27 November 2011

Advent Calendar (Rowan Williams)

He will come like last leaf's fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud's folding.

He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.

He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.

He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.

07 November 2011

from Pride and Prejudice, chapter 51 (Jane Austen)

Elizabeth could bear it no longer. She got up, and ran out of the room; and returned no more, till she heard them passing through the hall to the dining parlour. She then joined them soon enough to see Lydia, with anxious parade, walk up to her mother's right hand, and hear her say to her eldest sister, ‘Ah! Jane, I take your place now, and you must go lower, because I am a married woman.’

22 September 2011

from The First Four Years, part 4, A Year of Grace (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

Manly and Peter were putting up hay on some land two miles away a week later.  Laura started the fire for supper in the kitchen stove.  The summer fuel was old, tough, long, slough hay, and Manly had brought an armful into the kitchen and put it down near the stove.

After lighting the fire and putting the tea kettle on, Laura went back into the other part of the house, shutting the kitchen door.

When she opened it again, a few minutes later, the whole inside of the kitchen was ablaze: the ceiling, the hay, and the floor underneath and wall behind.

As usual, a strong wind was blowing from the south, and by the time the neighbours arrived to help, the whole house was in flames.

Manly and Peter had seen the fire and come on the run with the team and the load of hay.

Laura had thrown one bucket of water on the fire in the hay, and then, knowing she was not strong enough to work the pump for more water, taking the little deed-box from the bedroom and Rose by the hand, she ran out and dropped on the ground in the little half-circle drive before the house.  Burying her face on her kneees she screamed and sobbed, saying over and over, 'Oh, what will Manly say to me?'  And there Manly found her and Rose, just as the house roof was falling in.

The neighbours had done what they could but the fire was so fierce that they were unable to go into the house.

Mr Sheldon had gone in through the pantry window and thrown all the dishes out through it towards the trunk of the little cottonwood tree, so the silver wedding knives and forks and spoons rolled up in their wrappers had survived.  Nothing else had been saved from the fire except the deed-box, a few work clothes, three sauce dishes from the first Christmas, and the oval glass bread plate around the margin of which were the words, 'Give us this day our daily bread'.

And the young cottonwood stood by the open cellar hole, scorched and blackened and dead.

After the fire Laura and Rose stayed at her Pa's for a few days.  The top of Laura's head had been blistered from the fire and something was wrong with her eyes.  The doctor said the heat had injured the nerves and so she rested for a little at her old home, but at the end of the week Manly came for her.

Mr Sheldon needed a housekeeper and gave Laura and Manly houseroom and use of his furniture in return for board for himself and his brother.  Now Laura was so busy she had no time for worry, caring for her family of three men, Peter, and Rose, through the rest of the haying and while Manly and Peter built a long shanty, three rooms in a row, near the ruins of their house.  It was built of only one thickness of boards and tar-papered on the outside, but it was built tightly, and being new, it was very snug and quite warm.

September nights were growing cool when the new house was ready and moved into.  The twenty-fifth of August had passed unnoticed and the year of grace was ended.

13 September 2011

from An Enemy at Green Knowe (Lucy M. Boston)

The entrance hall was delightfully enclosing and reassuring, full as always of flowers and birds' nests, the lights relayed from mirror to mirror all down its length, and all the scatter of happy living - secateurs, baskets, books, letters and anything-to-hand lying on the tables.  The coloured stairs led up invitingly, but to get to the attic you had to pass through the Knights' Hall, which, if it had been alone for some hours, had a habit of slipping back to its own century.  However much you loved it, Tolly thought, it always needed a little resolution to break away into its privacy at night.

'You didn't tell us anything about the witchball,' he reminded Mrs Oldknow, to postpone the moment.  'May we see it, please?'

The witchball was hanging from the middle beam of the room nearest the front door.  It was made of looking-glass and had a diameter of about eighteen inches.  The glass was old and the silvering was old.  It did not glitter like modern glass, but reflected in an almost velvety way.  Being round, what it reflected was a spherical room, something difficult to look at because impossible to imagine.  There were no straight lines at all, no right angles.  Floor, ceiling, doors, windows, tables and chairs all curved softly around its shape.  Ping and Tolly, standing underneath looking up at it, appeared to be diving out of it face first, their bodies foreshortened and tapering, like tadpoles.

'You see,' said Mrs Oldknow, 'it reflects everything, even what is behind it, though that for some reason is upside down, which is supposed to be how our eyes really see things.'

