13 December 2008

from Jane and Prudence, chapter 16 (Barbara Pym)

'Have the Clevelands a young child?' the Canon asked his wife as they drove away.

'I believe their daughter is about eighteen. She is at Oxford, I think.'

'A strange thing that,' said the Canon, changing gear. 'One would have thought there was a child about the place. The soap in the wash-basin was modelled in the form of a rabbit, and there were other animals too, a bear and an elephant.'

'And you washed your hands with a soap rabbit?' asked his wife seriously.

'Certainly. There was no other soap. I wonder if Mrs Cleveland put them there; she seems rather an unusual woman.'

'Yes, there is something strange about her.'

'I think Cleveland is quite sound,' went on the Canon. 'None of this Modern Churchman's Union or any of that dangerous stuff ...' He hesitated, perhaps meditating on the soap animals and what they could signify.

Jane and Mrs Glaze were also talking about them. Jane had thanked her for bringing in the coffee and biscuits at such an opportune time and for providing the clean towel.

'Oh, madam,' said Mrs Glaze, 'but I couldn't find a new tablet of soap.'

'Wasn't there any in the cloakroom?'

'Only the animals, madam.'

'Well, I believe it's quite good soap. I expect the Canon would enjoy using them. Men are such children in many ways.' Though perhaps not all in the same way, Jane thought. He may have regarded them as some dangerous form of idolatry.

'I was hoping he might think they belonged to Miss Flora,' said Mrs Glaze.

'Yes, he might have thought that. After all she is still a child, really.' And yet even she was old enough to enjoy doing Milton with Lord Edgar Ravenswood and to fall in love with a young man called Paul who was reading Geography. Could children do these things?

Nicholas appeared just before lunch and Jane told him of her eventful morning. They had a good laugh about the soap animals.

'I wonder if he will tell the Bishop,' said Nicholas.

'It would be rather ominous if he kept it to himself,' said Jane; 'it would seem as if he considered it rather important, not a matter for joking.'

28 October 2008

from Going Solo, 'The Voyage Out' (Roald Dahl)

Dressing? Oh yes, indeed. We all dressed for dinner every single evening on board that ship. The male species of the Empire-builder, whether he is camping in the jungle or is at sea in a rowing-boat, always dresses for dinner, and by that I mean white shirt, black tie, dinner-jacket, black trousers and black patent-leather shoes, the full regalia, and to hell with the climate.

from Boy, 'Goodbye school' (Roald Dahl)

I was still living in Bexley, Kent, with my mother and three sisters, and every morning, six days a week, Saturdays included, I would dress neatly in a sombre grey suit, have breakfast at seven forty-five and then, with a brown trilby on my head and a furled umbrella in my hand, I would board the eight-fifteen train to London together with a swarm of other equally sombre-suited businessmen. I found it easy to fall into their pattern. We were all very serious and dignified gents taking the train to our offices in the City of London where each of us, so we thought, was engaged in high finance and other enormously important matters. Most of my companions wore hard bowler hats, and a few like me wore soft trilbys, but not one of us on that train in the year of 1934 went bareheaded. It wasn’t done. And none of us, even on the sunniest days, went without his furled umbrella. The umbrella was our badge of office. We felt naked without it. Also it was a sign of respectability. Road-menders and plumbers never went to work with umbrellas. Businessmen did.

26 October 2008

from Cranford, chapter V, Old Letters (Elizabeth Gaskell)

I have often noticed that almost every one has his own individual small economies - careful habits of saving fractions of pennies in some one peculiar direction - any disturbance of which annoys him more than spending shillings or pounds on some real extravagance. [...] I am not above owning that I have this human weakness myself. String is my foible. My pockets get full of little hanks of it, picked up and twisted together, ready for uses that never come. I am seriously annoyed if any one cuts the string of a parcel instead of patiently and faithfully undoing it fold by fold. How people can bring themselves to use india-rubber rings, which are a sort of deification of string, as lightly as they do, I cannot imagine. To me an india-rubber ring is a precious treasure. I have one which is not new - one that I picked up off the floor nearly six years ago. I have really tried to use it, but my heart failed me, and I could not commit the extravagance.

29 September 2008

from The Function of Criticism at the Present Time (Matthew Arnold)

It is because criticism has so little kept in the pure intellectual sphere, has so little detached itself from practice, has been so directly polemical and controversial, that it has so ill accomplished, in this country, its best spiritual work; which is to keep man from a self-satisfaction which is retarding and vulgarising, to lead him towards perfection, by making his mind dwell upon what is excellent in itself, and the absolute beauty and fitness of things. A polemical practical criticism makes men blind even to the ideal imperfection of their practice, makes them willingly assert its ideal perfection, in order the better to secure it against attack; and clearly this is narrowing and baneful for them. If they were reassured on the practical side, speculative considerations of ideal perfection they might be brought to entertain, and their spiritual horizon would thus gradually widen. Sir Charles Adderley says to the Warwickshire farmers:-

'Talk of the improvement of breed! Why, the race we ourselves represent, the men and women, the old Anglo-Saxon race, are the best breed in the whole world. ... The absence of a too enervating climate, too unclouded skies, and a too luxurious nature, has produced so vigorous a race of people, and has rendered us so superior to all the world.'

Mr. Roebuck says to the Sheffield cutlers:-

'I look around me and ask what is the state of England? Is not property safe? Is not every man able to say what he likes? Can you not walk from one end of England to the other in perfect security? I ask you whether, the world over or in past history, there is anything like it? Nothing. I pray that our unrivalled happiness may last.'

Now obviously there is a peril for poor human nature in words and thoughts of such exuberant self-satisfaction, until we find ourselves safe in the streets of the Celestial City.

'Das wenige verschwindet leicht dem Blicke
Der vorwärts sieht, wie viel noch übrig bleibt-'

says Goethe; 'the little that is done seems nothing when we look forward and see how much we have yet to do.' Clearly this is a better line of reflection for weak humanity, so long as it remains on this earthly field of labour and trial.

But neither Sir Charles Adderley nor Mr. Roebuck is by nature inaccessible to considerations of this sort. They only lose sight of them owing to the controversial life we all lead, and the practical form which all speculation takes with us. They have in view opponents whose aim is not ideal, but practical; and in their zeal to uphold their own practice against these innovators, they go so far as even to attribute to this practice an ideal perfection. Somebody has been wanting to introduce a six-pound franchise, or to abolish church-rates, or to collect agricultural statistics by force, or to diminish local self-government. How natural, in reply to such proposals, very likely improper or ill-timed, to go a little beyond the mark, and to say stoutly, 'Such a race of people as we stand, so superior to all the world! The old Anglo-Saxon race, the best breed in the whole world! I pray that our unrivalled happiness may last! I ask you whether, the world over or in past history, there is anything like it? And so long as criticism answers this dithyramb by insisting that the old Anglo-Saxon race would be still more superior to all others if it had no church-rates, or that our unrivalled happiness would last yet longer with a six-pound franchise, so long will the strain, 'The best breed in the whole world!' swell louder and louder, everything ideal and refining will be lost out of sight, and both the assailed and their critics will remain in a sphere, to say the truth, perfectly unvital, a sphere in which spiritual progression is impossible. But let criticism leave church-rates and the franchise alone, and in the most candid spirit, without a single lurking thought of practical innovation, confront with our dithyramb this paragraph on which I stumbled in a newspaper immediately after reading Mr. Roebuck:-

'A shocking child murder has just been committed at Nottingham. A girl named Wragg left the workhouse there on Saturday morning with her young illegitimate child. The child was soon afterwards found dead on Mapperly Hills, having been strangled. Wragg is in custody.'

