Saturday, February 4, 2012

What news of prevailing?

He looked exactly nineteen; he was one of those people whose correct age you never know because they look exactly that and so you tell yourself that he or she cannot possibly be that because he or she looks too exactly that not to take advantage of the appearance: so you never believe implicitly is either that age which they claim or that which in sheer desperation they agree to or which something else reports them to be, strong enough and willing enough for two, for two thousand, for all. Not two of them in a New England college sitting-room but one in a Mississippi library sixty years ago, with holly and mistletoe in vases on the mantel or thrust behind, crowning and garlanding with the season and time the pictures on the walls, and a sprig or so decorating the photograph, the group - mother and two children - on the desk, behind which the father sat when the son entered; and they .. thinking how after the father spoke and before what he said stopped being shock and began to make sense, .. they paced slowly on in that rhythm which not the eyes but the heart marks and calls the beat and measure for, 

to disappear slowly beyond some bush or shrub starred with white bloom - jasmine, spirea, honeysuckle, perhaps myriad scentless unpickable Cherokee roses - names, blooms which Shreve possibly had never heard and never seen although the air had blown over him first which became tempered to nourish them .. It would not matter here in Cambridge that the time had been winter in that garden too, and hence no bloom nor leaf even if there had been someone to walk there and be seen there .. and that not mattering either: what faces and what names they called themselves and were called by so long as the blood coursed - the blood, the immortal brief recent intransient blood which could hold honour above slothy unregret and love above fat and easy shame.

William Faulkner
Absalom, Absalom!
Random House, 1936©

Friday, February 3, 2012

Asphalt passage


Fabienne Verdier ink on paper

Suppose it were Friday liv: Virginia Senate lurches into lechery

The Virginia Senate, in a grotesque Party-line vote for the unconscionably inhumane treatment of all pregnant captives of its jurisdiction, has moved to compel the burden and the frivolously punitive trauma of a mandatory ultra-sound invasion of the womb before any procedure to terminate a pregnancy. Gallantly, our cavaliers do not compel the patient to view the illustrations arising from this lewd prank, nakedly gutting its own pretenses. 

But there is, so tellingly and so chronically in their endless horror of female empowerment, the lechery of the lying Giacomo in Shakespeare's Cymbeline, seducing her husband to believe her unfaithful. At the core of this jest of rectitude, they need an image to project their fearful pruriency; if it isn't Cymbeline's mole, it's the shadow of an ultra-sound:

   For further satisfying, under her breast
   (Worthy her pressing) lies a mole, right proud
   Of that most delicate lodging. By my life,
   I kiss'd it, and it gave me present hunger
   To feed again, though full. You do remember
   This stain upon her? 

   Ay, and it doth confirm
   Another stain, as big as hell can hold ..

Not merely exulting in the wings, but exhorting this stark oppression forward, has been the Pat Robertson-trained zealot Governor, defending himself by asserting the duty to inform the sub-citizen gender of its incompetence. Now running for Vice-President, he is the same man who lied to gain election, by repudiating his own thesis to get an academic degree. Now he has the allies he needs. In its freshly minted profile of dis-embodied dogmatic degeneracy, the present gov-ernment of the Commonwealth of Virginia rushes to the beat of fanaticism. 

This is the face of that Party which demands this year to rule this nation. Again and again, if not more constantly, its hypocrisies are equalled in number and purity only by its tautologies. They cite a dogma for every abuse of right they inflict. The Party which con-tests the obligation to accept health insurance as unconstitutional has voted to compel a procedure and its many dimensions of cost against the inviolable exercise of a Constitutional right, as a benign act of illumination. Wherever it can, throughout the nation, this Party is imposing torturous burdens upon the right to vote, but it has not resorted yet to the ostensible practice of medicine to deter the young, the poor, and the unwhite from the polls. I wait in confidence for that brainwave.