'What is it used for, Granny?'

'Is it for seeing the future?'

'It looks as though it should be.  You could easily see strange things in a spherical mirror-room where even ordinary things look so queer.  Something could be there for quite a long time before you noticed it.  Besides, it's always easier to see visions in a glass than in reality.  But I believe it was supposed to keep away demons.  I don't know why.  Perhaps because if anyone had an attendant demon and came anywhere near the witchball they would risk the demon being seen.  You must admit it looks magic enough for anything.'

'You would have to learn how to look into it,' said Tolly sensibly.  'It is difficult to recognize things in it, especially upside down.'

'A demon, if there was one,' said Ping, 'wouldn't like being reflected, even if no one saw.  It might steal some of his power.'

'I'm sure that's right, Ping,' said the old lady.  'Unlike ghosts who want to be seen and use looking-glasses to do it.'

'I suppose that is why you have so many looking-glasses in the hall,'  said Tolly.  'I like the house-ghosts too.  But I think I would be happier tonight if the witchball was hanging in our bedroom.  May we take it up?  I don't want any of Dr Vogel's companions clutching at me.'

Mrs Oldknow laughed.  'Don't tell me you have sold your soul so young!  I am counting on you to be one of the stalwart guardians of the place.  You should be clutching demons by the tail, not they you.'

'Green Knowe doesn't need guardians,' said Tolly, showing in his face how proud he was of it.  'It can't have any enemies.'

'It has enemies and it needs guarding all the time,' said the old lady.  'In spite of all the Preservation Societies it wouldn't be there another five years if we stopped watching and guarding it.  The very fact that it has lasted so long makes some people impatient.  Time it went, they say, without further argument.  The fact that it is different from anywhere else, with memories and standards of its own, makes quite a lot of people very angry indeed.  Things have no right to be different.  Everything should be alike.  Over and above all the rest, it seems to me to have something I can't put a name to, which always has had enemies.  Lift the witchball down, Tolly.  We'll take it up to the attic.  It is wasted in my workroom.  It really is a beauty.'

They carried it carefully upstairs and hung it from a beam.  It was a great addition.  It reflected back Ping and Tolly in their beds, though even when they sat up and waved their arms it was difficult to find themselves in it.  One is not used to seeing one's self feet upwards.

04 September 2011

from How to Run Your Home without Help, chapter XIX, Entertaining with Enjoyment (Kay Smallshaw)

'Having friends in' or 'throwing a party' according to your vocabulary and the kind of hospitality you like to offer, can be one of the pleasanter things in life.  It can also be disappointingly hard work.  No one really enjoys being entertained when the preparation has obviously tired out the hostess in advance.  Yet the welcome seems to lack some warmth when no effort has been made to make the occasion something a little out of the ordinary.  Single-handed, you mustn't be too ambitious, although very naturally you want your guests to feel that visiting you is a delightful event in every way.

The kind of hospitality you offer will depend upon your own temperament, as well as your pocket.  If you're gregarious you'll like to have plenty of visitors, even if it means that there can't be very much in the way of refreshments.  On the other hand, you may get more satisfaction from inviting one or two friends to tea, or to a little dinner-party every so often, knowing that, in a simple way, everything is perfect.  So set your own style; and choose your guests to match.  Then if you plan carefully, everyone, host and hostess included, should have a good time.

But whatever the usual programme, you'll want to show, once or twice at least, what you can do in the way of a sit-down evening meal.  In-laws will like to see the new home, and you want to exhibit your skill as both hostess and cook.  Combining these two rôles successfully is quite a test, but if your husband says afterwards: 'You did wonderfully', everything will have been worthwhile.

24 August 2011

from Pale Fire, Canto Three (Vladimir Nabokov)

And yet
It missed the gist of the whole thing; it missed
What mostly interests the preterist;
For we die every day; oblivion thrives
Not on dry thighbones but on blood-ripe lives,
And our best yesterdays are now foul piles
Of crumpled names, phone numbers and foxed files.
I'm ready to become a floweret
Or a fat fly, but never, to forget.
And I'll turn down eternity unless
The melancholy and the tenderness
Of mortal life; the passion and the pain;
The claret taillight of that dwindling plane
Off Hesperus; your gesture of dismay
On running out of cigarettes; the way
You smile at dogs; the trail of silver slime
Snails leave on flagstones; this good ink, this rhyme,
This index card, this slender rubber band
Which always forms, when dropped, an ampersand,
Are found in Heaven by the newlydead
Stored in its strongholds through the years.