Nothing but that; but, in juxtaposition with the absolute eulogies of Sir Charles Adderley and Mr. Roebuck, how eloquent, how suggestive are those few lines! 'Our old Anglo-Saxon breed, the best in the whole world!' - how much that is harsh and ill-favoured there is in this best! Wragg! If we are to talk of ideal perfection, of 'the best in the whole world,' has any one reflected what a touch of grossness in our race, what an original shortcoming in the more delicate spiritual perceptions, is shown by the natural growth amongst us of such hideous names, - Higginbottom, Stiggins, Bugg! In Ionia and Attica they were luckier in this respect than 'the best race in the world;' by the Ilissus there was no Wragg, poor thing! And 'our unrivalled happiness,' - what an element of grimness, bareness, and hideousness mixes with it and blurs it; the workhouse, the dismal Mapperly Hills, - how dismal those who have seen them will remember; - the gloom, the smoke, the cold, the strangled illegitimate child! 'I ask you whether, the world over or in past history, there is anything like it?' Perhaps not, one is inclined to answer; but at any rate, in that case, the world is very much to be pitied. And the final touch, - short, bleak, and inhuman: Wragg is in custody. The sex lost in the confusion of our unrivalled happiness; or (shall I say?) the superfluous Christian name lopped off by the straight-forward vigour of our old Anglo-Saxon breed! There is profit for the spirit in such contrasts as this; criticism serves the cause of perfection by establishing them. By eluding sterile conflict, by refusing to remain in the sphere where alone narrow and relative conceptions have any worth and validity, criticism may diminish its momentary importance, but only in this way has it a chance of gaining admittance for those wider and more perfect conceptions to which all its duty is really owed. Mr. Roebuck will have a poor opinion of an adversary who replies to his defiant songs of triumph only by murmuring under his breath, Wragg is in custody; but in no other way will these songs of triumph be induced gradually to moderate themselves, to get rid of what in them is excessive and offensive, and to fall into a softer and truer key.

It will be said that it is a very subtle and indirect action which I am thus prescribing for criticism, and that, by embracing in this manner the Indian virtue of detachment and abandoning the sphere of practical life, it condemns itself to a slow and obscure work. Slow and obscure it may be, but it is the only proper work of criticism. The mass of mankind will never have any ardent zeal for seeing things as they are; very inadequate ideas will always satisfy them. On these inadequate ideas reposes, and must repose, the general practice of the world. That is as much as saying that whoever sets himself to see things as they are will find himself one of a very small circle; but it is only by this small circle resolutely doing its own work that adequate ideas will ever get current at all. The rush and roar of practical life will always have a dizzying and attracting effect upon the most collected spectator, and tend to draw him into its vortex; most of all will this be the case where that life is so powerful as it is in England. But it is only by remaining collected, and refusing to lend himself to the point of view of the practical man, that the critic can do the practical man any service; and it is only by the greatest sincerity in pursuing his own course, and by at last convincing even the practical man of his sincerity, that he can escape the misunderstandings which perpetually threaten him.

For the practical man is not apt for fine distinctions, and yet in these distinctions truth and the highest culture greatly find their account. But it is not easy to lead a practical man, - unless you reassure him as to your practical intentions, you have no chance of leading him, - to see that a thing which he has always been used to look at from one side only, which he greatly values, and which, looked at from that side, quite deserves, perhaps, all the prizing and admiring which he bestows upon it, - that this thing, looked at from another side, may appear much less beneficent and beautiful, and yet retain all its claims to our practical allegiance. Where shall we find language innocent enough, how shall we make the spotless purity of our intentions evident enough, to enable us to say to the political Englishman that the British Constitution itself, which, seen from the practical side, looks such a magnificent organ of progress and virtue, seen from the speculative side, - with its compromises, its love of facts, its horror of theory, its studied avoidance of clear thoughts, - that, seen from this side, our august Constitution sometimes looks, - forgive me, shade of Lord Somers! - a colossal machine for the manufacture of Philistines?

25 September 2008

from Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, chapter six, 3.13pm-3.44pm (Winifred Watson)

Miss Dubarry stood up abruptly. She circled Miss Pettigrew, eyes intent, expression concentrated. Miss Pettigrew sat petrified. Miss Dubarry frowned. She held her chin between thumb and forefinger. She shook her head. Suddenly she barked,

'You shouldn't wear those muddy browns. They're not your colour.'

'Oh!' Miss Pettigrew jumped.

'Certainly not. Where's your taste? Where's your artistic discrimination?'

'I haven't any,' said Miss Pettigrew meekly.

'And your make-up's wrong.'

'Make-up!' gasped Miss Pettigrew.


'Me?' said Miss Pettigrew faintly.


'I haven't any.'

'No make-up,' said Miss Dubarry shocked. 'Why? It's indecent, walking around naked.'

Miss Pettigrew stared at her blankly. Her mind was whirling: her thoughts chaotic. A mental upheaval rendered her dizzy. Yes, why? All these years and she had never had the wicked thrill of powdering her nose. Others had experienced that joy. Never she. And all because she lacked courage. All because she had never thought for herself. Powder, thundered her father the curate, the road to damnation. Lipstick, whispered her mother, the first step on the downward path. Rouge, fulminated her father, the harlot's enticement. Eyebrow pencil, breathed her mother, no lady ...!

Miss Pettigrew's thoughts ran wildly, chaotically, riotously. A sin to make the best of the worst? She sat up. Her eyes began to shine. All her feminine faculties intent on the important, earnest, serious, mighty task of improving on God's handiwork. Then she remembered. She sat back. Her face clouded.

'Oh!' said Miss Pettigrew in a flat voice. 'My dear ... at my age. With my complexion.'

'It's a beautiful complexion.'

'Beautiful?' said Miss Pettigrew incredulously.

'Not a mark, not a spot, not a blemish. Colour! Who wants natural colour? It's always wrong. A perfect background. No base to prepare. No handicaps to overcome. Blonde, brunette, pink and white, tanned, creamy pallor. Anything you like.'

Miss Dubarry leaned forward intent. She tipped Miss Pettigrew's face this way: she tipped it that way. She patted the skin. She felt the texture of her hair.

'Hmn! A good cleansing cream. A strong astringent to tone up the muscles. Eyebrows definitely darkened. Can't make up my mind about the hair yet. Nut-brown, I think. Complexion needs colour. Definitely colour. Brings out the blue of the eyes. Whole face needs a course of treatment. Shockingly neglected.'

She stopped abruptly and looked apologetic.

'Oh dear! You must excuse me. Here I am, forgetting myself again. I'm in the trade, you see, and I can't help taking a professional interest.'

'Don't mind me,' breathed Miss Pettigrew. 'Please don't mind me. I love it. No one's ever taken an interest in my face before.'

'Obviously not,' said Miss Dubarry sternly. 'Not even yourself.'

'I've never had any time,' apologized Miss Pettigrew.

'Nonsense. You've had time to wash, haven't you? You've time to get a bath. You've time to cut your nails. A woman's first duty is to her face. I'm surprised at you.'

