ask me no more.

Ask me no more: what answer should I give?
I love not hollow cheek or faded eye:
Yet, O my friend, I will not have thee die!
Ask me no more, lest I should bid thee live;
Ask me no more.

Ask me no more: thy fate and mine are seal'd.
I strove against the stream and all in vain:
Let the great river take me to the main:
No more, dear love, for at a touch I yield;
Ask me no more.

01 May 2007

May-Day Song for North Oxford [Annie Laurie Tune] (John Betjeman)

Belbroughton Road is bonny, and pinkly bursts the spray
Of prunus and forsythia across the public way,
For a full spring-tide of blossom seethed and departed hence,
Leaving land-locked pools of jonquils by sunny garden fence.

And a constant sound of flushing runneth from windows where
The toothbrush too is airing in this new North Oxford air
From Summerfields to Lynam's, the thirsty tarmac dries,
And a Cherwell mist dissolveth on elm-discovering skies.

Oh! well-bound Wells and Bridges! Oh! earnest ethical search
For the wide high-table logos of St. C.S. Lewis's Church.
This diamond-eyed Spring morning my soul soars up the slope
Of a right good rough-cast buttress on the housewall of my hope.

And open-necked and freckled, where once there grazed the cows,
Emancipated children swing on old apple boughs,
And pastel-shaded book rooms bring New Ideas to birth
As the whitening hawthorn only hears the heart beat of the earth.

29 April 2007

from Under Milk Wood (Dylan Thomas)

Mr and Mrs Cherry Owen, in their Donkey Street room that is bedroom, parlour, kitchen, and scullery, sit down to last night's supper of onions boiled in their overcoats and broth of spuds and baconrind and leeks and bones.

See that smudge on the wall by the picture of Auntie Blossom? That's where you threw the sago. [Cherry Owen laughs with delight.] You only missed me by an inch.

I always miss Auntie Blossom too.

Remember last night? In you reeled, my boy, as drunk as a deacon with a big wet bucket and a fish-frail full of stout and you looked at me and you said, 'God has come home!', you said, and then over the bucket you went, sprawling and bawling, and the floor was all flagons and eels.

Was I wounded?

And then you took off your trousers and you said, 'Does anybody want a fight?' Oh, you old baboon.

Give us a kiss.

And then you sang 'Aberystwyth', tenor and bass.

I always sing 'Aberystwyth'.

And then you did a little dance on the table.

I did?

Drop dead!

And then what did I do?

Then you cried like a baby and said you were a poor drunk orphan with nowhere to go but the grave.

And what did I do next, my dear?

Then you danced on the table all over again and said you were King Solomon Owen and I was your Mrs Sheba.

And then?

And then I got you into bed and you breathed all night like a brewery.

[Mr and Mrs Cherry Owen laugh delightedly together.]

13 April 2007

from Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, chapter 14, Recipe for Wonka-Vite (Roald Dahl)


Take a block of finest chocolate weighing one ton (or twenty sackfuls of broken chocolate, whichever is the easier). Place chocolate in very large cauldron and melt over red-hot furnace. When melted, lower the heat slightly so as not to burn the chocolate, but keep it boiling. Now add the following, in precisely the order given, stirring well all the time and allowing each item to dissolve before adding the next:


When all the above are thoroughly dissolved, boil for a further twenty-seven days but do not stir. At the end of this time, all liquid will have evaporated and there will be left in the bottom of the cauldron only a hard brown lump about the size of a football. Break this open with a hammer and in the very centre of it you will find a small round pill. This pill is WONKA-VITE.

01 April 2007

Home Thoughts from Abroad (Robert Browning)

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops - at the bent spray's edge -
That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children's dower
- Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

25 March 2007

from In Search of Lost Time II: Within a Budding Grove, part 2, Place-Names: The Place (Marcel Proust, trans. Scott Moncrieff and Kilmartin)

The journey was one that would now no doubt be made by motor-car, with a view to making it more agreeable. We shall see that, accomplished in such a way, it would even be in a sense more real, since one would be following more closely, in a more intimate contiguity, the various gradations by which the surface of the earth is diversified. But after all the specific attraction of a journey lies not in our being able to alight at places on the way and to stop altogether as soon as we grow tired, but in its making the difference between departure and arrival not as imperceptible but as intense as possible, so that we are conscious of it in its totality, intact, as it existed in us when our imagination bore us from the place in which we were living right to the very heart of a place we longed to see, in a single sweep which seemed miraculous to us not so much because it covered a certain distance as because it united two distinct individualities of the world, took us from one name to another name, and which is schematised (better than in a form of locomotion in which, since one can disembark where one chooses, there can scarcely be said to be any point of arrival) by the mysterious operation performed in those peculiar places, railway stations, which scarcely form part of the surrounding town but contain the essence of its personality just as upon their sign-boards they bear its painted name.