20 August 2011

from The Old Wives' Tale, book two, Constance, chapter 2, Christmas and the Future (Arnold Bennett)

All these changes in six years! The almanacs were in the right of it. But nothing had happened to her. Gradually she had obtained a sure ascendency over her mother, yet without seeking it, merely as the outcome of time's influences on her and on her mother respectively. Gradually she had gained skill and use in the management of her household and of her share of the shop, so that these machines ran smoothly and effectively and a sudden contretemps no longer frightened her. Gradually she had constructed a chart of Samuel's individuality, with the submerged rocks and perilous currents all carefully marked, so that she could now voyage unalarmed in those seas. But nothing happened. Unless their visits to Buxton could be called happenings! Decidedly the visit to Buxton was the one little hill that rose out of the level plain of the year. They had formed the annual habit of going to Buxton for ten days. They had a way of saying: 'Yes, we always go to Buxton. We went there for our honeymoon, you know.' They had become confirmed Buxtonites, with views concerning St. Anne's Terrace, the Broad Walk and Peel's Cavern. They could not dream of deserting their Buxton. It was the sole possible resort. Was it not the highest town in England? Well, then! They always stayed at the same lodgings, and grew to be special favourites of the landlady, who whispered of them to all her other guests as having come to her house for their honeymoon, and as never missing a year, and as being most respectable, superior people in quite a large way of business. Each year they walked out of Buxton station behind their luggage on a truck, full of joy and pride because they knew all the landmarks, and the lie of all the streets, and which were the best shops.

19 August 2011

from True at First Light (Ernest Hemingway)

'Everybody was so serious,' Miss Mary said. 'I never saw all of you joke people get so serious.'

'Honey, it would have been awful if I had had to kill her. And I was worried about you.'

'Everybody so serious,' she said. 'And everybody holding on to my arm. I knew how to get back to the car. Nobody had to hold on to my arm.'


The day after a heavy rain is a splendid day for the propagation of religion while the time of the rain itself seems to turn men's minds from the beauty of their faith. All rain had stopped now and I was sitting by the fire drinking tea and looking out over the sodden country. Miss Mary was still sleeping soundly because there was no sun to wake her. Mwindi came to the table by the fire with a fresh pot of hot tea and poured me a cup.

'Plenty rain,' he said. 'Now finished.'

'Mwindi,' I said. 'You know what the Mahdi said. "We see plainly in the laws of nature that rain comes down from the heavens in the time of need. The greenness and verdure of the earth depend upon heavenly rain. If it ceases for a time the water in the upper strata of the earth gradually dries up. Thus we see that there is an attraction between the heavenly and the earthly waters. Revelation stands in the same relation to human reason as heavenly water does to the earthly water."'

'Too much rain for campi. Plenty good for Shamba,' Mwindi announced.

'"As with the cessation of heavenly water earthly water begins gradually to dry up; so also is the case of the human reason which without the heavenly revelation loses its purity and strength."'

'How I know that is Mahdi?' Mwindi said.

'Ask Charo.'

Mwindi grunted. He knew Charo was very devout but not a theologian.


Miss Mary was writing a great poem about Africa but the trouble was that she made it up in her head sometimes and forgot to write it down and then it would be gone like dreams. She wrote some of it down but she would not show it to anybody. We all had great faith in her poem about Africa and I still have but I would like it better if she would actually write it. We were all reading the Georgics then in the C. Day Lewis translation. We had two copies but they were always being lost or mislaid and I have never known a book to be more mis-layable. The only fault I could ever find with the Mantovan was that he made all normally intelligent people feel as though they too could write great poetry. Dante only made crazy people feel they could write great poetry. That was not true of course but then almost nothing was true and especially not in Africa. In Africa a thing is true at first light and a lie by noon and you have no more respect for it than for the lovely, perfect weed-fringed lake you see across the sun-baked salt plain. You have walked across that plain in the morning and you know that no such lake is there. But now it is there absolutely true, beautiful and believable.


That night Mary said she was very tired and she went to sleep in her own bed. I lay awake for a while and then went out to sit by the fire. In the chair watching the fire and thinking of Pop and how sad it was he was not immortal and how happy I was that he had been able to be with us so much and that we had been lucky to have three or four things together that were like the old days along with just the happiness of being together and talking and joking, I went to sleep.