'Ah well!' sighed Miss Pettigrew hopelessly. 'I'm long past the age now ...'

'No woman,' said Miss Dubarry grimly, 'is ever past the age. The more years that pass the more reason for care. You should be old enough to know better.'

'I've never had any money.'

'Ah!' said Miss Dubarry with understanding. 'That's different. You wouldn't believe the amount it costs even me to keep my face fixed, and I'm in the trade and that means nearly ninety-nine per cent off.'

She found her handbag and opened it.

'Here's my card. You bring that any time you like and you shall have the best of everything. Any friend of Delysia's is a friend of mine. If I'm at liberty I'll do you myself. If not, I'll get you the best left.'

'How wonderful,' gasped Miss Pettigrew. She took the card with trembling fingers.

'Edythe Dubarry,' she read, thrilled.

'It's well seen you're no Londoner,' said Miss Dubarry. 'That name stands for something. It's the best beauty parlour in London, though it is my own.'

Miss Pettigrew's face began to shine.

'Tell me,' she begged, 'is it true? Is it really true? I mean, can these places improve your looks?'

Miss Dubarry sat down. She hesitated. She hitched her chair closer.

'Look at me.'

Miss Pettigrew looked. Miss Dubarry gave a friendly chuckle.

'I like you. There's something about you ... well! What do you think of me?'

'Oh dear!' said Miss Pettigrew, much embarrassed. 'What have I to say to that?'

'Just what you like. I don't mind. But the truth.'

'Well,' said Miss Pettigrew, taking the plunge, 'I think you have very ... very startling looks.'

Miss Dubarry looked immensely pleased.

'There you are then.'

Miss Pettigrew warmed to her task. If Miss Dubarry could be frank, so could she.

'You're not exactly beautiful, like Miss LaFosse, but you catch the eye. When you come into a room, every one will notice you.'

'There,' said Miss Dubarry proudly. 'What did I tell you?'

'What?' asked Miss Pettigrew.

'What I've been telling you.'

'What's that?'

'You and I,' said Miss Dubarry, 'are exactly alike.'

'Oh ... how can you say it!' said Miss Pettigrew unbelievingly.

'You don't look like the kind of woman to give away secrets,' said Miss Dubarry recklessly.

'I'm not,' said Miss Pettigrew.

'And when I see such a perfect lay figure as you, I can't help spreading the glad tidings.'

'No?' said Miss Pettigrew, bewildered.

Miss Dubarry leaned closer.

'My hair,' stated Miss Dubarry, 'is mouse coloured ... like yours.'

'No!' gasped Miss Pettigrew. 'Not really.'

'A fact. I thought black suited me better.'


'My eyebrows,' continued Miss Dubarry, 'and eyelashes are sandy-coloured. I have plucked my eyebrows and pencilled in new ones. My eyelashes, as well as being such a damnable shade, are short. I have had new ones fixed. Black, long and curly.'

'Marvellous,' whispered Miss Pettigrew, at last realizing the reason for Miss Dubarry's surprising eyes.

'I have the insipid, indeterminate complexion that goes with that stupid colouring. I thought a creamy pallor a great deal more interesting.'

'Absolutely,' breathed Miss Pettigrew.

'My nose was a difficulty. You score over me there. But McCormick is a marvellous surgeon. He gave me a new one.'

'No,' gasped Miss Pettigrew.

'My teeth were the greatest trouble,' confessed Miss Dubarry. 'They weren't spaced evenly. Fifty pounds that cost me. But it was worth it.'

Miss Pettigrew leaned back.

'It's unbelievable,' she said faintly, 'quite unbelievable.'

'I forgot the ears,' said Miss Dubarry. 'They stood out too much, but, as I say, McCormicks's a marvellous surgeon. He soon put that right.'

'It can't be possible.' Miss Pettigrew was almost beyond words. 'I mean, you're not you.'

'Just a little care,' said Miss Dubarry. 'It does wonders.'

'Miracles,' articulated Miss Pettigrew, 'miracles; I'll never believe a woman again when I see her.'

'Why!' said Miss Dubarry. 'Would you have us all go naked and unashamed? Must we take off the powder with the petticoat, and discard the eyeblack with the brassiere? Must we renounce beauty and revert to the crudities of nature?'

'All but Miss LaFosse,' continued Miss Pettigrew faintly but loyally. 'I saw her straight ... out ... of ... the ... bath.'

'Oh, Delysia!' said Miss Dubarry. 'She's different. She was blessed at birth.'

11 September 2008

from Tristan und Isolde, act 2 scene 2 (Richard Wagner)

Doch unsre Liebe,
heißt sie nicht Tristan
und – Isolde?
Dies süße Wörtlein: und,
was es bindet,
der Liebe Bund,
wenn Tristan stürb’,
zerstört’ es nicht der Tod?

Was stürbe dem Tod,
als was uns stört,
was Tristan wehrt,
Isolde immer zu lieben,
ewig ihr nur zu leben?

Doch dieses Wörtlein: und –
wär’ es zerstört,
wie anders als
mit Isoldes eignem Leben
wär’ Tristan der Tod gegeben?

So starben wir,
um ungetrennt,
ewig einig,
ohne End’,
ohn’ Erwachen,
ohn’ Erbangen,
namenlos in Lieb’ umfangen,
ganz uns selbst gegeben,
der Liebe nur zu leben!

02 September 2008

from unspecified music reviews (George Bernard Shaw)

At Bayreuth, the highly esteemed ladies are requested by public notice to remove their hats, and those who have innocent little bonnets, which would not obstruct a child's view, carefully remove them. The ladies with the Eiffel hats, regarding them as objects of public interest not second to any work of Wagner's, steadfastly disregard the notice; and Germany, with all its martinets, dare not enforce the discipline.

It must take something like a lion-tamer's nerve to be a man of genius. And when the man of genius is timid, he must suffer more than the ordinary coward. I have seen Richard Wagner, who was so vehemently specialised by nature as a man of genius that he was totally incapable of anything ordinary. He fought with wild beasts all his life; and when you saw him coming through a crowded cage, even when they all felt about him as the lions felt about Daniel, he had an air of having his life in his hand, and of wandering in search of his right place and his own people, if any such there might be. He would wander away to the walls and corners, apparently in search of some door or stairway or other exit from this world, not finding which he would return disconcerted and - being a most humane man - sit down and pet one of the animals with a little conversation.

from The Sorrows of Young Werther (J.W. von Goether, trans. Michael Hulse)

Book One, 8 August

For goodness' sake, dear Wilhelm, I did not mean you when I complained that people who urge us to be resigned to inevitable fate are unbearable. It truly did not enter my head that you might be of such an opinion. Basically you are right, of course. But, dear friend, with this one proviso: things in this world seldom come down to an either-or decision, and possible courses of action, and feelings, are as infinitely various as kinds of noses on the gamut from hooked to snub.

The Editor to the Reader

The lack of communication which had recently prevailed between them lay heavily upon her now, though she was not fully aware of it at that moment. People as understanding and good as they turned to mutual silence on account of some inner differences, each though himself in the right and the other in the wrong and brooded on it, and things became so complicated and volatile that it proved impossible to untie the knot at that critical moment on which everything depended. If they had been brought closer again at some earlier stage, in a spirit of happy intimacy, a mutual love and consideration would have arisen between them, and would have opened their hearts; and perhaps our friend might yet have been saved.

