Friday, October 9, 2015

Exchanging a word

I read in the morning
papers of a proposal
to update the text of
Shakespeare, and saw
the thought dismissed
as a waste of time.

What more horrid oth-
er loss can there be?

Who knew, convenience
would offer sanctuary
to simple immortality?

Yet we find this for-
tunate calculation at
work in the odd tree,
not clear-cut from the
mountaintop, and the
mute, unbothered, for
having nothing to say.

         Subtle Plato, patron saint of friendship,
         Scolded those nurslings of the myrtle-bed
         Whose tender souls, first seized by love's madness,

         Then stirred to rapturous frenzies, overnight
         Turn sour, their eyes narrowed with suspicions,
         Sleepless, feverishly refusing company.

         The soul, in constant motion because immortal,
         Again and again is "deeply moved" and flies
         To a new favourite, patrolling the upper air

         To settle briefly on this or that heart-
         Stopping beauty, or flutters vainly around
         The flame of its own image, light of its life.

         Better the friend to whom we're drawn by choice
         And not instinct or the glass threads of passion.
         Better the friend with whom we fall in step

         Behind our proper god, or sit beside
         At the riverbend, idly running a finger
         Along his forearm when the conversation turns

         To whether everything craves its opposite,
         As cold its warmth and bitter its honeydrop,
         Or whether like desires like - agreed? -

         Its object akin to the good, recognizing
         In another what is necessary for the self,
         As one may be a friend without knowing how

         To define friendship, which itself so often slips
         Through hands because ... but he's asleep
         On your shoulder by now and probably dreaming

         Of a face he'd glimpsed on the street yesterday,
         The stranger he has no idea will grow irreplaceable
         And with whom he hasn't yet exchanged a word.

J.D. McClatchy
The Rest of the Way
  Dedicated to 
    James Merrill
  An Essay on Friendship
Alfred A. Knopf, 1992©
op. cit.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Autumn prism

I agreed to join a friend
for lunch outside today, of
truite amandine and haricots
verts, and we settled on a
Loire Valley Pinot Noir in
lieu of the usual white sus-
pects, in view of the ample
use of butter in the sauté
of the fish. Our early sips
rebuked our expectations;
but as the butteriness and
the nuttiness built up, we
appreciated how the wine's
vitality in acidity, as we
could have expected from a
fine Riesling or Chablis,
was gainfully augmented by
the bonding tannins in the
Loire Valley flux, without
more butter of Chardonnay
evolved in oak. We linger-
ed in open shade, admiring
the softer sun of this won-
derful season, and I don't
think we will forget the
grace notes of persistent
earth in the gentle, warm,
allusive red.

    as the sun goes down over Ballyknick and Ballymacnab
    and a black-winged angel takes flight.

Paul Muldoon
Moy Sand and Gravel
  [first verse, fragment]
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002©

Monday, October 5, 2015

To be truthfully told

A Dijonnais schoolboy rips off
Charlie Parker LP's during the
siege of Dien Bien Phu, and ac-
cedes, against all odds, to his
hereditary portion of l'esprit

Along the way he endures cler-
ical erotic manipulation, self-
inflicted incest, coitus inter-
tuptus at the hands of his sib-
lings, and all manner of other
unspeakable ordeals, common, we
begin to notice, to Everyman.
But the same priest protects
him, the incestuous parent lib-
erates him, his siblings exalt 
him, as he arrives in bare feet.

We notice ruefully, and then for-
givingly, in seeing the travails
of Western man catalogued for us
as early as 1971, that only their
typifications change, not their
substance; and we begin to ques-
tion whether we are only in a
more harshly uncomprehending era,
for all the candour of our com-

I had no doubt, when I opened
this blog under the sobriquet, 
Laurent, that Louis Malle had
captured in the career of his
defining hero a certain spark
which I've never not admired,
but might have patronised.

Returning to Le souffle au
coeur again for a recent post,
we all saw how much less guilt
there is in this world, than
our heightened consciousness
seems to permit us to accept.
It's no exoneration of the
demagogues, to lighten up on
their claque. We have all
missed something.

I think now, more than when
the movie appeared, it bears
the attention of progressives,
as an admonishment against o-
verdoing the schtick of juris-
prudence in regard to manners,
and in particular, their proud

It follows, as one follows
Laurent, his career of obser-
vation and engagement must al-
low for a suspension of cate-
gories even more vigorously,
not less, because their recon-
ciliaton is likelier than our 
menaces drive us to fear, and

Louis Malle
Le souffle au coeur
  Murmur of the Heart
Nouvelles Éditions de Films

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Provocation and resolve

  The Scylla and Charybdis of
  Sarajevo's sleepwalkers are 
  on everyone's mind, we as-
  sume, as the proud, great
  powers scramble to exploit
  and conceal their weakness
  at the same time. This is
  how a reef becomes a port 
  in a seemingly destined 
  storm. Not by prevarica-
  tion, but by posturing.

  But, now. Where were we?

Christopher Clark
The Sleepwalkers
  How Europe went to
  war in 1914
Allen Lane, 2012©

Lord Patrick Devlin
Too Proud to Fight
  Woodrow Wilson's
Oxford University Press, 1975©

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Class of 2001

   Many will remember the Class of 2001
   as having been shaped as much by the
   razing of a pair of office buildings
   in Manhattan, as by the demonologies
   of a remote, desert culture. But, in
   this group portrait, taken by photo-
   grapher Sasha Wolf in Afghanistan in
   2001, Taliban detainees don't appear
   to have learned very much from an Am-
   erican lesson in political behaviour.

   but who is in detention for neglect-
   ing everything known of its history?

Monday, September 28, 2015


Such nature or rusticity as the
heath represents appears as the
exception rather than the rule
of human existence. Nature has
become the object of an excur-
sion, a change of scene.

[And yet] only those fortified
by urban civility, Hazlitt seems
to say, can withstand rural boor-
ishness. and even the positive
aspects of country life - its
calm and its beauties - are best
appreciated from the standpoint
of urban, urbane values.

Having demonstrated this in his
Satires, Horace would have had
little objection to Constable's
figuring it out, some time later;
and if we must listen daily to a
redneck party's rejection of the
urbane, it is certain, its claim
to arise in nature is no more
than unhinged from it. How well
the history of English painting
portrays its contests as alive.

Ann Bermingham
Landscape and Ideology
  The English Rustic
  Tradition, 1740 - 1860
University of California Press
Berkeley and London, 1986©

Friday, September 25, 2015


    To you, religious women,
    sisters and mothers of
    this people, I wish to
    say, 'thank you ..'

New York
24 ix 2015