05 August 2011

The Return of Odysseus (George Bilgere)

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what's-his-name.

And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

04 August 2011

from The Moving Toyshop, chapter 10, The Episode of the Interrupted Seminar (Edmund Crispin)

They were assembled by a means peculiar to Oxford - vague promises of excitement accompanied by more definite promises of drink.

31 July 2011

from Maskerade (Terry Pratchett)

'Well, basically there are two sorts of opera,' said Nanny, who also had the true witch's ability to be confidently expert on the basis of no experience whatsoever. 'There's your heavy opera, where basically people sing foreign and it goes like "Oh oh oh, I am dyin', oh, I am dyin', oh, oh, oh, that's what I am doin'", and there's your light opera, where they sing in foreign and it basically goes "Beer! Beer! Beer! Beer! I like to drink lots of beer!", although sometimes they drink champagne instead. That's basically all of opera, reely.'

from Moving Pictures (Terry Pratchett)

'And you can nearly hear voices,' she added.

'You can't nearly hear voices,' said Victor, in the hope that his own rational mind would believe him. 'You either hear them or you don't. Listen, we're both just tired. That's all it is. We've been working hard and, er, not getting much sleep, so it's understandable that we think we're nearly hearing and seeing things.'

'Oh, so you're nearly seeing things, are you?' said Ginger triumphantly. 'And don't you go around using that calm and reasonable tone of voice on me,' she added. 'I hate it when people go around being calm and reasonable at me.'

from The Professor, chapter XXIII (Charlotte Brontë)

Now, reader, during the last two pages I have been giving you honey fresh from flowers, but you must not live entirely on food so luscious; taste then a little gall - just a drop, by way of change.

At a somewhat late hour I returned to my lodgings: having temporarily forgotten that man had any such coarse cares as those of eating and drinking, I went to bed fasting. I had been excited and in action all day, and had tasted no food since eight that morning; besides, for a fortnight past, I had known no rest either of body or mind; the last few hours had been a sweet delirium, it would not subside now, and till long after midnight, broke with troubled ecstacy the rest I so much needed. At last I dozed, but not for long; it was yet quite dark when I awoke, and my waking was like that of Job when a spirit passed before his face, and like him, "The hair of my flesh stood up." I might continue the parallel, for in truth, though I saw nothing yet "A thing was secretly brought unto me, and mine ear received a little thereof; there was silence, and I heard a voice," saying:

"In the midst of Life, we are in Death."

That sound, and the sensation of chill anguish accompanying it, many would have regarded as supernatural; but I recognized it at once as the effect of reaction. Man is ever clogged with his Mortality, and it was my mortal nature which now faltered and plained; my nerves, which jarred and gave a false sound, because the soul, of late rushing headlong to an aim, had overstrained the body's comparative weakness. A horror of great darkness fell upon me; I felt my chamber invaded by one I had known formerly, but had thought for ever departed: I was temporarily a prey to Hypochondria. She had been my acquaintance, nay, my guest, once before in boyhood; I had entertained her at bed and board for a year; for that space of time I had her to myself in secret; she lay with me, she ate with me, she walked out with me, showing me nooks in woods, hollows in hills, where we could sit together, and where she could drop her drear veil over me, and so hide sky and sun, grass and green tree; taking me entirely to her death-cold bosom, and holding me with arms of bone. What tales she would tell me at such hours! What songs she would recite in my ears! How she would discourse to me of her own Country - The Grave - and again and again promise to conduct me there ere long; and, drawing me to the very brink of a black, sullen river, show me, on the other side, shores unequal with mound, monument, and tablet, standing up in a glimmer more hoary than moonlight. "Necropolis!" she would whisper, pointing to the pale piles, and add, "It contains a mansion, prepared for you."

But my boyhood was lonely, parentless; uncheered by brother or sister; and there was no marvel that, just as I rose to youth, a sorceress, finding me lost in vague mental wanderings, with many affections and few objects, glowing aspirations and gloomy prospects, strong desires and slender hopes, should lift up her illusive lamp to me in the distance, and lure me to her vaulted home of horrors. No wonder her spells then had power; but now, when my course was widening, my prospect brightening; when my affections had found a rest; when my desires, folding wings, weary with long flight, had just alighted on the very lap of Fruition, and nestled there warm, content, under the caress of a soft hand - why did Hypochondria accost me now?