But in this respect as in every other, our age is infected with a mania for showing things only in the environment that properly belongs to them, thereby suppressing the essential thing, the act of the mind which isolated them from that environment. A picture is nowadays "presented" in the midst of furniture, ornaments, hangings of the same period, stale settings which the hostess who but yesterday was so crassly ignorant but who now spends her time in archives and libraries excels at composing in the houses of today, and in the midst of which the masterpiece we contemplate as we dine does not give us the exhilarating delight that we can expect from it only in a public gallery, which symbolises far better, by its bareness and by the absence of all irritating detail, those innermost spaces into which the artist withdrew to create it.

Le Cygne - à Victor Hugo (Charles Baudelaire)


Andromaque, je pense à vous! Ce petit fleuve,
Pauvre et triste miroir où jadis resplendit
L'immense majesté de vos douleurs de veuve,
Ce Simoïs menteur qui par vos pleurs grandit,

A fécondé soudain ma mémoire fertile,
Comme je traversais le nouveau Carrousel.
Le vieux Paris n'est plus (la forme d'une ville
Change plus vite, hélas! que le coeur d'un mortel);

Je ne vois qu'en esprit tout ce camp de baraques,
Ces tas de chapiteaux ébauchés et de fûts,
Les herbes, les gros blocs verdis par l'eau des flaques,
Et, brillant aux carreaux, le bric-à-brac confus.

Là s'étalait jadis une ménagerie;
Là je vis, un matin, à l'heure où sous les cieux
Froids et clairs le Travail s'éveille, où la voirie
Pousse un sombre ouragan dans l'air silencieux,

Un cygne qui s'était évadé de sa cage,
Et, de ses pieds palmés frottant le pavé sec,
Sur le sol raboteux traînait son blanc plumage.
Près d'un ruisseau sans eau la bête ouvrant le bec

Baignait nerveusement ses ailes dans la poudre,
Et disait, le coeur plein de son beau lac natal:
"Eau, quand donc pleuvras-tu? quand tonneras-tu, foudre?"
Je vois ce malheureux, mythe étrange et fatal,

Vers le ciel quelquefois, comme l'homme d'Ovide,
Vers le ciel ironique et cruellement bleu,
Sur son cou convulsif tendant sa tête avide
Comme s'il adressait des reproches à Dieu!


Paris change! mais rien dans ma mélancolie
N'a bougé! palais neufs, échafaudages, blocs,
Vieux faubourgs, tout pour moi devient allégorie
Et mes chers souvenirs sont plus lourds que des rocs.

Aussi devant ce Louvre une image m'opprime:
Je pense à mon grand cygne, avec ses gestes fous,
Comme les exilés, ridicule et sublime
Et rongé d'un désir sans trêve! et puis à vous,

Andromaque, des bras d'un grand époux tombée,
Vil bétail, sous la main du superbe Pyrrhus,
Auprès d'un tombeau vide en extase courbée
Veuve d'Hector, hélas! et femme d'Hélénus!

Je pense à la négresse, amaigrie et phtisique
Piétinant dans la boue, et cherchant, l'oeil hagard,
Les cocotiers absents de la superbe Afrique
Derrière la muraille immense du brouillard;

A quiconque a perdu ce qui ne se retrouve
Jamais, jamais! à ceux qui s'abreuvent de pleurs
Et tètent la Douleur comme une bonne louve!
Aux maigres orphelins séchant comme des fleurs!

Ainsi dans la forêt où mon esprit s'exile
Un vieux Souvenir sonne à plein souffle du cor!
Je pense aux matelots oubliés dans une île,
Aux captifs, aux vaincus!... à bien d'autres encor!

16 March 2007

from A Room with a View, chapter 2, In Santa Croce with no Baedeker (E.M. Forster)

Of course, it must be a wonderful building. But how like a barn! And how very cold! Of course, it contained frescoes by Giotto, in the presence of whose tactile values she was capable of feeling what was proper. But who was to tell her which they were? She walked about disdainfully, unwilling to be enthusiastic over monuments of uncertain authorship or date. There was no one even to tell her which, of all the sepulchral slabs that paved the nave and transepts, was the one that was really beautiful, the one that had been most praised by Mr Ruskin.