13 July 2008

The Destruction of Sennacherib (George Gordon, Lord Byron)

The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!

And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail:
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!

11 July 2008

The Empty Pew (John Betjeman)

In the perspective of Eternity
The pain is nothing, now you go away
Above the steaming thatch how silver-grey
Our chiming church-tower, calling 'Come to me,

My Sunday-sleeping villagers!' And she,
Still half my life, now kneels with those who say
'Take courage, daughter. Never cease to pray
God's grace will break him of his heresy.'

I, present with our Church of England few
At the dear words of Consecration see
The chalice lifted, hear the sanctus chime
And glance across to that deserted pew.
In the Perspective of Eternity
The pain is nothing - but, ah God, in Time.

10 July 2008

from War and Peace, volume I, part III, chapter 8 (Leo Tolstoy, trans. Anthony Briggs)

The deathly stillness was broken only by the clip-clop of hooves. It was the Emperors and their suite. As the two monarchs rode up to one flank, the trumpets of the first cavalry regiment struck up a military march. The sound appeared not to come from the buglers but as a spontaneous burst of music from the army itself, delighted at the Emperors' arrival. Through the music only one voice could be heard clearly, the genial, youthful tones of Emperor Alexander. He gave a few words of greeing, and the first regiment roared out, 'Hurrah!' The sound was so deafening, so prolonged and ecstatic that the men themselves felt a great shock, realizing the strength and enormity of their mass.

Rostov was standing in the front ranks of Kutuzov's army, those which the Tsar approached first, and he was seized by the same feeling as every other soldier in the army, a feeling of utter self-forgetfulness, a proud sense of mighty power and a passionate devotion to the man who was the cause of this sensation of solemn triumph.

Feeling as he did that at a single word from this man the entire vast mass of them (including him, no more than a grain of sand) would go through fire and water, commit any crime, face death or fight on to glory, he could not suppress a shivering thrill at the immanency of that word.

'Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!' thundered on all sides, and one regiment after another greeted the Tsar with the strains of the march followed by another 'Hurrah!' ... then the music again, then more and more hurrahs surging louder and expanding until they merged into one solid, deafening roar.

Waiting for the Tsar, each regiment in its rigid silence seemed like a lifeless body. But once the Tsar reached them each regiment erupted in new life and further clamour, joining in unison with the general roar from all down the line where the Tsar had been. And to the dreadful sound of these shattering cheers, moving in and out among the great rectangles of massed troops standing rigidly to attention as if turned to stone, some hundreds of men rode about casually, freely, defying all symmetry. These were the officers in the royal suite, and ahead of them road two men, the Emperors, on whom the uncontainable passion of all that mass of men was focused.

It was Emperor Alexander, young and handsome in the uniform of the horse guards with a cocked hat, who attracted most of the attention because of his pleasant face and his soft rich voice.

Rostov was standing near the buglers, and with his keen eyes he spotted the Tsar a long way off and watched him approaching. When the Tsar was only twenty paces away and Nikolay could clearly see every detail of Alexander's handsome, young and happy face, he experienced a surge of emotion and ecstasy such as he had never known before. Everything about the Tsar - every feature, every movement - seemed to him utterly captivating.

Coming to a halt before the Pavlograd regiment, the Tsar said something in French to the Austrian Emperor and smiled. Seeing him smile, Rostov automatically began to smile himself and felt an even stronger spasm of love for his Emperor. He longed for some means of expressing his love for the Tsar. His eyes watered from knowing it was impossible. The Tsar called up the colonel of the regiment and said a few words to him.

'My God! What would I do if the Emperor spoke to me?' thought Rostov. 'I think I'd die of happiness.'

The Tsar addressed the officers, too.

'I thank you all, gentlemen,' he said, every word sounding to Rostov like music from heaven. 'I thank you from the bottom of my heart.'

Rostov would gladly have died then and there for his Emperor.

'You have won the colours of St. George and you will be worthy of them.'

'Oh, if only I could die for him, die for him!' thought Rostov.

The Tsar said something else that Rostov couldn't hear, and the men, lungs bursting, roared their hurrah.

Rostov, too, thrusting forward in his saddle, roared with all his might, willing to do himself an injury cheering, as long as he could give full voice to his zeal for the Tsar.

The Tsar stood for a few seconds facing the hussars as if wondering what to do next.

'How could the Emperor wonder what to do next?' Rostov asked himself, but then sure enough, even this hesitation seemed to him majestic and enchanting, like everything the Tsar did.

The Tsar's hesitation lasted only an instant. Then the royal foot in its fashionable narrow-pointed boot touched the belly of his bobtailed chestnut mare. The royal hand in its white glove gathered up the reins, and he moved off, accompanied by a sea of aides bobbing up and down. He moved further and further away, stopping at other regiments, until eventually all that Rostov could see of him through the suite surrounding the Emperors was the white plume of his cocked hat.

Among the gentlemen of the suite, Rostov noticed Bolkonsky, sitting in a slack, indolent pose. Rostov remembered yesterday's quarrel and again wondered whether or not to challenge him. 'Of course not,' Rostov reflected. 'How could anyone even think or talk about such things at a time like this? A time of such love, such bliss, such self-sacrifice, what do our insults and squabbles matter? This is a time when I love everybody and forgive everybody,' thought Rostov.

When the Tsar had inspected almost all the regiments, the troops began their march past, and Rostov, bringing up the rear on Bedouin, so recently bought from Denisov, was the last rider in his squadron, and completely exposed to the Tsar's view.

Still some distance away from him, Rostov, a first-class horseman, twice put his spurs to Bedouin, urging him into the frenzied, eye-catching trot which Bedouin always fell into when he was worked up. Bending his foaming nose down to his chest, arching his tail, virtually floating in mid-air without touching the ground, Bedouin seemed no less conscious of the Tsar's eye upon him as he lifted his legs in a graceful high action, trotting past in superb style.

Rostov himself drew his legs back and sucked his stomach in, very much at one with his horse, and rode past the Tsar with a frowning but ecstatic face, looking a 'wight devil', as Denisov would have said.

'Bravo, Pavlograds!' shouted the Tsar.

'My God! I'd be so happy if he ordered me to go through fire here and now,' thought Rostov.

When the review was over the officers of both groups, the reinforcements and Kutuzov's men, began to break down into little clusters. The talk was of honours won, the Austrians and their uniforms, their front line, Napoleon and the trouble in store for him one Essen's corps arrived and Prussia came in on our side. But the main topic of conversation in every circle was Emperor Alexander, his every word and gesture recalled with huge delight.

They were united in a single desire: under the Emperor's leadership to march on the enemy at the earliest opportunity. With the Emperor himself in command they could not fail to conquer any foe - this was the opinion of Rostov and most of the officers after the review. After the review they all felt more confident of victory than they would have done if they'd had a couple of victories behind them.

03 July 2008

from Peter Duck (Arthur Ransome)

book II, chapter 20, Blazed Trail

'Who blazed that tree?' said Titty.

'What tree? Where?' cried Captain Flint and a moment later was scrambling and slipping down over a slope of rock to a ragged pine-like tree, one of the forest's outposts on the mountainside, to look at a large scar where the rough bark had been sliced away.