Beneath it all, the nasty sucktooth cracker and the smirking fratboy preen to claim the auspices of sectarian chivalry. There is nothing about this intimidation, this humiliation, this worse than sordid invasion of human rights which is not directly traceable to gender chauvinism and dilettante rape. Decent people shudder to bear the name of their faith. 

William Shakespeare
  II, 134-140
The Arden Shakespeare
J.M. Nosworthy, editor
Methuen & Co., Ltd, 1955©

Stephen Greenblatt
Shakespeare's Freedom
op. cit.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"I don't want to make a good Champagne"

Ralph Adams Cram crafted this undergraduate residence with 
local native limestone. I know its embrace. A Champagne may be based on Chardonnay with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It may sometimes be only Chardonnay; or it may have none. It has always been a matter of style. But where does it come from?

Famously, yet not without justification, Champagne is the one great appellation in our planet's sublimest wine culture to draw from a diffuse if hierarchical array of vineyard sources; and this is changing.

A diversity of metaphor is natural to extract from a concentration of taste, but in Champagne, at last the underlying cépage is being concentrated, from circumscribed clos often bordered by native stone. Great houses - Krug, Billecart-Salmon - are already heavily invested in this approach, which dates from Charlemagne at the hill of Corton, and from Virgil before him. The theory - some would say, the vision - is to portray the land as the origin of its most celebratory metaphor. A reformation is being led by a resolute second-generation vigneron, who has con-ceived of it this way:

"I don't want to make a good Champagne; I don't even want to make a good Chardonnay. I want to make a great Avize," referring to the village domiciling his vineyard. His name is Anselme Selosse, and his wines bear the prénom of his father, Jacques. But more and more, the labels of the region are bearing the unknown names of the little towns, Avize, Ambonnay, not the great négocéant centers of yore, Reims, Ay, or Épernay.

The wine world, and if one may draw the distinction this way, the human world have an ever growing sympathy for this parochialism in viticulture today, and none too soon. I know the embrace of the renascence of origin. When I arrived at college, Champagne was homogeneous, conventionally stylised, averse to idiosyncrasy. The undergraduate residence shown above was domiciling the last class to be composed of "the well-rounded man," and would move decisively thereafter toward "the well-rounded class," a creative perspective on authentic diversification in human characteristics. We would still be awful, but in our own ways.

I'm given a chance to remember my college through an image posted by the newest follower of rmbl, on the charm of the espalier style of horticulture. I'm given a chance to remember originality in wine because an early follower exchanged gifts with me from France. My experience of Champagne and of college have in common many coincidences, but also a motive which is life-lasting: to draw closer to the world, with attention to what it is. One seems to give up a lot of finesse in doing that, but I'm certain it is worth the risk. I love Champagne's new direction as I loved my college's. They teach one to believe in thirst.

Andrew Jefford
The New France
op. cit.

ii  Princess Anne County

So, did you see your shadow?

the poor, Mr Romney.
I just don't care to
think of their lan-
guishing in your con-
tentment. I don't
care to believe they
must be a permanent
underclass; but even
if I did, I would not

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bene est, cui deus ..

   I don't have hives of bees from Calabria
   Busily making their honey just for me;

   I don't have jars of rare Laestrygonian wine
   Slowly maturing itself only for me;

   I have no Gallic pasturelands where sheep
   Are growing their wool exclusively for me ..

Every morning, now, when I have to awaken to read that someone has been celebrating the greed of Mitt Romney, I can't help but be grateful to have been raised another way. It will be a long, grueling year with illiterates of humility, demanding. Demanding, demanding. It's their pitch that makes their agony so exquisitely base. One can't remark on them every day, one can't allow them to dedicate one to the narrow rut of their clamour. But we know now, how they will run. They will prey on the pervasiveness of greed. Greed will be the engine but parsimony their cover, for the fero-cious villainy they crave to perpetrate. Yet only the mercy of their defeat could limit their suffering, to say nothing of ours.

For the 1st of February, and implicitly for the first day of every month this year, I will love that this was shared with me:

Watchdogs watching, thick tower walls, oak doors,
Such things would have been quite sufficient to keep

The lovers of Danaë from getting in
By night to where she was, locked up from them.