I repulsed her, as one would a dreaded and ghastly concubine coming to embitter a husband's heart toward his young bride; in vain; she kept her sway over me for that night and the next day, and eight succeeding days. Afterwards my spirits began slowly to recover their tone; my appetite returned, and in a fortnight I was well. I had gone about as usual all the time, and had said nothing to anybody of what I felt, but I was glad when the evil spirit departed from me, and I could again seek Frances and sit at her side freed from the dreadful tyranny of my demon.

03 July 2011

Binsey Poplars, felled 1879 (Gerard Manley Hopkins)

My aspens dear, whose airy cages quelled,
Quelled or quenched in leaves the leaping sun,
All felled, felled, are all felled;
Of a fresh and following folded rank
Not spared, not one
That dandled a sandalled
Shadow that swam or sank
On meadow and river and wind-wandering weed-winding bank.

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew -
Hack and rack the growing green!
Since country is so tender
To touch, her being só slender,
That, like this sleek and seeing ball
But a prick will make no eye at all,

Where we, even where we mean
To mend her we end her,
When we hew or delve:
After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.
Ten or twelve, only ten or twelve
Strokes of havoc únselve
The sweet especial scene,
Rural scene, a rural scene,
Sweet especial rural scene.

26 April 2011

Hymnus ad incensum lucernae [Cathemerinon 5] (Prudentius)

Inventor rutili, dux bone, luminis
qui certis vicibus tempora dividis,
merso sole chaos ingruit horridum,
lucem redde tuis Christe fidelibus.

Quamvis innumero sidere regiam
lunarique polum lampade pinxeris,
incussu silicis lumina nos tamen
monstras saxigeno semine quaerere:

Ne nesciret homo spem sibi luminis
in Christi solido corpore conditam,
qui dici stabilem se voluit petram,
nostris igniculis unde genus venit.

Pinguis quos olei rore madentibus
lychnis aut facibus pascimus aridis:
quin et fila favis scirpea floreis
presso melle prius conlita fingimus.

Vivax flamma viget, seu cava testula
sucum linteolo suggerit ebrio,
seu pinus piceam fert alimoniam,
seu ceram teretem stuppa calens bibit.

Nectar de liquido vertice fervidum
guttatim lacrimis stillat olentibus,
ambustum quoniam vis facit ignea
imbrem de madido flere cacumine.

Splendent ergo tuis muneribus, Pater,
flammis mobilibus scilicet atria,
absentemque diem lux agit aemula,
quam nox cum lacero victa fugit peplo.

Sed quis non rapidi luminis arduam
manantemque Deo cernat originem?
Moyses nempe Deum spinifera in rubo
vidit conspicuo lumine flammeum.

Felix, qui meruit sentibus in sacris
caelestis solii visere principem,
iussus nexa pedum vincula solvere,
ne sanctum involucris pollueret locum.

Hunc ignem populus sanguinis incliti
maiorum meritis tutus et inpotens,
suetus sub dominis vivere barbaris,
iam liber sequitur longa per avia:

qua gressum tulerant castraque caerulae
noctis per medium concita moverant,
plebem pervigilem fulgure praevio
ducebat radius sole micantior.

Sed rex Niliaci littoris invido
fervens felle iubet praevalidam manum
in bellum rapidis ire cohortibus
ferratasque acies clangere classicum.

Sumunt arma viri seque minacibus
accingunt gladiis, triste canit tuba:
hic fidit iaculis, ille volantia
praefigit calamis spicula Gnosiis.

Densetur cuneis turba pedestribus,
currus pars et equos et volucres rotas
conscendunt celeres signaque bellica
praetendunt tumidis clara draconibus.

Hic iam servitii nescia pristini
gens Pelusiacis usta vaporibus
tandem purpurei gurgitis hospita
rubris littoribus fessa resederat.

Hostis dirus adest cum duce perfido,
infert et validis praelia viribus:
Moyses porro suos in mare praecipit
constans intrepidis tendere gressibus:

praebent rupta locum stagna viantibus
riparum in faciem pervia, sistitur
circumstans vitreis unda liquoribus,
dum plebs sub bifido permeat aequore.

Pubes quin etiam decolor asperis
inritata odiis rege sub inpio
Hebraeum sitiens fundere sanguinem
audet se pelago credere concavo:

ibant praecipiti turbine percita
fluctus per medios agmina regia,
sed confusa dehinc unda revolvitur
in semet revolans gurgite confluo.