'It wasn't a woodman did that,' said Captain Flint eagerly. 'He took two blows at it from above.'

Titty found herself wondering who it was who asked the executioner to sharpen his axe and cut boldly, when the clumsy fellow got nervous and took three blows to lop off a head of English chivalry or something like that. It was queer the way things came shooting into your mind just when you were really thinking of something quite different.

'It might be a ship's carpenter,' said Peter Duck, picking his way carefully down.

book II, chapter 32, Whose Steps in the Dark?

Nancy and John, pulling short, hard strokes, and lifting their oars well clear of the water between them, drove the Swallow shorewards. There was very much less swell than on that evening when he had sailed round here with Captain Flint, but there was still enough to break on the low reef outside Duckhaven. As they came nearer, John, when he glanced over his shoulder, could see the white splash of the spray over the rocks, and was glad to see it, because it gave him something to steer for. He was rowing with a bow oar and keeping time with Nancy. Now giving a harder pull or two, now easing a little, he was able to keep Swallow heading for the end of the reef. Nancy left the steering to John. She set herself only to pull as steady a stroke as she could, and did not allow herself even once to look over her shoulder.

'Is he there already?' she asked breathlessly, for they were putting all they could into their rowing.

'I can't see anybody,' John panted back.

They plugged on. Even for Nancy's lurid taste things had been happening too fast. Besides, it was all very well to be the Terror of the Seas, but real pirates, like Black Jake and his friends, were altogether different. Bullies. Cowards and bullies, five of them together going for an old man and a boy. Nancy clenched her teeth and dug in so hard with her oar that she all but made John get out of time with her. She did, indeed, feel his oar just touch her back.

'Sorry,' said John.

'My fault,' said Nancy.

They would have said just that if they had got out of time while rowing together on the lake at home. They said it now, though they were rowing in at dusk to an island of landslide and earthquake and half-mad pirates roaming about with stolen guns. Still, some things were the same as usual. Wherever you were you said 'Sorry' if you bumped 'stroke' in the back with the bow oar, and you said it was your fault if you had happened to change the time unexpectedly because you were thinking of something else.

They plugged on.

18 May 2008

To Mr. Rowland Woodward (John Donne)

Like one who in her third widdowhood doth professe,
Her selfe a Nunne, tyed to retirednesse,
So affects my muse now, a chast fallownesse.

Since shee to few, yet to too many hath showne
How love-song weeds, and Satyrique thornes are growne
Where seeds of better Arts, were early sown.

Though to use, and love Poëtrie, to mee,
Betroth'd to no one Art, be no adulterie;
Omissions of good, ill, as ill deeds bee.

For though to us it seeme, and be light and thinne,
Yet in those faithfull scales, where God throwes in
Mens workes, vanity weighs as much as sinne.

If our Soules have stain'd their first white, yet wee
May cloth them with faith, and deare honestie,
Which God imputes, as native puritie,

There is no Vertue, but Religion,
Wise, valiant, sober, just, are names, which none
Want, which want not Vice-covering discretion.

Seeke wee then our selves in our selves; for as
Men force the Sunne with much more force to passe,
By gathering his beames with a christall glasse;

So wee, if wee into ourselves will turne,
Blowing our sparkes of vertue, may outburne
The straw, which doth about our hearts sojourne.

You know, Physitians, when they would infuse
Into any oyle, the Soules of Simples, use
Places, where they may lie still warme, to chuse.

So workes retirednesse in us; to rome
Giddily and bee every where, but at home,
Such freedome doth a banishment become.

Wee are but termers of our selves, yet may,
If we can stocke our selves, and thrive, uplay
Much, much deare treasure for the great rent day.

Manure thy selfe then, to thy selfe be approv'd,
And with vaine outward things be no more mov'd,
But to know, that I love thee and would be lov'd.

14 April 2008

from Barchester Towers, volume II, chapter 2, St. Ewold's Parsonage (Anthony Trollope)

"You will, at any rate, have a beautiful prospect out of your own window, if this is to be your private sanctum," said Eleanor. She was standing at the lattice of a little room up stairs, from which the view certainly was very lovely. It was from the back of the vicarage, and there was nothing to interrupt the eye between the house and the glorious gray pile of the cathedral. The intermediate ground, however, was beautifully studded with timber. In the immediate foreground ran the little river which afterwards skirted the city; and, just to the right of the cathedral, the pointed gables and chimneys of Hiram's Hospital peeped out of the elms which encompass it.

"Yes," said he, joining her. "I shall have a beautifully complete view of my adversaries. I shall sit down before the hostile town, and fire away at them at a very pleasant distance. I shall just be able to lodge a shot in the hospital, should the enemy ever get possession of it; and as for the palace, I have it within full range."

"I never saw anything like you clergymen," said Eleanor; "you are always thinking of fighting each other."

"Either that," said he, "or else supporting each other. The pity is that we cannot do the one without the other. But are we not here to fight? Is not ours a church militant? What is all our work but fighting, and hard fighting, if it be well done?"

"But not with each other."

"That's as it may be. The same complaint which you make of me for battling with another clergyman of our own church, the Mohammedan would make against me for battling with the error of a priest of Rome. Yet, surely, you would not be inclined to say that I should be wrong to do battle with such as him. A pagan, too, with his multiplicity of gods, would think it equally odd that the Christian and the Mohammedan should disagree."

"Ah! but you wage your wars about trifles so bitterly."

"Wars about trifles," said he, "are always bitter, especially among neighbours. When the differences are great, and the parties comparative strangers, men quarrel with courtesy. What combatants are ever so eager as two brothers?"

"But do not such contentions bring scandal on the church?"

"More scandal would fall on the church if there were no such contentions. We have but one way to avoid them - that of acknowledging a common head of our church, whose word on all points of doctrine shall be authoritative. Such a termination of our difficulties is alluring enough. It has charms which are irresistible to many, and all but irresistible, I own, to me."

"You speak now of the Church of Rome?" said Eleanor.

"No," said he, "not necessarily of the Church of Rome; but of a church with a head. Had it pleased God to vouchsafe to us such a church our path would have been easy. But easy paths have not been thought good for us." He paused and stood silent for a while thinking of the time when he had so nearly sacrificed all he had, his powers of mind, his free agency, the fresh running waters of his mind's fountain, his very inner self, for an easy path in which no fighting would be needed; and then he continued: - "What you say is partly true; our contentions do bring on us some scandal. The outer world, though it constantly reviles us for our human infirmities, and throws in our teeth the fact that being clergymen we are still no more than men, demands of us that we should do our work with godlike perfection. There is nothing godlike about us: we differ from each other with the acerbity common to man - we triumph over each other with human frailty - we allow differences on subjects of divine origin to produce among us antipathies and enmities which are anything but divine. This is all true. But what would you have in place of it? There is no infallible head for a church on earth. This dream of believing man has been tried, and we see in Italy and in Spain what has come of it. Grant that there are and have been no bickerings within the pale of the Pope's Church. Such an assumption would be utterly untrue; but let us grant it, and then let us say which church has incurred the heavier scandals."

