16 December 2010

from Linnets and Valerians, chapter 2, Where they went (Elizabeth Goudge)

'Betsy never takes cold,' she reassured him. 'Timothy does, but I'll make him keep his combinations on.'

'Combinations of what?' asked the elderly gentleman.

'Just combinations,' said Nan. 'What we wear next to our skins.'

'Ah,' said the elderly gentleman. 'Combinations. I must behold them at some future and more suitable occasion, for the extension of knowledge has always been of prime importance to me. Good night.'

from Period Piece, chapter IV, Education (Gwen Raverat)

School upset me very much at first, and I did not think that I could survive it, when the poison gas of homesickness settled down over my head, with its indescribably nausea. Though it was not really home-sickness, for I did not want to go home, only to escape into an air which I could breathe. I remember the first morning, kneeling at prayers (an alarming rite to me), and staring out of the window, when my eyes ought to have been tight shut, and thinking: 'If only I could get out into that garden, perhaps I might feel better; anyhow there are some quite ordinary trees there, and some real grass' - for everything inside the house seemed to be tainted with a nightmare horror.

27 November 2010

'For on þhat is so feir ant brist' (anonymous, thirteenth century)

For on þhat is so feir ant brist

Velud maris stella,

Bristore þen þe daiis list,

Parens et puella,

I crie þe grace of þe,

Levedi, priie þi sone for me,

Tam pia,

Þat I mote come to þe,


Levedi, best of alle þing,

Rosa sine spina,

Þou bere Jhesu, hevene King,

Gratia divina.

Of alle þou berest þat pris,

Heie quen in Parais


Moder milde ant maidan ec


In car ant consail þou art best

Felix fecundata,

To alle weri þou art rest,

Mater honorata.

Bihold tou him wid milde mod

Þat for us alle scedde is blod

In cruce,

Bidde we moten come to him

In luce.

Al þe world it wes furlorn

Þoru Eva peccatrice

Toforn þat Jhesu was iborn

Ex te genitrice;

Þorou Ave e wende awei

Þe þestri nist ant come þe dai


Þe welle springet out of þe


Wel þou wost he is þi sone

Ventre quem portasti;

He nul nout werne þe þi bone

Parvum quem lactasti.

So god ant so mild e is,

He bringet us alle into is blis


He havet idut þe foule put


22 July 2010

from The Last Battle, chapter 11, The pace quickens (C.S. Lewis)

Feeling terribly alone, Jill ran out about twenty feet, put her right leg back and her left leg forward, and set an arrow to her string. She wished her hands were not shaking so. 'That's a rotten shot!' she said as her first arrow sped towards the enemy and flew over their heads. But she had another on the string next moment; she knew that speed was what mattered.

from Gaudy Night, chapter 8 (Dorothy L. Sayers)

'Hell!' said a voice which set her heart beating by its unexpected familiarity, 'have I hurt you? Me all over - bargin' and bumpin' about like a bumble-bee in a bottle. Clumsy lout! I say, do say I haven't hurt you. Because, if I have, I'll run straight across and drown myself in Mercury.'

He extended the arm that was not supporting Harriet in a vague gesture towards the pond.

'Not in the least, thank you,' said Harriet, recovering herself.

'Thank God for that. This is my unlucky day. I've just had a most unpleasant interview with the Junior Censor. Was there anything breakable in the parcels? Oh, look! your bag's opened itself wide and all the little oojahs have gone down the steps. Please don't move. You stand there, thinkin' up things to call me, and I'll pick 'em all up one by one on my knees sayin' "meā culpā" to every one of 'em.'

He suited the action to the words.

'I'm afraid it hasn't improved the meringues.' He looked up apologetically. 'But if you'll say you forgive me, we'll go and get some new ones from the kitchen - the real kind - you know - speciality of the House, and all that.'

'Please don't bother,' said Harriet.

It wasn't he, of course. This was a lad of twenty-one or two at the most, with a mop of wavy hair tumbling over his forehead and a handsome, petulant face, full of charm, though ominously weak about the curved lips and upward-slanting brows. But the colour of the hair was right - the pale yellow of ripe barley; and the light drawling voice, with its clipped syllables and ready babble of speech; and the quick, sidelong smile; and above all, the beautiful, sensitive hands that were gathering the 'oojahs' deftly up into their native bag.

'You haven't called me any names yet,' said the young man.