Currus tunc et equos telaque naufraga
ipsos et proceres et vaga corpora
nigrorum videas nare satellitum,
arcis iustitium triste tyrannicae.

Quae tandem poterit lingua retexere
laudes Christe tuas? qui domitam Pharon
plagis multimodis cedere praesuli
cogis iustitiae vindice dextera.

Qui pontum rapidis aestibus invium
persultare vetas, ut refluo in salo
securus pateat te duce transitus,
et mox unda rapax devoret inpios.

Cui ieiuna eremi saxa loquacibus
exundant scatebris, et latices novos
fundit scissa silex, quae sitientibus
dat potum populis axe sub igneo.

Instar fellis aqua tristifico in lacu
fit ligni venia mel velut Atticum:
lignum est, quo sapiunt aspera dulcius;
quam praefixa cruci spes hominum viget.

Inplet castra cibus tunc quoque ninguidus,
inlabens gelida grandine densius:
his mensas epulis, hac dape construunt,
quam dat sidereo Christus ab aethere.

Nec non imbrifero ventus anhelitu
crassa nube leves invehit alites,
quae conflata in humum, cum semel agmina
fluxerunt, reduci non revolant fuga.

Haec olim patribus praemia contulit
insignis pietas numinis unici,
cuius subsidio nos quoque vescimur
pascentes dapibus pectora mysticis.

Fessos ille vocat per freta seculi
discissis populum turbinibus regens
iactatasque animas mille laboribus
iustorum in patriam scandere praecipit.

Illic purpureis tecta rosariis
omnis fragrat humus calthaque pinguia
et molles violas et tenues crocos
fundit fonticulis uda fugacibus.

Illic et gracili balsama surculo
desudata fluunt, raraque cinnama
spirant et folium, fonte quod abdito
praelambens fluvius portat in exitum.

Felices animae prata per herbida
concentu parili suave sonantibus
hymnorum modulis dulce canunt melos,
calcant et pedibus lilia candidis.

Sunt et spiritibus saepe nocentibus
paenarum celebres sub Styge feriae
illa nocte, sacer qua rediit Deus stagnis
ad superos ex Acheronticis.

Non sicut tenebras de face fulgida
surgens oceano Lucifer inbuit,
sed terris Domini de cruce tristibus
maior sole novum restituens diem.

Marcent suppliciis tartara mitibus,
exultatque sui carceris otio
functorum populus liber ab ignibus,
nec fervent solito flumina sulphure.

Nos festis trahimus per pia gaudia
noctem conciliis votaque prospera
certatim vigili congerimus prece
extructoque agimus liba sacrario.

Pendent mobilibus lumina funibus,
quae suffixa micant per laquearia,
et de languidulis fota natatibus
lucem perspicuo flamma iacit vitro.

Credas stelligeram desuper aream
ornatam geminis stare trionibus,
et qua bosporeum temo regit iugum,
passim purpureos spargier hesperos.

O res digna, Pater, quam tibi roscidae
noctis principio grex tuus offerat,
lucem, qua tribuis nil pretiosius,
lucem, qua reliqua praemia cernimus.

Tu lux vera oculis, lux quoque sensibus,
intus tu speculum, tu speculum foris,
lumen, quod famulans offero, suscipe,
tinctum pacifici chrismatis unguine.

Per Christum genitum, summe Pater, tuum,
in quo visibilis stat tibi gloria,
qui noster Dominus, qui tuus unicus
spirat de patrio corde paraclitum.

Per quem splendor, honos, laus, sapientia,
maiestas, bonitas, et pietas tua
regnum continuat numine triplici
texens perpetuis secula seculis.

from The Silver Chair, chapter sixteen, The Healing of Harms (C.S. Lewis)

'Sir,' said Caspian, 'I've always wanted to have just one glimpse of their world. Is that wrong?'

'You cannot want wrong things any more, now that you have died, my son,' said Aslan.

from The Dream of Gerontius (John Henry Newman)


All hail! my child,
My child and brother, hail? what wouldest thou?


I would have nothing but to speak with theee
For speaking's sake. I wish to hold with thee
Conscious communion; though I fain would know
A maze of things, were it but meet to ask,
And not a curiousness.


You cannot now
Cherish a wish which ought not to be wished.

11 April 2011

Still-Life (Elizabeth Daryush)

Through the open French window the warm sun
lights up the polished breakfast-table, laid
round a bowl of crimson roses, for one—
a service of Worcester porcelain, arrayed
near it a melon, peaches, figs, small hot
rolls in a napkin, fairy rack of toast,
butter in ice, high silver coffee pot,
and, heaped on a salver, the morning’s post.