There was a quiet earnestness about Mr. Arabin, as he half acknowledged, and half defended himself from the charge brought against him, which surprised Eleanor. She had been used all her life to listen to clerical discussion; but the points at issue between the disputants had so seldom been of more than temporal significance as to have left on her mind no feeling of reverence for such subjects. There had always been a hard worldly leaven of the love either of income or of power in the strains she had heard; there had been no panting for the truth; no aspirations after religious purity. It had always been taken for granted by those around her that they were indubitably right, that there was no ground for doubt, that the hard uphill work of ascertaining what the duty of a clergyman should be had been already accomplished in full; and that what remained for an active militant parson to do, was to hold his own against all comers. Her father, it is true, was an exception to this; but then he was so essentially anti-militant in all things, that she classed him in her own mind apart from all others. She had never argued the matter within herself, or considered whether this common tone was or was not faulty; but she was sick of it without knowing that she was so. And now she found to her surprise, and not without a certain pleasurable excitement, that this new comer among them spoke in a manner very different from that to which she was accustomed.

"It is so easy to condemn," said he, continuing the thread of his thoughts. "I know no life that must be so delicious as that of a writer for newspapers, or a leading member of the opposition - to thunder forth accusations against men in power; to show up the worst side of everything that is produced; to pick holes in every coat; to be indignant, sarcastic, jocose, moral, or supercilious; to damn with faint praise, or crush with open calumny! What can be so easy as this when the critic has to be responsible for nothing? You condemn what I do; but put yourself in my position and do the reverse, and then see if I cannot condemn you."

"Oh! Mr. Arabin, I do not condemn you."

"Pardon me, you do, Mrs. Bold - you as one of the world; you are now the opposition member; you are now composing your leading article, and well and bitterly you do it. 'Let dogs delight to bark and bite;' you fitly begin with an elegant quotation; 'but if we are to have a church at all, in heaven's name let the pastors who preside over it keep their hands from each other's throats. Lawyers can live without befouling each other's names; doctors do not fight duels. Why is it that clergymen alone should indulge themselves in such unrestrained liberty of abuse against each other?' and so you go on reviling us for our ungodly quarrels, our sectarian propensities, and scandalous differences. It will, however, give you no trouble to write another article next week in which we, or some of us, shall be twitted with an unseemly apathy in matters of our vocation. It will not fall on you to reconcile the discrepancy; your readers will never ask you how the poor parson is to be urgent in season and out of season, and yet never come in contact with men who think widely differently from him. You, when you condemn this foreign treaty, or that official arrangement, will have to incur no blame for the graver faults of any different measure. It is so easy to condemn; and so pleasant too; for eulogy charms no listeners as detraction does."

Eleanor only half followed him in his raillery, but she caught his meaning. "I know I ought to apologise for presuming to criticise you," she said; "but I was thinking with sorrow of the ill-will that has lately come among us at Barchester, and I spoke more freely than I should have done."

"Peace on earth and good-will among men, are, like heaven, promises for the future;" said he, following rather his own thoughts than hers. "When that prophecy is accomplished, there will no longer be any need for clergymen."

12 April 2008

Ode to a Wombat (Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

O how the family affections combat
Within this heart, and each hour flings a bomb at
My burning soul! Neither from owl nor from bat
Can peace be gained until I clasp my wombat.

11 April 2008

from Ex Libris (Anne Fadiman), The Joy of Sesquipedalians

Our competitive fervor reached its apogee every Sunday afternoon, when we gathered around the television set for our weekly round of G.E. College Bowl. As you may remember if you are of a certain age and disposition, this was a quiz show - an honest, unrigged one - in which two teams of four students, each representing a different college, competed for scholarship money. Our family also constituted a team of four, which - I am admitting this in public for the very first time - we called Fadiman U. It was an article of faith in our home that Fadiman U. could beat any other U., and indeed, in five or six years of competition, we lost only to Brandeis and Colorado College. My father knew the answers to all the history and literature questions. My mother knew politics and sports. My brother knew science. I rarely knew anything that another member of Fadiman U. didn't know as well, but I had quicker reflexes than my parents, so sometimes I managed to bang the arm of my chair (our home-team version of pressing the College Bowl buzzer) first. Fadiman U. always yelled out the answer before Robert Earle, the M.C., could even finish asking the question. "Wing Biddlebaum is an unfortunate ex-schoolteacher. Dr. Percival is -" WHOMP! "Winesburg, Ohio!" "After being poisoned and shot several times -" WHOMP! "Rasputin!"

01 April 2008

Peace (Rupert Brooke)

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there's no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart's long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Aeneid 1.430-8 (Virgil)

qualis apes aestate noua per florea rura
exercet sub sole labor, cum gentis adultos
educunt fetus, aut cum liquentia mella
stipant et dulci distendunt nectare cellas,
aut onera accipiunt uenientum, aut agmine facto
ignauum fucos pecus a praesepibus arcent;
fervet opus, redolentque thymo fragrantia mella.
'o fortunati, quorum iam moenia surgunt!'
Aeneas ait et fastigia suspicit urbis.

25 March 2008

from Gaudy Night, chapter 14 (Dorothy L. Sayers)

He was, in fact, a pretty punter to watch, easy in action and quite remarkably quick. They picked their way at surprising speed down the crowded and tortuous stream until, in the narrow reach above the ferry, they were checked by another punt, which was clumsily revolving in mid-stream and cramming a couple of canoes rather dangerously against the bank.

'Before you come on this water,' cried Wimsey, thrusing the offenders off with his heel and staring offensively at the youth in charge (a stringy young man, naked to the waist and shrimp-pink with the sun) 'you should learn the rule of the river. Those canoes have the right of way. And if you can't handle a pole better than that, I recommend you to retire up the back-water and stay there till you know what God gave you feet for.'

Whereat a middle-aged man, whose punt was moored a little way farther on, turned his head sharply and cried in ringing tones:

'Good lord! Wimsey of Balliol!'

'Well, well, well,' said his lordship, abandoning the pink youth, and ranging up alongside the punt. 'Peake of Brasenose, by all that's holy. What brings you here?'

'Dash it,' said Mr. Peake, 'I live here. What brings you here is more to the point. You haven't met my wife - Lord Peter Wimsey, my dear - the cricket blue, you know. The rest is my family.'

He waved his hand vaguely over a collection of assorted offspring.

'Oh, I thought I'd look the old place up,' said Peter, when the introductions were completed all round. 'I've got a nephew here and all that. What are you doing? Tutor? Fellow? Lecturer?'

'Oh, I coach people. A dog's life, a dog's life. Dear me! A lot of water has flowed under Folly Bridge since we last met. But I'd have known your voice anywhere. The moment I heard those arrogant, off-hand, go-to-blazes tones I said, "Wimsey of Balliol." Wasn't I right?'

Wimsey shipped the pole and sat down.

'Have pity, old son, have pity! Let the dead bury their dead.'

'You know,' said Mr. Peake to the world at large, 'when we were up together - shocking long time ago that is - never mind! If anyone got landed with a country cousin or an American visitor who asked, as these people will, "What is this thing called the Oxford manner?" we used to take 'em round and show 'em Wimsey of Balliol. He fitted in very handily between St. John's Gardens and the Martyrs' Memorial.'

'But suppose he wasn't there, or wouldn't perform?'

'That catastrophe never occurred. One never failed to find Wimsey of Balliol planted in the centre of the quad and laying down the law with exquisite insolence to somebody.'