'I believe I could almost put a name to you,' said Harriet. 'Isn't it - are you any relation of Peter Wimsey's?'

14 July 2010

Anonymous quatrain of uncertain origin

In Heaven there'll be no algebra,
No learning dates or names,
But only playing golden harps
And reading Henry James.

from The French Lieutenant's Woman (John Fowles)

He had thought by his brief gesture and assurance to take the first step towards putting out the fire the doctor had told him he had lit; but when one is oneself the fuel, firefighting is a hopeless task.


He was invited to use the Athenaeum, he had shaken hands with a senator, no less; and with the wrinkled claw of one even greater, if less hectoringly loquacious - old Nathaniel Lodge, who had heard the cannon on Bunker Hill from his nurse's room in Beacon Street. An even greater still, whom one might have not very interestedly chatted to if one had chanced to gain entry to the Lowell circle in Cambridge, and who was himself on the early threshold of a decision precisely the opposite in its motives and predispositions, a ship, as it were, straining at its moorings in a contrary current and arming for its sinuous and loxodromic voyage to the richer though silted harbour of Rye (but I must not ape the master), Charles did not meet.


Once, as he made his way to the Athenaeum across the Common, he saw a girl ahead of him on an oblique path. He strode across the grass, he was so sure. But she was not Sarah. And he had to stammer an apology. He went on his way shaken, so intense in those few moments had been his excitement. The next day he advertised in a Boston newspaper. Wherever he went after that he advertised.

08 July 2010

from Little Grey Rabbit's Party (Alison Uttley)

Hare put his flute in its case and Squirrel and Grey Rabbit tidied away the crumbs from the feast. Then upstairs they all went to bed, yawning sleepily.

Little Grey Rabbit opened her attic window and held her blue beads up in the moonlight so that they shone like blue flames.

‘Although I did lose my dear thimble, it was a most beautiful party,’ she whispered.

from the production diaries for Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson)

Jane reminds us that God is in his heaven, the monarch on his throne and the pelvis firmly beneath the ribcage. Apparently rock and roll liberated the pelvis and it hasn't been the same since.

Hugh Grant arrives tomorrow but I've nicked the prettiest room. Very low ceiling, so can't do Reebok stepping without knocking myself out.

Roast beef and a square of chocolate for lunch. Very yang.

Ang's taken to requesting what he calls 'smirks.' 'Endearing smirk, please' - which I find pretty tricky. 'Try rigorous smirk' - even trickier.

It's Hugh's close-up. After several takes, Ang said to Hugh, 'Now do it like a bad actor.' Hugh: 'That was the one I just did.'

Very bolshie 'period' sheep with horns and perms and too much wool. If they fall over, they can't get up. Someone has to help them. Can't be right. Ang wants sheep in every exterior shot and dogs in every interior shot. I've suggested we have sheep in some of the interiors as well.

Ang, after a particularly trying time with our flock (very quiet): 'No more sheeps. Never again sheeps.'

The party on Saturday was wild. Everyone fell on the opportunity to let go and was drunk before having drunk anything. Alan nearly killed me, whirling me about the place. Everyone was under the table by midnight except Greg, who was on the ceiling.

Good work today, though. Willoughby's entrance through the mist on a white horse. We all swoon. Ang laughed at us. 'This scene is ridiculous,' he said. 'It's a girl thing,' Lindsay and I replied. Really wet, though, that rain.

Gemma is magic. She looks so innocent and pure and then she opens her mouth and says something rude. She's got the dirtiest laught I've ever heard.

Gemma, after two hours' waiting: 'Oh, God, it's like childbirth. You go on and on and on and on and still nothing happens.'

Kate makes a bracelet. We're in our nighties, our plaits down our backs. Ang settles down for a snooze. The weather does worry him. Only one day left at this location. Hypnotic, Kate's hands knotting the threads.

We try to find an extra line for Margaret as she picks up Willoughby's gear in the rain. Lindsay suggests, 'I'll get the stuff,' which makes me laugh immoderately. I counter with Willoughby saying, 'Pray get the stuff.' 'It's in the book!' we keep screaming.

I appear to have accumulated more things. How does this happen? I haven't shopped. Think my bath oils have bred.

Kate did her breakdown scene wonderfully well. In nearly all the weepy scenes I've tried to get one good joke. Less indulgent.

Noon. Finish scene with Alan.
Me: 'Oh! I've just ovulated.'
Alan (long pause): 'Thank you for that.'