Then the pernicious charm of Italy worked on her, and, instead of acquiring information, she began to be happy. She puzzled out the Italian notices - the notice that forbade people to introduce dogs into the church - the notice that prayed people, in the interests of health and out of respect to the sacred edifice in which they found themselves, not to spit. She watched the tourists: their noses were as red as their Baedekers, so cold was Santa Croce. She beheld the horrible fate that overtook three Papists - two he-babies and a she-baby - who began their career by sousing each other with the Holy Water, and then proceeded to the Machiavelli memorial, dripping, but hallowed. Advancing towards it very slowly and from immense distances, they touched the stone with their fingers, with their handkerchiefs, with their heads, and then retreated. What could this mean? They did it again and again. Then Lucy realized that they had mistaken Machiavelli for some saint, and by continual contact with his shrine were hoping to acquire virtue. Punishment followed quickly. The smallest he-baby stumbled over one of the sepulchral slabs so much admired by Mr Ruskin, and entangled his feet in the features of a recumbent bishop. Protestant as she was, Lucy darted forward. She was too late. He fell heavily upon the prelate's upturned toes.

05 March 2007

from the Confessions (St. Augustine, trans. William Watts)

from book IX, chapter 6

quantum flevi in hymnis et canticis tuis, suave sonantis ecclesiae tuae vocibus conmotus acriter! voces illae influebant auribus meis, et eliquabatur veritas in cor meum, et exaestuabat inde affectus pietatis, et currebant lacrimae, et bene mihi erat cum eis.

How abundantly did I weep to hear those hymns and canticles of thine, being touched to the very quick by the voices of thy sweet church song! Those voices flowed into mine ears, and thy truth pleasingly distilled into my heart, which caused the affections of my devotion to overflow, and my tears to run over, and happy did I find myself therein.

from book X, chapter 20

res ipsa nec graeca nec latina est.

The thing itself is neither Greek nor Latin.

01 March 2007

'Fuzzy-Wuzzy' [Soudan Expeditionary Force] (Rudyard Kipling)

We've fought with many men acrost the seas,
An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not:
The Paythan an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
But the Fuzzy was the finest o’ the lot.
We never got a ha’porth’s change of ’im:
’E squatted in the scrub an’ ’ocked our ’orses,
’E cut our sentries up at Suakim,
An’ ’e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
We’ll come an’ ’ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

We took our chanst among the Khyber ’ills,
The Boers knocked us silly at a mile,
The Burman give us Irriwaddy chills,
An’ a Zulu impi dished us up in style:
But all we ever got from such as they
Was pop to what the Fuzzy made us swaller;
We ’eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ’oller.
Then ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
We sloshed you with Martinis, an’ it wasn’t ’ardly fair;
But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the square.

’E ’asn’t got no papers of ’is own,
’E ’asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
So we must certify the skill ’e’s shown
In usin’ of ’is long two-’anded swords:
When ’e’s ’oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
With ’is coffin-’eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
An ’appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
Will last an ’ealthy Tommy for a year.
So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
If we ’adn’t lost some messmates we would ’elp you to deplore;
But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
For if you ’ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

’E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
An’, before we know, ’e’s ’ackin’ at our ’ead;
’E’s all ’ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
An’ ’e’s generally shammin’ when ’e’s dead.
’E’s a daisy, ’e’s a ducky, ’e’s a lamb!
’E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spree,
’E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
So ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ’ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ’eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ’ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ’ayrick ’ead of ’air—
You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

26 February 2007

from Still Life, chapter 18, Hic Ille Raphael (A.S. Byatt)

He was thin and slightly stooping, with pale blue eyes and crests and troughs of wavy red-gold hair, which looked at first glance as though some 1930s perm had gone badly wrong, and could then immediately be seen to be inexorably what it was, growing as it did, with only one possible shape.


Part of the joy of falling in love – for the intelligent, the watchers, the judicious – is the delicious licence to set something above thinking clearly, the pleasure of being driven, taken over, overwhelmed. Frederica, despite her clumsy rushes of tactless fervour, was doomed to be intelligent, a watcher, judicious, and as she recognised this doom she desired proportionately to be let off, to feel incontrovertibly.


She wandered back through clear grey Cambridge. He had made her head ache. He had lent her books – that was a beginning, lending of books was a universal sign of the beginning of something. To borrow implied to return.

18 February 2007

Love (George Herbert)

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here:'
Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on Thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord; but I have marr'd them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, 'Who bore the blame?'
'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, 'and taste my meat.'
So I did sit and eat.