Wimsey put his head between his hands.

from The Organ in Ampleforth Abbey (L.S. Barnard)

But a tuba, however fine, is a tuba among many: the trompetta argentea on the other hand, is in a class by itself. Lodged in the small arch high above the altar, it is an astounding piece of voicing, a trumpet of unexampled colour, power and brilliance. It is a special stop for special occasions. It is right for fanfares on great festal days: it would be in the worst taste to use it much, or often, or as an ordinary organ stop. But it is a thrilling sound! And it seems to throw the real organ tone into sharp relief: after a fanfare on the trompetta, the chorus work proper sounds doubly grand.

'Loveliest of trees' (A.E. Housman)

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.

17 March 2008

Odes 2.7 (Horace, trans. adapted from David West)

o saepe mecum tempus in ultimum
deducte Bruto militiae duce,
quis te redonauit Quiritem
dis patriis Italoque caelo,

Pompei, meorum prime sodalium,
cum quo morantem saepe diem mero
fregi, coronatus nitentis
malobathro Syrio capillos?

tecum Philippos et celerem fugam
sensi relicta non bene parmula,
cum fracta uirtus et minaces
turpe solum tetigere mento;

sed me per hostis Mercurius celer
denso pauentem sustulit aere,
te rursus in bellum resorbens
unda fretis tulit aestuosis.

ergo obligatam redde Ioui dapem
longaque fessum militia latus
depone sub lauru mea, nec
parce cadis tibi destinatis.

obliuioso leuia Massico
ciboria exple, funde capacibus
unguenta de conchis. quis udo
deproperare apio coronas

curatue myrto? quem Venus arbitrum
dicet bibendi? non ego sanius
bacchabor Edonis: recepto
dulce mihi furere est amico.

You, who've often been led to the edge
of doom with me, with Brutus in command -
who has made you a Roman again
under ancestral gods and Italian skies,

Pompeius, first of my friends,
with whom I often broke into the delaying day
with neat wine, garlanded and hair gleaming
with Syrian malobathrum?

With you I knew Philippi and swift flight,
leaving, unfortunately, my little shield behind,
when virtue broke, and blusterers touched
the dirty earth with their chins.

But swift Mercury carried me off in a dense mist
through the enemy (as I panicked);
while a wave sucked you back into war
and carried you along in a boiling sea.

So pay to Jupiter the feast you promised,
and lay down your body, exhausted with lengthy
soldiering, under my laurel tree, and have no mercy
on the casks of wine reserved for you.

Fill up the polished cups with Massic
for forgetfulness; pour perfumes
from capacious shells. Who should be running
for garlands of damp celery

and myrtle? Whom will Venus name as ruler
of the drinking? I shall run no less wild
than the Edonians. My friend is back.
What joy to go mad!

13 March 2008

from the Conclusion to The Renaissance (Walter Pater)

To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes of fashions has more and more become the tendency of modern thought. Let us begin with that which is without - our physical life. Fix upon it in one of its more exquisite intervals, the moment, for instance, of delicious recoil from the flood of water in summer heat. What is the whole physical life in that moment but a combination of natural elements to which science gives their names? But those elements, phosphorus and lime and delicate fibres, are present not in the human body alone: we detect them in places most remote from it. Our physical life is a perpetual motion of them - the passage of the blood, the waste and repairing of the lenses of the eye, the modification of the tissues of the brain under every ray of light and sound - processes which science reduces to simpler and more elementary forces. Like the elements of which we are composed, the action of these forces extends beyond us: it rusts iron and ripens corn. Far out on every side of us those elements are broadcast, driven in many currents; and birth and gesture and death and the springing of violets from the grave are but a few out of ten thousand resultant combinations. That clear, perpetual outline of face and limb is but an image of ours, under which we group them - a design in a web, the actual threads of which pass out beyond it. This at least of flame-like our life has, that it is but the concurrence, renewed from moment to moment, of forces parting sooner or later on their ways.

Or if we begin with the inward world of thought and feeling, the whirlpool is still more rapid, the flame more eager and devouring. There it is no longer the gradual darkening of the eye, the gradual fading of colour from the wall - movements of the shore-side, where the water flows down indeed, though in apparent rest - but the race of the mid-stream, a drift of momentary acts of sight and passion and thought. At first sight experience seems to bury us under a flood of external objects, pressing upon us with a sharp and importunate reality, calling us out of ourselves in a thousand forms of action. But when reflexion begins to play upon those objects they are dissipated under its influence; the cohesive force seems suspended like some trick of magic; each object is loosed into a group of impressions - colour, odour, texture - in the mind of the observer. And if we continue to dwell in thought on this world, not of objects in the solidity with which language invests them, but of impressions, unstable, flickering, inconsistent, which burn and are extinguished with our consciousness of them, it contracts still further: the whole scope of observation is dwarfed into the narrow chamber of the individual mind. Experience, already reduced to a group of impressions, is ringed round for each one of us by that thick wall of personality through which no real voice has ever pierced on its way to us, or from us to that which we can only conjecture to be without. Every one of those impressions is the impression of the individual in his isolation, each mind keeping as a solitary prisoner its own dream of a world. Analysis goes a step further still, and assures us that those impresssions of the individual mind to which, for each one of us, experience dwindles down, are in perpetual flight; that each of them is limited by time, and that as time is infinitely divisible, each of them is infinitely divisible also; all that is actual in it being a single moment, gone while we try to apprehend it, of which it may ever be more truly said that it has ceased to be than that it is. To such a tremulous wisp constantly re-forming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting, of such moments gone by, what is real in our life fines itself down. It is with this movement, with the passage and dissolution of impressions, images, sensations, that analysis leaves off - that continual vanishing away, that strange, perpetual, weaving and unweaving of ourselves.

27 February 2008

India Reposing (Martin Farquhar Tupper)

Be glad, thou tranquil Hindostan,
That GOD such mercy gives -
That tribe with tribe, and man with man
In friendly concord lives!
Rejoice, for peace and quiet days, -
Instead of those old times
When all the region was ablaze
With cruelties and crimes!

O happy days for India,
Now wars are made to cease, -
Nor Timur, Singh, nor Sindiah
Invade thy plenteous peace!
Beneath the flag of England
Ye hundred millions, rest!
And shout for joy, and sing Land
In Britain's mercies blest!

For strong-arm'd Law protects the weak
From each marauding crew, -
Nor savage Gond, nor fiery Sikh,
Affrights the mild Hindoo;
No more can Thug or hireling Bheel
Infest the pool or steep,
No longer does Pindarree steel
The ryot's harvest reap!

Rejoice! from Himalaya's snows
To level Malabar, -
From where the Nilelike Ganges flows
To Cutch and Candahar, -
Rejoice! that those old times are past,
Those fears and sorrows fled,
That gospel peace is come at last
And India comforted!

Energy [Four Bursts, Uttered in Character] (Martin Farquhar Tupper)


Indomitable merit
Of the stout old-English mind!
That makes a man inherit
The glories of his kind -
That scatters all around him
Until he stands sublime,
With nothing to confound him
The conqueror of Time, -
O mighty Perseverance!
O Courage, stern and stout,
That wills and works a clearance
Of every rabble rout, -
That cannot brook denial
And scarce allows delay,
But wins from every trial
More strength for every day, -
Antagonistic Power!
I praise - for praise I can -
The GOD, the place, the hour
That makes a man a Man -
The GOD, from whom all greatness -
The place, old England's shore -
The hour, an hour of lateness
(For time may soon be o'er) -
The Man - ay, every brother
Of Anglo-Saxon race
Who owns a British mother
In Freedom's dwelling place!