04 July 2010

Calendae Maiae (George Buchanan, trans. Philip Ford)

salvete sacris deliciis sacrae
Maiae Calendae, laetitiae et mero
ludisque dicatae iocisque
et teneris Charitum choreis.

salve voluptas et nitidum decus
anni recurrens perpetua vice
et flos renascentis iuventae
in senium properantis aevi.

cum blanda veris temperies novo
illuxit orbi, primaque saecula
fulsere flaventi metallo
sponte sua sine lege iusta,

talis per omnes continuus tenor
annos tepenti rura Favonio
mulcebat et nullis feraces
seminibus recreabat agros.

talis beatis incubat insulis
felicis aurae perpetuus tepor
et nesciis campis senectae
difficilis querulique morbi.

talis silentum per tacitum nemus
levi susurrat murmure spiritus,
Lethenque iuxta obliviosam
funereas agitat cupressos.

forsan supremis cum Deus ignibus
piabit orbem, laetaque saecula
mundo reducet, talis aura
aethereos animos fovebit.

salve fugacis gloria saeculi,
salve secunda digna dies nota,
salve vetustae vitae imago
et specimen venientis aevi.

Hail, May Day, sacred to sacred delights, dedicated to joy and wine, games, jesting, and the delicate dances of the Graces. Hail pleasure, and bright glory of the year returning in an eternal cycle, and bloom of reviving youth, hastening towards time’s old age. When spring’s pleasant warmth shone upon a new world, and the first generations gleamed with golden metal, naturally righteous without any laws, an uninterrupted course like this through all the years caressed the countryside with a warm West Wind, and renewed the fertile fields without seeds. Such is the endless warmth from delightful breezes which lies over the Isles of the Blessed, and over the fields which know not crabbed old age or complaining disease. Such a breath murmurs in a gentle whisper through the quiet grove of the Silent ones, and stirs the deathly cypress trees beside Lethe, river of forgetfulness. Perhaps when God purifies the world in the final conflagration and brings back happy ages to the universe, such a breeze will refresh the heavenly spirits. Hail, glory of a fleeting age, hail, day worthy of a favourable mark, hail, picture of a former life, and token of an age to come.

26 June 2010

Thyrsis (Matthew Arnold)

How changed is here each spot man makes or fills!
In the two Hinkseys nothing keeps the same;
The village street its haunted mansion lacks,
And from the sign is gone Sibylla's name,
And from the roofs the twisted chimney-stacks -
Are ye too changed, ye hills?
See, 'tis no foot of unfamiliar men
To-night from Oxford up your pathway strays!
Here came I often, often, in old days -
Thyrsis and I; we still had Thyrsis then.

Runs it not here, the track by Childsworth Farm,
Past the high wood, to where the elm-tree crowns
The hill behind whose ridge the sunset flames?
The signal-elm, that looks on Ilsley Downs,
The Vale, the three lone weirs, the youthful Thames? -
This winter-eve is warm,
Humid the air! leafless, yet soft as spring,
The tender purple spray on copse and briers!
And that sweet city with her dreaming spires,
She needs not June for beauty's heightening,

Lovely all times she lies, lovely to-night! -
Only, methinks, some loss of habit's power
Befalls me wandering through this upland dim.
Once passed I blindfold here, at any hour;
Now seldom come I, since I came with him.
That single elm-tree bright
Against the west - I miss it! is it gone?
We prized it dearly; while it stood, we said,
Our friend, the Gipsy-Scholar, was not dead;
While the tree lived, he in these fields lived on.

Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here,
But once I knew each field, each flower, each stick;
And with the country-folk acquaintance made
By barn in threshing-time, by new-built rick.
Here, too, our shepherd-pipes we first assayed.
Ah me! this many a year
My pipe is lost, my shepherd's holiday!
Needs must I lose them, needs with heavy heart
Into the world and wave of men depart;
But Thyrsis of his own will went away.

It irked him to be here, he could not rest.
He loved each simple joy the country yields,
He loved his mates; but yet he could not keep,
For that a shadow loured on the fields,
Here with the shepherds and the silly sheep.
Some life of men unblest
He knew, which made him droop, and fill'd his head.
He went; his piping took a troubled sound
Of storms that rage outside our happy ground;
He could not wait their passing, he is dead.