11 February 2007

A Subaltern's Love Song (John Betjeman)

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! full Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

07 February 2007

in time of daffodils(who know (e.e. cummings)

in time of daffodils(who know
the goal of living is to grow)
forgetting why,remember how

in time of lilacs who proclaim
the aim of waking is to dream,
remember so(forgetting seem)

in time of roses(who amaze
our now and here with paradise)
forgetting if,remember yes

in time of all sweet things beyond
whatever mind may comprehend,
remember seek(forgetting find)

and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me

27 January 2007

from War and Peace, volume II, part II, chapter 12 (Leo Tolstoy, trans. Anthony Briggs)

Prince Andrey listened to Pierre in silence, looking ahead. Once or twice he missed something because of the rumbling wheels and asked Pierre to repeat what he had said. Noting a peculiar glint in Prince Andrey's eyes and also his reluctance to speak, Pierre could see that his words were not falling on stony ground and Prince Andrey was not going to interrupt or laugh at anything he said.

They came to a river that had burst its banks, making it necessary for them to cross by ferry. While the men saw to the carriage and horses they walked on to the ferry-boat. Prince Andrey leant his elbows on the rail and gazed silently over the flood-water, which gleamed in the setting sun.

[...] Prince Andrey didn't answer. The coach and horses had long been taken over to the other bank and harnessed up again, the sun had half-set and the evening frost was sprinkling the pools near the ferry with stars, but - to the astonishment of the servants, coachmen and ferryhands - Pierre and Andrey were still on the boat, talking.

[...] (He pointed up to the sky.) Prince Andrey was still standing with his elbows on the rail of the ferry, and as he listened to Pierre he never took his eyes off the sun's red reflection on the shining blue water. Pierre stopped talking. There was absolute stillness. The ferry had long since come to the bank, and the only sound came from the river, with waves plashing softly against the bottom of the boat. Prince Andrey half-imagined that the lapping of the water sounded like a chorus echoing what Pierre had been saying: 'This is the truth. Believe it.'

[...] 'Yes, if only it was true!' he said. 'Anyway, let's get back to the carriage,' added Prince Andrey, and as he walked off the ferry he looked up at the sky where Pierre had pointed, and for the first time since Austerlitz he saw it again, the lofty, eternal sky, just as he had seen it when he lay on the battlefield, and suddenly something inside him that had long lain dormant, something better than before, awoke in his soul with a feeling of youth and joy. It was a feeling that would vanish as soon as Prince Andrey got back to the normal run of everyday life, but he was sure, without knowing what to do with it, that this feeling was still there inside him. Pierre's visit marked a new age for Prince Andrey, a time when his life, although outwardly unchanged, began again in his own inner world.

14 January 2007

Juliet of Nations, from Casa Guidi Windows (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

I heard last night a little child so singing
’Neath Casa Guidi windows, by the church,
O bella libertà, O bella!—stringing
The same words still on notes he went in search
So high for, you concluded the upspringing
Of such a nimble bird to sky from perch
Must leave the whole bush in a tremble green,
And that the heart of Italy must beat,
While such a voice had leave to rise serene
’Twixt church and palace of a Florence street:
A little child, too, who not long had been
By mother’s finger steadied on his feet,
And still O bella libertà he sang.

Then I thought, musing, of the innumerous
Sweet songs which still for Italy outrang
From older singers’ lips who sang not thus
Exultingly and purely, yet, with pang
Fast sheath’d in music, touch’d the heart of us
So finely that the pity scarcely pain’d.
I thought how Filicaja led on others,
Bewailers for their Italy enchain’d,
And how they call’d her childless among mothers,
Widow of empires, ay, and scarce refrain’d
Cursing her beauty to her face, as brothers
Might a sham’d sister’s,—“Had she been less fair
She were less wretched;”—how, evoking so
From congregated wrong and heap’d despair
Of men and women writhing under blow,
Harrow’d and hideous in a filthy lair,
Some personating Image wherein woe
Was wrapp’d in beauty from offending much,
They call’d it Cybele, or Niobe,
Or laid it corpse-like on a bier for such,
Where all the world might drop for Italy
Those cadenced tears which burn not where they touch,—
“Juliet of nations, canst thou die as we?
And was the violet that crown’d thy head
So over-large, though new buds made it rough,
It slipp’d down and across thine eyelids dead,
O sweet, fair Juliet?” Of such songs enough,
Too many of such complaints! behold, instead,
Void at Verona, Juliet’s marble trough:
As void as that is, are all images
Men set between themselves and actual wrong,
To catch the weight of pity, meet the stress
Of conscience,—since ’t is easier to gaze long
On mournful masks and sad effigies
Than on real, live, weak creatures crush’d by strong.