But Jupiter and Venus only laughed,
Because they knew the way to get in was easy:

Jupiter had but to turn himself into gold.
Gold loves to get itself past sentinels

And loves to make its way through solid rock.
Gold has more power than Jupiter's lightning bolts.

Gold brought the house of the Argive prophet down;
Gold given by Philip of Macedon opened the gates

Of cities and made its way beneath the thrones
Of mighty kings, and thus their thrones fell down.

The more the money grows the more the greed
Grows too; also the anxiety of greed.

Maecenas, glory of simple knighthood, this
Is the reason I myself was always afraid

Of too much ambition and of rising too high.
The more a man can do without, the more

The gods will do for him. So, empty-handed,
Deserting the camp of the rich, I seek the camp

Of those who ask for little, and thus I am
A more impressive master of all the wealth

I happily have contempt for than if I
Were that poor thing belittled by his riches,

Hiding away in his storehouse everything garnered
From the rich Apulian fields his peasants till.

The splendid lord of the riches of Africa
Mistakenly thinks he's better off than I,

With my little farm whose crops I'm certain of,
And my quiet little stream of pure brook water.

Quamquam nec Calabrae mella ferunt apes,
nec Laestrygonia Bacchus in amphora
languescit mihi, nec pinguia Gallicis
crescunt vellera pascuis,

I don't have poverty, either, to worry about,
And if I were in need of anything more,

I know Maecenas would not deny it to me.
The less I want the more I seem to have.

It's better than if I owned what Midas owned,
Combined with everything that Croesus ownded.

Want much, lack much. That man has just enough
To whom the gods have given just enough.

  III, 16
David Ferry
op. cit.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Guys do need
to know, Ivan's

Extreme woof.

We do sometimes take down an entry

Only to restore
it later to its

Up a stair, down a stair, Gérard declined to go

Of course we couldn't help but notice this in crew practice, when it came time to run the stadium steps. Spontaneously, there was no Gérard; and if you know anything about rowing, you know it won't do for a seat to be vacant. Steps needed to be taken, and we took turns in hauling him with us. To this day we couldn't measure how greatly this perfected our co-ordination, to say nothing of our reach.

He drew the same limit when it came to attending lectures on different floors. He tasked a spaniel, Alistair, to keep him in the know. Such was the condition of his rural habitation with an English dog, that Gérard seldom saw any paintings, given their claim of time between Alistair’s hours of exercise. To these considerations, moreover, was added his awe toward the tedium and expense of dressing. These all have to be cited as complications, for an Art major. Gérard did always wonder which foulard would go best with Kandinsky, whence he acquired some drawings, only to find he adored Cassatt. So we began to remark on Michelangelo to him, and his catch and stroke were much im-proved, almost burnished, one could say.

If all of this should sound as if Gérard had inculcated in us a kind of expectation, of having to go to him, it couldn't be said that a reluctance played any part in that endeavour. He was infallibly present for all our banquets, but not merely for the reason that he was the one who gave them. If we smile, in retrospect, on his aversion to staircases or his odd but surpassing sensibility in dress, it isn't to make him out to be some figure in Waugh. To a man, I know none of us would have expected to discover the proper age for the ingredients in a service of frogs legs; and I doubt very much if such an understanding were not worth any amount of deference. Every sinew has its season, he would say, and plate the beast accordingly.