So, some tempestuous morn in early June,
When the year's primal burst of bloom is o'er,
Before the roses and the longest day -
When garden-walks and all the grassy floor
With blossoms red and white of fallen May
And chestnut-flowers are strewn -
So have I heard the cuckoo's parting cry,
From the wet field, through the vext garden-trees,
Come with the volleying rain and tossing breeze:
The bloom is gone, and with the bloom go I!

Too quick despairer, wherefore wilt thou go?
Soon will the high Midsummer pomps come on,
Soon will the musk carnations break and swell,
Soon shall we have gold-dusted snapdragon,
Sweet-William with his homely cottage-smell,
And stocks in fragrant blow;
Roses that down the alleys shine afar,
And open, jasmine-muffled lattices,
And groups under the dreaming garden-trees,
And the full moon, and the white evening-star.

He hearkens not! light comer, he is flown!
What matters it? next year he will return,
And we shall have him in the sweet spring-days,
With whitening hedges, and uncrumpling fern,
And blue-bells trembling by the forest-ways,
And scent of hay new-mown.
But Thyrsis never more we swains shall see;
See him come back, and cut a smoother reed,
And blow a strain the world at last shall heed -
For Time, not Corydon, hath conquered thee!

Alack, for Corydon no rival now! -
But when Sicilian shepherds lost a mate,
Some good survivor with his flute would go,
Piping a ditty sad for Bion's fate;
And cross the unpermitted ferry's flow,
And relax Pluto's brow,
And make leap up with joy the beauteous head
Of Proserpine, among whose crowned hair
Are flowers first opened on Sicilian air,
And flute his friend, like Orpheus, from the dead.

O easy access to the hearer's grace
When Dorian shepherds sang to Proserpine!
For she herself had trod Sicilian fields,
She knew the Dorian water's gush divine,
She knew each lily white which Enna yields
Each rose with blushing face;
She loved the Dorian pipe, the Dorian strain.
But ah, of our poor Thames she never heard!
Her foot the Cumner cowslips never stirr'd;
And we should tease her with our plaint in vain!

Well! wind-dispersed and vain the words will be,
Yet, Thyrsis, let me give my grief its hour
In the old haunt, and find our tree-topp'd hill!
Who, if not I, for questing here hath power?
I know the wood which hides the daffodil,
I know the Fyfield tree,
I know what white, what purple fritillaries
The grassy harvest of the river-fields,
Above by Ensham, down by Sandford, yields,
And what sedged brooks are Thames's tributaries;

I know these slopes; who knows them if not I? -
But many a tingle on the loved hillside,
With thorns once studded, old, white-blossom'd trees,
Where thick the cowslips grew, and far descried
High towered the spikes of purple orchises,
Hath since our day put by
The coronals of that forgotten time;
Down each green bank hath gone the ploughboy's team,
And only in the hidden brookside gleam
Primroses, orphans of the flowery prime.

Where is the girl, who by the boatman's door,
Above the locks, above the boating throng,
Unmoored our skiff when through the Wytham flats,
Red loosestrife and blond meadow-sweet among
And darting swallows and light water-gnats,
We tracked the shy Thames shore?
Where are the mowers, who, as the tiny swell
Of our boat passing heaved the river-grass,
Stood with suspended scythe to see us pass? -
They all are gone, and thou art gone as well!

Yes, thou art gone! and round me too the night
In ever-nearing circle weaves her shade.
I see her veil draw soft across the day,
I feel her slowly chilling breath invade
The cheek grown thin, the brown hair sprent with grey;
I feel her finger light
Laid pausefully upon life's headlong train; -
The foot less prompt to meet the morning dew,
The heart less bounding at emotion new,
And hope, once crush'd, less quick to spring again.

And long the way appears, which seem'd so short
To the less practised eye of sanguine youth;
And high the mountain-tops, in cloudy air,
The mountain-tops where is the throne of Truth,
Tops in life's morning-sun so bright and bare!
Unbreachable the fort
Of the long-batter'd world uplifts its wall;
And strange and vain the earthly turmoil grows,
And near and real the charm of thy repose,
And night as welcome as a friend would fall.

But hush! the upland hath a sudden loss
Of quiet! - Look, adown the dusk hill-side,
A troop of Oxford hunters going home,
As in old days, jovial and talking, ride!
From hunting with the Berkshire hounds they come.
Quick! let me fly, and cross
Into yon farther field! - 'Tis done; and see,
Backed by the sunset, which doth glorify
The orange and pale violet evening-sky,
Bare on its lonely ridge, the Tree! the Tree!