She comes over the lawn, the young heiress,
from her early walk in her garden-wood
feeling that life’s a table set to bless
her delicate desires with all that’s good,

that even the unopened future lies
like a love-letter, full of sweet surprise.

24 March 2011

Vertue (George Herbert)

Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridall of the earth and skie:
The dew shall weep thy fall to night;
For thou must die.

Sweet rose, whose hue angrie and brave
Bids the rash gazer wipe his eye:
Thy root is ever in its grave
And thou must die.

Sweet spring, full of sweet dayes and roses,
A box where sweets compacted lie;
My musick shows ye have your closes,
And all must die.

Onely a sweet and vertuous soul,
Like season'd timber, never gives;
But though the whole world turn to coal,
Then chiefly lives.

21 February 2011

from The Diary of a Provincial Lady and its sequels (E.M. Delafield)

Letter by second post from my dear old school-friend Cissie Crabbe, asking if she may come here for two nights or so on her way to Norwich. (Query: Why Norwich? Am surprised to realise that anybody ever goes to, lives at, or comes from, Norwich, but quite see that this is unreasonable of me. Remind myself how very little one knows of the England one lives in, which vaguely suggests a quotation. This, however, does not materialise.)


Find it difficult to get 'Oranges and Lemons' going, whilst at same time appearing to give intelligent attention to remarks from visiting mother concerning Exhibition of Italian Pictures at Burlington House. Find myself telling her how marvellous I think them, although in actual fact have not yet seen them at all. Realise that this mis-statement should be corrected at once, but omit to do so, and later find myself involved in entirely unintentional web of falsehood. Should like to work out how far morally to blame for this state of things, but have not time.


Cocktails, and wholly admirable dinner, further brighten the evening. I sit next Editor and she rather rashly encourages me to give my opinion of her paper. I do so freely, thanks to cocktail and Editor's charming manners, which combine to produce in me the illusion that my words are witty, valuable and thoroughly well worth listening to. (Am but too well aware that later in the night I shall wake up in cold sweat, and view this scene in retrospect with very different feelings as to my own part in it.)


Barbara weeps. I kiss her. Howard Fitzsimmons selects this moment to walk in with the tea, at which I sit down again in confusion and begin to talk about the Vicarage daffodils being earlier than ours, just as Barbara launches into the verdict in the Podmore Case. We gyrate uneasily in and out of these topics while Howard Fitzsimmons completes his preparations for tea. Atmosphere ruined, and destruction completed by my own necessary enquiries as to Barbara's wishes in the matter of milk, sugar, bread-and-butter, and so on.


Arrival of Time and Tide, find that I have been awarded half of second prize for charming little effort that in my opinion deserves better. Robert's attempt receives an honourable mention. Recognise pseudonym of first-prize winner as being that adopted by Mary Kellway. Should like to think that generous satisfaction envelops me, at dear friend's success, but am not sure. This week's competition announces itself as a Triolet - literary form that I cannot endure, and rules of which I am totally unable to master.


Decide definitely on joining Rose at Ste. Agathe, and write and tell her so. Die now cast, and Rubicon crossed - or rather will be, on achieving further side of the Channel. Robert, on the whole, takes lenient view of entire project, and says he supposes that nothing else will satisfy me, and better not count on really hot weather promised by Rose but take good supply of woollen underwear. Mademoiselle is sympathetic, but theatrical, and exclaims C'est la Ste. Vierge qui a tout arrangé! which sounds like a travel agency, and shocks me.


Photographs taken at Ste. Agathe arrive, and I am - perhaps naturally - much more interested in them than anybody else appears to be. (Bathing dress shows up as being even more becoming than I thought it was, though hair, on the other hand, not at its best - probably owing to salt water.) Notice, regretfully, how much more time I spend in studying views of myself, than on admirable group of delightful friends, or even beauties of Nature, as exemplified in camera studies of sea and sky.


At last we separate, and I tell Rose that this has been the most wonderful evening I have known for years, and she says that champagne often does that, and we go to our respective rooms.

Query presents itself here: Are the effects of alcohol always wholly to be regretted, or do they not sometimes serve useful purpose of promoting self-confidence? Answer, to-night, undoubtedly Yes, but am not prepared to make prediction as to tomorrow's reactions.