I feel, I feel within me
That courage self-possess'd -
The force, that yet shall win me
The brightest and the best -
The stalwart English daring
That steadily steps on,
Unswerving and unsparing
Until the world is won, -
The boldness and the quiet
That calmly go ahead,
In spite of wrath and riot,
In spite of quick and dead, -
Hot Energy to spur me,
Keen Enterprise to guide,
And Conscience to upstir me,
And Duty by my side,
And Hope before me singing
Assurance of success,
And rapid Action springing
At once to nothing less,
And all the mighty movings
That wrestle in my breast,
The longings and the lovings,
The Spirit's glad unrest
That scorns excuse to tender
Or Fortune's favour ask,
And never will surrender,
Whatever be the task!


I cannot wait for chances,
For luck I will not look;
In faith my spirit glances
At Providence - GOD's book;
And there, discerning truly,
That right is might at length,
I dare go forward duly
In quietness and strength,
Unflinching and unfearing,
The flatterer of none,
And in good courage wearing
The honours I have won!
Let Circumstance oppose me,
I beat it to my will;
And if the flood o'erflows me,
I dive and stem it still, -
No hindering dull material
Shall conquer or control
My energies ethereal -
My gladiator soul!
I will contrive occasion,
Not tamely bide my time;
No Capture, but Creation
Shall make my sport sublime!
Let lower spirits linger
For sign by beck or nod,
I always see the finger
Of an onward-urging GOD!


Not selfish - not hard-hearted -
Not vain, nor deaf, nor blind -
From wisdom not departed,
But in humbleness of mind,
Still shall mine independence
Stand manfully alone,
Nor dance a tame attendance
On any mortal throne,
Disciple of no teacher
Except the ONE in Heav'n,
And yielding to no creature
The Reason He hath giv'n!
Oh thus, while contemplation
In faith beholds above
My glorious hope, Salvation,
Eternity of Love,
And while an English spirit
Is bubbling at my heart,
To strengthen and upstir it
To play a giant's part,
No hindrance, nor misfortune -
No man's neglect, nor ill,
Shall bend me to importune
One weak indulgence still;
But with my GOD to nerve me,
My soul shall overwhelm
All circumstance to serve me
In my Spiritual Realm!

07 February 2008

from Summoned by Bells, IX, The Opening World (John Betjeman)

Silk-dressing-gowned, to Sunday-morning bells,
Long after breakfast had been cleared in Hall,
I wandered to my lavender-scented bath;
Then, with a loosely knotted shantung tie
And hair well soaked in Delhez' Genêt d'Or,
Strolled to the Eastgate. Oxford marmalade
And a thin volume by Lowes Dickinson
But half-engaged my thoughts till Sunday calm
Led me by crumbling walls and echoing lanes,
Past college chapels with their organ-groan
And churches stacked with bicycles outside,
To worship at High Mass in Pusey House.

Those were the days when that divine baroque
Transformed our English altars and our ways.
Fiddle-back chasuble in mid-Lent pink
Scandalized Rome and Protestants alike:
"Why do you try to ape the Holy See?"
"Why do you sojourn in a halfway house?"
And if these doubts had ever troubled me
(Praise God, they don't) I would have made the move.
What seemed to me a greater question then
Tugged, and still tugs: Is Christ the Son of God?
Despite my frequent lapses into lust,
Despite hypocrisy, revenge and hate,
I learned at Pusey House the Catholic faith.
Friends of those days, now patient parish priests,
By worldly standards you have not 'got on'
Who knelt with me as Oxford sunlight streamed
On some colonial bishop's broidered cope.
Some know for all their lives that Christ is God,
Some start upon that arduous love affair
In clouds of doubt and argument; and some
(My closest friends) seem not to want His love -
And why this is I wish to God I knew.
As at the Dragon School, so still for me
The steps to truth were made by sculptured stone,
Stained glass and vestments, holy-water stoups,
Incense and crossings of myself - the things
That hearty middle-stumpers most despise
As 'all the inessentials of the Faith'.

08 January 2008

from These Happy Golden Years (Laura Ingalls Wilder), chapter 2, First Day of School

Then she was so frightened that she said aloud, 'I've got to go on.' Black soft-coal smoke roses against the morning sky from the old claim shanty's stovepipe. Two more lines of footprints came to its door, and Laura heard voices inside it. For a moment she gathered her courage, then she opened the door and went in.

The board walls were not battened. Streaks of sunshine streamed through the cracks upon a row of six home-made seats and desks that marched down the middle of the room. Beyond them, on the studding of the opposite wall, a square of boards had been nailed and painted black, to make a blackboard.

In front of the seats stood a big heating stove. Its round sides and top were cherry-red from the heat of the fire, and standing around it were the scholars that Laura must teach. They all looked at Laura. There were five of them, and two boys and one girl were taller than she was.

'Good morning,' she managed to say.

They all answered, still looking at her. A small window by the door let in a block of sunshine. Beyond it, in the corner by the stove, stood a small table and a chair. 'That is the teacher's table,' Laura thought, and then, 'Oh my; I am the teacher.'

Her steps sounded loud. All the eyes followed her. She put her books and dinner pail on the table, and took off her coat and hood. She hung them on a nail in the wall by the chair. On the table was a small clock; its hands stood at five minutes to nine.

Somehow she had to get through five minutes, before the time to begin school.

Slowly she took off her mittens and put them in the pocket of her coat. Then she faced all the eyes, and stepped to the stove. She held her hands to it as if to warm them. All the pupils made way for her, still looking at her. She must say something. She must.

'It is cold this morning, isn't it?' she heard herself say; then without waiting for an answer, 'Do you think you can keep warm in the seats away from the stove?'

One of the tall boys said quickly, 'I'll sit in the back seat; it's the coldest.'

The tall girl said, 'Charles and I have to sit together, we have to study from the same books.'

'That's good; then you can all sit nearer the stove,' Laura said. To her joyful surprise, the five minutes were gone! She said, 'You may take your seats. School will begin.'

from Letters from England (Karel Čapek), At the Natural History Museum

But I mustn't forget the crystals, their shapes, laws and colours. There are crystals like cathedral pillars, as delicate as mildew and as sharp as needles, crystals which are limpid, blue, green like nothing on earth, fiery-coloured or black, mathematical, perfect, similar to the designs of strange, deranged scholars or reminiscent of livers, hearts, huge sexual organs and animal phlegm. They are crystal caves or monstrous bubbles of mineral dough. There is mineral fermentation, melting, growth, architecture and engineering. I swear to God, a Gothic church is not the most complicated of crystals. Even in us a crystalline strength persists. Egypt crystallised into pyramids and obelisks, Greece into columns, Gothic into pinnacles and London into cubes of black mud. Innumerable laws of construction and composition run through matter like secret, mathematical flashes of lightning. We must be exact, mathematical and geometric to be equal to Nature. Number and fantasy, law and abundance are the feverish forces of Nature. Becoming a part of Nature doesn't mean sitting under a green tree but creating crystals and ideas, creating laws and shapes, breaking into matter with incandescent flashes of lightning of a divine calculation.

Ah, how insufficiently exotic, how insufficiently courageous and exact is poetry!