I take the omen! Eve lets down her veil,
The white fog creeps from bush to bush about,
The west unflushes, the high stars grow bright,
And in the scatter'd farms the lights come out.
I cannot reach the signal-tree to-night,
Yet, happy omen, hail!
Hear it from thy broad lucent Arno-vale
(For there thine earth forgetting eyelids keep
The morningless and unawakening sleep
Under the flowery oleanders pale),

Hear it, O Thyrsis, still our tree is there! -
Ah, vain! These English fields, this upland dim,
These brambles pale with mist engarlanded,
That lone, sky-pointing tree, are not for him;
To a boon southern country he is fled,
And now in happier air,
Wandering with the great Mother's train divine
(And purer or more subtle soul than thee,
I trow, the mighty Mother doth not see)
Within a folding of the Apennine,

Thou hearest the immortal chants of old! -
Putting his sickle to the perilous grain
In the hot cornfield of the Phrygian king,
For thee the Lityerses-song again
Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing;
Sings his Sicilian fold,
His sheep, his hapless love, his blinded eyes -
And how a call celestial round him rang,
And heavenward from the fountain-brink he sprang,
And all the marvel of the golden skies.

There thou art gone, and me thou leavest here
Sole in these fields! yet will I not despair.
Despair I will not, while I yet descry
'Neath the mild canopy of English air
That lonely tree against the western sky.
Still, still these slopes, 'tis clear,
Our Gipsy-Scholar haunts, outliving thee!
Fields where soft sheep from cages pull the hay,
Woods with anemonies in flower till May,
Know him a wanderer still; then why not me?

A fugitive and gracious light he seeks,
Shy to illumine; and I seek it too.
This does not come with houses or with gold,
With place, with honour, and a flattering crew;
'Tis not in the world's market bought and sold -
But the smooth-slipping weeks
Drop by, and leave its seeker still untired;
Out of the heed of mortals he is gone,
He wends unfollowed, he must house alone;
Yet on he fares, by his own heart inspired.

Thou too, O Thyrsis, on like quest wast bound;
Thou wanderedst with me for a little hour!
Men gave thee nothing; but this happy quest,
If men esteem'd thee feeble, gave thee power,
If men procured thee trouble, gave thee rest.
And this rude Cumner ground,
Its fir-topped Hurst, its farms, its quiet fields,
Here cams't thou in thy jocund youthful time,
Here was thine height of strength, thy golden prime!
And still the haunt beloved a virtue yields.

What though the music of thy rustic flute
Kept not for long its happy, country tone;
Lost it too soon, and learnt a stormy note
Of men contention-tost, of men who groan,
Which tasked thy pipe too sore, and tired thy throat -
It failed, and thou wage mute!
Yet hadst thou always visions of our light,
And long with men of care thou couldst not stay,
And soon thy foot resumed its wandering way,
Left human haunt, and on alone till night.

Too rare, too rare, grow now my visits here!
'Mid city-noise, not, as with thee of yore,
Thyrsis! in reach of sheep-bells is my home.
Then through the great town's harsh, heart-wearying roar,
Let in thy voice a whisper often come,
To chase fatigue and fear:
Why faintest thou! I wander'd till I died.
Roam on! The light we sought is shining still.
Dost thou ask proof? Our tree yet crowns the hill,
Our Scholar travels yet the loved hill-side.

Adlestrop (Edward Thomas)

Yes. I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

'If truth in hearts that perish' (A.E. Housman)

If truth in hearts that perish
Could move the powers on high,
I think the love I bear you
Should make you not to die.

Sure, sure, if stedfast meaning,
If single thought could save,
The world might end to-morrow,
You should not see the grave.

This long and sure-set liking,
This boundless will to please,
— Oh, you should live for ever
If there were help in these.

But now, since all is idle,
To this lost heart be kind,
Ere to a town you journey
Where friends are ill to find.

10 June 2010

from Good Wives, chapter 1, Gossip (Louisa M. Alcott)

'Do you know I like this room best of all in my baby-house,' added Meg, a minute after, as they went upstairs, and she looked into her well-stored linen closet.