It wasn't, indeed, until Gérard made known an insistence on his own coxswain that his separation from our boat ever did begin to cross anyone's mind. To be fair, he had gone to scrupulous lengths to co-ordinate his choice with the requisite weight, loudness, and adamancy. No, and it was not even the novelty of one of us, asserting that prerogative. It was, of course, that all the seats were taken, as finally began to dawn even on Gérard, who never associ-ated a circumstance with some kind of constraint. This made us quite endlessly grateful to be educated with him, but it did take its toll on our recruitment of his presence in our boat, and that of Alistair.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gothic seizure of power: Republicans take Richmond, Virginia

The Washington Post, a war-loving daily just up the I-95 corridor from the seat of the Confederacy, has shed editorial light on one of the most certain catastrophes to have been predicted, of the Republican Party's recent seizure of the Virginia upper house, in the reign of a Falwellian mountebank in Mr Jefferson's Governor's Mansion. As night would follow darkest day in the Gothic horrors of Southern Republicanism, a Bill is pending in the Virginia Senate, right now, to intimidate adolescence under the foul, repugnant hypocrisy of controlling crime. The details are well enough laid out in the Post's cautiously superficial editorial, to chill anyone who toys with the illusion of humanity's protection by this Party. 

But the thrust of this legislation reaches further than to its exuberantly grisly ends, of destroying the young before they can even stand on their own. It is a phobic assault against human sexuality, an outrage of malignant sectarian molestation, hostile to every fundamental consideration of childhood development.

Minors in Virginia are already wards of a jurisdiction maintaining the scandalous cruelty of a permanent record of every supervisor's slightest whimsical distaste for their conduct, for so much as an instant. They grow up in the prohibitive shadow of unarticulated, unregulated blackmail, and can already no more risk the free expression of the antic, priceless glory of their personality, than they dare to hound themselves with cripplingly abusive control, for their entire life. The first observation against this proposed legislation, then, is that it is redundant. And the second is like unto it: it is onerously traumatising, simply to hover there in gross, invasive lust upon a child's likeliest dreams. But the greatest is that it lowers the burden of criminal proof below the common law's minimum standards of injury and of judgment, with canon law contempt for the presumption of innocence. It wishes criminality into existence, for the stark joy of punishment.

What Virginia parent could dare to allow his child to play with any other, whose parents he hadn't exhaustively interviewed on their phobias? It is the parent who will press complaints - whether possessed by the child or not - for whose personal chattel is the child, under Virginia law? If Bobby kisses Mary, Mrs Chastenpuss, how many lashes would you want? What educator could afford to accept the slightest tumescent disturbance in his literature class, for fear of being said to permit human development?

Often Love, the little boy, is pleased
to be the playmate of the beauteous girl
who is delightful to behold,
not the way the craven crowd portrays her.
And they fly together
above the mortal highway,
the first comforts of all knowing hearts.

Nor was heart ever wiser
than when struck with love ..

We already hear enough, from this Party, of the effrontery of the common law of tort, to regulate savage commerce too well. How little they care for regulating society by the conserving core of Anglo-American justice, they now make plain again, to seek to bind Vir-ginia to the stake of puritan hysteria. They are incurable: they invent a crime, to mask one in themselves. They compel rejection by a free people.

Giacomo Leopardi
Love and Death
  Canto xxvii
Jonathan Galassi
  Editor and Translator
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010©

Braving the chill moat

To this day, dear reader, we've found it difficult to master a dip beyond the tanline in the wintry moat of morn, begging your indul-gence of a shivering waste of tanline, to be sure. To our patient friends in Capetown and Singapore, we especially apologise for this seasonal stigma of the globe's ambivalent hemispheres. Still, to set the stage for one of our rare and most reluctant forms of posting, we think it best to portray at least this exertion of our bona fides as we cast the gaze of the dutiful subject, upon his condition in these exotically inscrutable Indies known as Virginia. To those who would just as soon exempt themselves from this, most rusticating digression, we propose a comfy parallelogram of vacant pause.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What would you keep, what would you take away

I think this extract
is so accessible by
cognates between the
original and English,
translation is needed.

In any event the entry
with my thanks, and to
David, my brother.

    J'avais en effet, en toute sincérité
    d'esprit, pris l'engagement de le
    rendre à son état primitif de fils
    de soleil, - et nous errions, nourris
    du vin des cavernes et du biscuit de
    la route, moi pressé de trouver le
    lieu et la formule.

Jean-Nicolas Arthur Rimbaud
op. cit.