Pamela receives me in small room - more looking-glass, but fewer pouffes, and angular blocks are red with blue zigzags - and startles me by kissing me with utmost effusion. This very kind, and only wish I had been expecting it, as could then have responded better and with less appearance of astonishment amounting to alarm.


Bell rings again, and fails to leave off. I am filled with horror, and look up at it - inacessible position, and nothing to be seen except two mysterious little jam-jars and some wires. Climb on a chair to investigate, then fear electrocution and climb down again without having done anything. Housekeeper from upstairs rushes down, and unknown females from basement rush up, and we all look at the ceiling and say Better fetch a Man. This is eventually done, and I meditate ironical article on Feminism, while bell rings on madly. Man, however, arrives, says Ah, yes, he thought as much, and at once reduces bell to order, apparently by sheer power of masculinity.

Am annoyed, and cannot settle down to anything.


Evening at Institute reasonably successful - am much impressed by further display of efficiency from niece, as President - I speak about Books, and obtain laughs by introduction of three entirely irrelevant anecdotes, am introduced to felt hat and fur coat, felt hat and blue jumper, felt hat and tweeds, and so on. Names of all alike remain impenetrably mysterious, as mine no doubt to them.

(Flight of fancy here as to whether this deplorable, but customary, state of affairs is in reality unavoidable? Theory exists that it has been completely overcome in America, where introductions always entirely audible and frequently accompanied by short biographical sketch. Should like to go to America.)


On the whole, am definitely relieved when emerald-brooch owner says that It is too, too sad, but she must fly, as she really is responsible for the whole thing, and it can't begin without her - which might mean a new Permanent Wave, or a command performance at Buckingham Palace, but shall never know now which, as she departs without further explanation.

Make very inferior exit of my own, being quite unable to think of any reason for going except that I have been wanting to almost ever since I arrived - which cannot, naturally, be produced.


Rose's Viscountess - henceforth Anne to me - rings up, and says that she has delightful scheme by which Rose is to motor me on Sunday to place - indistinguishable on telephone - in Buckinghamshire, where delightful Hotel, with remarkably beautiful garden, exists, and where we are to meet Anne and collection of interesting literary friends for lunch. Adds flatteringly that it will be so delightful to meet me again - had meant to say this myself about her, but must now abandon it, being unable to think out paraphrase in time. Reply that I shall look forward to Sunday, and we ring off.


Become surprisingly sleepy at ten o'clock - although this never happened to me in London - and go up to bed.

Extraordinary and wholly undesirable tendency displays itself to sit upon window-seat and think about Myself - but am well aware that this kind of thing never a real success, and that it will be part of wisdom to get up briskly instead and look for shoe-trees to insert in evening-shoes - which I accordingly do; and shortly afterwards find myself in bed and ready to go to sleep.

13 January 2011

Whalesong (Sophie Stephenson-Wright)

I boom-mumble I bass-blow
I hull-heavy I big/slow
I boat-bump I limpet-skin
I soft-sink I sky-swim
I sea-search I salt-swallow
I bone-backed I fluke-follow
I gulf-cross I listen-talk
I moon-map I wave-walk
I tail-turn I time-keep
I ship-wreck I song-seek
I blue-blood I grumble-sing
I fish-heart I dream king

05 January 2011

from Silas Marner, chapter 10 (George Eliot)

Dolly was much puzzled at this new world, but she was rather afraid of inquiring further, lest 'chapel' meant some haunt of wickedness. After a little thought, she said:

'Well, Master Marner, it's niver too late to turn over a new leaf, and if you've niver had no church, there's no telling the good it'll do you. For I feel so set up and comfortable as niver was, when I've been and heard the prayers, and the singing to the praise and glory o' God, as Mr Macey gives out - and Mr Crackenthorp saying good words, and more partic' lar on Sacramen' Day; and if a bit o' trouble comes, I feel as I can put up wi' it, for I've looked for help i' the right quarter, and gev myself up to Them as we must all give ourselves up to at the last; and if we'n done our part, it isn't to be believed as Them as are above us 'ull be worse nor we are, and come short o' Theirn.'

Poor Dolly's exposition of her simple Raveloe theology fell rather unmeaningly on Silas' ears, for there was no word in it that could rouse a memory of what he had known as religion, and his comprehension was quite baffled by the plural pronoun, which was no heresy of Dolly's, but only her way of avoiding a presumptuous familiarity.