Beth was there, laying the snowy piles smoothly on the shelves, and exulting over the goodly array. All three laughed as Meg spoke; for that linen closet was a joke. You see, having said that if Meg married `that Brooke' she shouldn't have a cent of her money, Aunt March was rather in a quandary, when time had appeased her wrath and made her repent her vow. She never broke her word, and was much exercised in her mind how to get round it, and at last devised a plan whereby she could satisfy herself. Mrs Carrol, Florence's mamma, was ordered to buy, have made and marked a generous supply of house and table linen, and send it as her present. All of which was faithfully done, but the secret leaked out, and was greatly enjoyed by the family; for Aunt March tried to look utterly unconscious, and insisted that she could give nothing but the old-fashioned pearls, long promised to the first bride.

'That's a housewifely taste, which I am glad to see. I had a young friend who set up housekeeping with six sheets, but she had finger bowls for company, and that satisfied her,' said Mrs. March, patting the damask tablecloths with a truly feminine appreciation of their fineness.

'I haven't a single finger bowl, but this is a "set out" that will last me all my days, Hannah says;" and Meg looked quite contented, as well she might.

13 April 2010

from The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street (Helene Hanff)

We went outside and saw the playing fields where all those wars were supposedly won. Boys were playing cricket, a few strolled by swinging tennis rackets. On Saturdays the boys are allowed to wear ordinary sports clothes but we saw several in the Eton uniform: black tail coat, white shirt, striped trousers. PB says they don't wear the top hat any more except on state occasions. (Those top hats kept the boys out of trouble. If an Eton boy tried to sneak into an off-limits pub or movie, the manager could spot that top hat from anywhere in the house and throw him out.)

The faces of the boys are unbelievably clean and chiseled and beautiful. And the tail coats - which must have looked outlandish in the 1940's and 50's - look marvelously appropriate with the long hair the boys wear now. What with the cameo faces, the long hair brushed to a gleam and the perfectly cut tails, they looked like improbable Edwardian princes.

25 March 2010

from The Lord of the Rings, book 6, chapter 4, The Field of Cormallen (J.R.R. Tolkien)

'Noon?' said Sam, trying to calculate. 'Noon of what day?'

'The fourteenth of the New Year,' said Gandalf; 'or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire-reckoning. But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King.'

The Annunciation and Passion (John Donne)

Tamely, frail body, abstain to-day; to-day
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away;
She sees Him nothing, twice at once, who's all;
She sees a cedar plant itself, and fall;
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead;
She sees at once the Virgin Mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she's seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty, and at scarce fifteen;
At once a son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriell gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she's in orbity;
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
Th' abridgement of Christ's story, which makes one —
As in plain maps, the furthest west is east —
Of th' angel's Ave, and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God's Court of Faculties,
Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these.
As by the self-fix'd Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where th'other is, and which we say —
Because it strays not far — doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to him, we know,
And stand firm, if we by her motion go.
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar, doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud; to one end both.
This Church by letting those days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one;
Or 'twas in Him the same humility,
That He would be a man, and leave to be;
Or as creation He hath made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating spouse would join in one
Manhood's extremes; He shall come, He is gone;
Or as though one blood drop, which thence did fall,
Accepted, would have served, He yet shed all,
So though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords.
This treasure then, in gross, my soul, uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

from The Wind in the Willows, chapter I, The River Bank (Kenneth Grahame)

The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. It was small wonder, then, that he suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said 'Bother!' and 'O blow!' and also 'Hang spring-cleaning!' and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel which answered in his case to the gravelled carriage-drive owned by animals whose residences are nearer to the sun and air. So he scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged and then he scrooged again and scrabbled and scratched and scraped, working busily with his little paws and muttering to himself, 'Up we go! Up we go!' till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight, and he found himself rolling in the warm grass of a great meadow.

'This is fine!' he said to himself. 'This is better than whitewashing!' The sunshine struck hot on his fur, soft breezes caressed his heated brow, and after the seclusion of the cellarage he had lived in so long the carol of happy birds fell on his dulled hearing almost like a shout. Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning, he pursued his way across the meadow till he reached the hedge on the further side.

21 March 2010

Dust of Snow (Robert Frost)

The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Freshen the Flowers, She Said (Mary Oliver)

So I put them in the sink, for the cool porcelain
was tender,
and took out the tattered and cut each stem
on a slant,
trimmed the black and raggy leaves, and set them all -
roses, delphiniums, daisies, iris, lilies,
and more whose names I don't know, in bright new water -
gave them

a bounce upward at the end to let them take
their own choice of position, the wheels, the spurs,
the little sheds of the buds. It took, to do this,
perhaps fifteen minutes.
Fifteen minutes of music
with nothing playing.

05 March 2010

'O God of earth and altar' (G.K. Chesterton)

O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry,
Our earthly rulers falter,
Our people drift and die;
The walls of gold entomb us,
The swords of scorn divide,
Take not thy thunder from us,
But take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
Of honour and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord.

Tie in a living tether
The prince and priest and thrall,
Bind all our lives together,
Smite us and save us all;
In ire and exultation
Aflame with faith, and free,
Lift up a living nation,
A single sword to thee.

'For Life I had never cared greatly' (Thomas Hardy)

For Life I had never cared greatly,
As worth a man's while;
Peradventures unsought,
Peradventures that finished in nought,
Had kept me from youth and through manhood till lately
Unwon by its style.

In earliest years - why I know not -
I viewed it askance;
Conditions of doubt,
Conditions that leaked slowly out,
May haply have bent me to stand and to show not
Much zest for its dance.

With symphonies soft and sweet colour
It courted me then,
Till evasions seemed wrong,
Till evasions gave in to its song,
And I warmed, until living aloofly loomed duller
Than life among men.

Anew I found nought to set eyes on,
When, lifting its hand,
It uncloaked a star,
Uncloaked it from fog-damps afar,
And showed its beams burning from pole to horizon
As bright as a brand.

And so, the rough highway forgetting,
I pace hill and dale
Regarding the sky,
Regarding the vision on high,
And thus re-illumed have no humour for letting
My pilgrimage fail.

19 February 2010

The Green Eye of the Yellow God (J. Milton Hayes)

There's a one-eyed yellow idol
To the north of Kathmandu;
There's a little marble cross below the town;
And a brokenhearted woman
Tends the grave of 'Mad' Carew,
While the yellow god for ever gazes down.

He was known as 'Mad' Carew
By the subs at Kathmandu,
He was hotter than they felt inclined to tell,
But, for all his foolish pranks,
He was worshipped in the ranks,
And the Colonel's daughter smiled on him as well.

He had loved her all along
With the passion of the strong,
And that she returned his love was plain to all.
She was nearly twenty-one,
And arrangements were begun
To celebrate her birthday with a ball.

He wrote to ask what present
She would like from 'Mad' Carew;
They met next day as he dismissed a squad:
And jestingly she made pretence
That nothing else would do ...
But the green eye of the little yellow god.

On the night before the dance
'Mad' Carew seemed in a trance,
And they chaffed him as they pulled at their cigars,
But for once he failed to smile,
And he sat alone awhile,
Then went out into the night ... beneath the stars.

He returned, before the dawn,
With his shirt and tunic torn,
And a gash across his temples ... dripping red.
He was patched up right away,
And he slept all through the day
While the Colonel's daughter watched beside his bed.

He woke at last and asked her
If she'd send his tunic through.
She brought it and he thanked her with a nod.
He bade her search the pocket,
Saying, 'That's from "Mad" Carew,'
And she found ... the little green eye of the god.

She upbraided poor Carew,
In the way that women do,
Although her eyes were strangely hot and wet,
But she would not take the stone,
And Carew was left alone
With the jewel that he'd chanced his life to get.

When the ball was at its height
On that still and tropic night,
She thought of him ... and hastened to his room.
As she crossed the barrack square
She could hear the dreamy air
Of a waltz tune softly stealing thro' the gloom.

His door was open wide,
With silver moonlight shining through;
The place was wet and slippery where she trod;
An ugly knife lay buried
In the heart of 'Mad' Carew ...
'Twas the vengeance of the little yellow god.

There's a one-eyed yellow idol
To the north of Kathmandu;
There's a little marble cross below the town;
And a brokenhearted woman
Tends the grave of 'Mad' Carew,
While the yellow god for ever gazes down.

14 February 2010

'Alleluia, dulce carmen' (anonymous, trans. J.M. Neale)

Alleluia, dulce carmen,
Vox perennis gaudii,
Alleluia laus suavis
Est choris coelestibus,
Quam canunt Dei manentes
In domo per saecula.

Alleluia laeta mater
Concivis Jerusalem:
Alleluia vox tuorum
Civium gaudentium:
Exsules nos flere cogunt
Babylonis flumina.

Alleluia non meremur
In perenne psallere;
Alleluia nos reatus
Cogit intermittere;
Tempus instat quo peracta
Lugeamus crimina.

Unde laudando precamur
Te beata Trinitas,
Ut tuum nobis videre
Pascha des in aethere,
Quo tibi laeti canamus
Alleluia perpetim.

Alleluya, song of sweetness,
Voice of joy, eternal lay;
Alleluya is the anthem
Of the quires in heavenly day,
Which the Angels sing, abiding
In the house of God alway.

Alleluya thou resoundest,
Salem, Mother ever blest;
Alleluyas without ending
Fit yon place of gladsome rest;
Exiles we, by Babel’s waters
Sit in bondage and distrest.

Alleluya we deserve not
Here to chant for evermore:
Alleluya our transgressions
Make us for awhile give o’er;
For the holy time is coming
Bidding us our sins deplore.

Trinity of endless glory,
Hear thy people as they cry;
Grant us all to keep thine Easter
In our home beyond the sky;
There to thee our Alleluya
Singing everlastingly. Amen.

24 January 2010

from Busman's Honeymoon, chapter VI, Back to the Army Again (Dorothy L. Sayers)

'Do,' said Harriet. 'I'll come in a moment.'

She let them go and turned to Peter, who stood motionless, staring down at the table. Oh, my God! she thought, startled by his face, he's a middle-aged man — the half of life gone — he mustn't —

'Peter, my poor dear! And we came here for a quiet honeymoon!'

He turned at her touch and laughed ruefully.

'Damn!' he said. 'And damn! Back to the old grind. Rigor mortis and who-saw-him-last, blood-prints, finger-prints, footprints, information received and it-is-my-dooty-to-warn-you. Quelle scie, mon dieu, quelle scie!'

A young man in a blue uniform put his head in at the door.

'Now then,' said Police-constable Sellon, 'wot's all this?'

10 January 2010

from Der Rosenkavalier, Act Three (Hugo von Hofmannsthal)


Hab' mir's gelobt, ihn lieb zu haben in der richtigen Weis',
daß ich selbst sein Lieb' zu einer andern
noch lieb hab! Hab' mir freilich nicht gedacht,
daß es so bald mir auferlegt sollt' werden!


Es sind die mehreren Dinge auf der Welt,
so daß sie ein's nicht glauben tät',
wenn man sie möcht' erzählen hör'n.
Alleinig wer's erlebt, der glaubt daran und weiß nicht wie -
Da steht der Bub' und da steh' ich, und mit dem fremden Mädel dort
wird er so glücklich sein, als wie halt Männer
das Glücklichsein versteh'n.

(I chose to love him in the right way,
so that I would love even his love for another!
I truly didn't believe
that I would have to bear it so soon!


Most things in this world
are unbelievable
when you hear about them.
But when they happen to you, you believe them, and don't know why -
There stands the boy and here I stand, and with that strange girl
he will be as happy as any man
knows how to be.)

07 January 2010

List of Illustrations from The Great Book of True Stories (London 1936)

IN BOUNDED THE LIONS by Dudley Cowes Frontispiece









HE WAS FIVE YARDS AWAY by S. Tresilian 313







HER HAND CLUTCHED AT MINE by Cyril Holloway 661

from Winter Holiday, chapter XI, Cragfast Sheep (Arthur Ransome)

He remembered then that, after the sheep was lowered, one of the others would have to go all the way back and down into the gully to untie it before they could let him have the rope for the return journey. All that time he would have to sit on the ledge there, with his back against the face of the rock, and wait, and wait, and not look down at his feet. Well, those buzzards were still there.

And then, suddenly, he was startled by a shout from Roger, out of sight above him.

'Here come the dogs!'

And away to the left, far below him, he saw the sledge party coming up the gully, and knew that they had seen him.

John would be there to undo the sheep. It was too late now to try again, but he did wish he had been able to manage a rather more seamanlike knot.

from The Invention of Love, Act Two (Tom Stoppard)

Housman (watching the runners) What do I want?

Chamberlain Nothing which you'd call indecent, though I don't see what's wrong with it myself. You want to be brothers-in-arms, to have him to yourself ... to be shipwrecked together, (to) perform valiant deeds to earn his admiration, to save him from certain death, to die for him - to die in his arms, like a Spartan, kissed once on the lips ... or just run his errands in the meanwhile. You want him to know what cannot be spoken, and to make the perfect reply, in the same language. (Pause. Still without inflection) He's going to win it. (Finally he warms into excitement as the race passes in front of them.) By God, he is! Come on, Jackson! Up the Patent Office! ... He's won it!