Saturday, May 25, 2013

Saturday commute lxxxi: as the owl in the parade of Orpheus

I had occasion to receive a
sweet note yesterday from
a reader in Switzerland, an
artist I will cite another
time by name and by example,
encouraging the page to con-
tinue to contribute to his
day. I need hardly say, the
tone of sweetness comes but
obliquely through this syn-
opsis, but I'm still smart-
ing from the rebuke of a
matron in France, for con-
fiding oneself in public.

Like yours, one's thoughts
turn to Apollinaire's pithy
ditties in his Bestiaire,
où Cortège d'Orphée, as
the title to pleasure is
passed, almost as a baton,
more than a lyre, from one
quality of inspiration to
another, in their bestial
embodiments. The poet's
wondrously slight work is
not, all its translators
insist, to be made much of.
But all do sense its in-
herent delectability, as
if a tapas kind of feast
might just recruit its own

Now I didn't wish to go
so far in this commute,
as to generalise my own
delight in a compliment.
That said, I do observe
how we bloggers tend to
approach each other in
praises, in our courtly
reciprocity, while, for
my part, I could not im-
pugn the pages I visit
with any resemblance to
mine. Offering no dig-
nity beyond the terms I
convey, I am touched to
find them accepted.

To those readers who hap-
pen to land on this page,
I cheerfully encourage an
expectation of discover-
ing the attributes of the
publishing nature, in our
precocious Surrealist's
bestiary, if only to be
reinforced in one's modes-
ty. Who could wish to be
his Owl, once he'd made it
possible to be seen to be?

I have not encountered a
satisfying translation of
the entry for Le Hibou in
Apollinaire's compendium,
and upon this especially
sweet lacuna I hazard to
essay my own, admiring
thrust ~

   Mon pauvre coeur est un hibou
   Qu'on cloue, qu'on décloue, qu'on recloue.
   De sang, d'ardeur, il est à bout.
   Tous ceux qui m'aiment, je les loue.

   My fragile heart is as an owl
   which one nails, and relieves, and re-pounds.
   Of blood, of spirit, it is drained.
   All those who love me, I do owe.

The esteemed translator for
David Godine (a fine Dart-
mouth man) quite properly
demands the rhyme; the ver-
sion from Johns Hopkins re-
duces the rhyme to couplets.
These views are persuasively
truer to Apollinaire's irony,
in whom rhyme is a gift to
mask invention. I love too 
much his invention; I love
too much his love of it, too,
to require the rhyme, if I
can keep the tense. The tran-
sitive verb in the second
line brings a crisis to the
page, we recognise, which
has no moral source in either
of these two translations,
of the stuff happens school.

Apollinaire won't wear it.
His is poetry to be liked
without recourse, just as
the recruiting march of Or-
pheus is not subscribed by
single facets, and his is
not a retinue of the op-
pressed. We have his hare,
and if I may again, myself,
as any child might, from 
grammar school ~

   Ne sois pas lascif et peureux
   Comme le lièvre et l'amoureux.
   Mais que toujours ton cerveau soit
   La hase pleine qui conçoit. 

   Not in lechery, fearful
   as the hares and our lovers
   but always let your mind
   Bear the risk of conception.

What genius, we respond,
but yes, Chaucer had it,
and yes, Marcus Aurelius:
to see unity in the form
of fear and lechery, and
the trading of compliment
as can happen. I'll let a
child's be my eyes, before
their nerve is lost.

Guillaume Apollinaire
Raoul Dufy, illustrator
  or The Parade of Orpheus
1911, year of the death of Mahler

Friday, May 24, 2013

"I'm smoking as fast as I can"

in plague years,
hurrying to die
a less isolating
way, and staying

    The certain prospect
    of death could sweet-
    en every life with a
    precious and fragrant
    drop of levity - and
    now you strange apoth-
    ecary souls have turn-
    ed it into an ill-tas-
    ting drop of poison
    that makes the whole
    of life repulsive.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Basic Writings of Nietzsche
  The Wanderer and his
  Shadow, 1880
Walter Kaufmann, editor
  and translator
op. cit.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A diplomat's brief

I don't know what I'm defending. Or what I'm representing; who does? 'A gentleman who lies for the good of his country,' they told us with a wink in London. 'Willingly,' I say. 'But first tell me what truth I must conceal.' They haven't the least idea. Outside the Office, the poor world dreams we have a book bound in gold with POLICY written on the cover .. God, if only they knew.

He finished his wine.

Perhaps you know? I am supposed to obtain the maximum advantage with the minimum of friction. What do they mean by advantage, I wonder: power?

I doubt whether power is to our advantage. .. The opposite of love isn't hate; it's apathy. Apathy is our daily bread here. Hysterical apathy. 

Have some more Moselle.

  For more than 50 years, 
  John Le Carré has quiet-
  ly been depicting the re-
  lationship of espionage 
  to everyday life. The ex-
  tinguishment of the Cold
  War infamously drove the
  leadership of the West to
  discover new emergencies,
  to sustain the permanent
  investment in defense. He
  has followed them with
  tools he refined as a
  practicing historian of
  their method, which has
  been as constant as their
  underlying anxiety; and
  he has shown them to be

  He has a new book. Its
  frontispiece bears the
  promise from John Donne:

  No winter shall abate
  the spring's increase.

John Le Carré

A Small Town in
William Heinemann, 

A Delicate Truth

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And what did they do with their time at Andover and Yale?

When the significance of the Bosnian annexation was debated in the Duma in the spring of 1909, the conservative interests .. argued that the annexation had in no way damaged Russian interests or security .. The real enemy, they argued, was Britain, which was trying to push Russia into a war with Germany in order to consolidate British control of world markets. Against this position, the pro-French and pro-British liberals .. called for .. a Triple Alliance that would enable Russia to project power in the Balkan region and arrest the decline of its great power status.

This was one of the central problems confronting all the foreign policy executives (and those who try to understand them today): the 'national interest' was not an objective imperative pressing in upon government from the world outside, but the projection of particular interests within the political elite itself.

Christopher Clark
St Catherine's College
  How Europe Went to War
  in 1914
Harper Collins, 2013©

Le Corbusier

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The closest soap we have to Champagne?

In an age of which it is possible to understand only less and less, with every passing day, while blogs for gentlemen continue to prescribe nostrums for this predicament of ever more excruciating specificity, readers may forgive a celebratory digression to the contrary, occasioned by a bit of travel one had to endure over the past few days. Our apothecaries at Kiehl's, now taken under the wing of L'Oréal, have come up with an application which is to fetishes of the bath what Champagne is to the flatulent wine list: balsam for any contingency. Just add water, they say, not even Champagne.

Ta-da! The Kiehl's [Since 1851] Cross-Terrain All-in-One Refueling Wash, Paraben-Free & 99.9% Biodegradable, promises An Energizing Shower Cleanser for Hair and Body, A tri-mendous formulation for the cross-terrain adventurer! It may also be used (oh, thank heaven) as a speed shaving aid, whatever that daredevil pursuit may be. They do not say if it can be ordered with a masquing stencil.

You may well think, I know, that too much can be made of general remedies, when discrimination allows such illusion of discern-ment, and flattery of trespasses. But in the present case, even our heroic pharmacist - who stands to lose countless sales of single-nuance products - has seen the advantage of traveling light, to say nothing of the advantage of social mobility, per se. It all comes fully certified, adventure tested. What a windfall to the human rite of washing! Who knew there might be a one-app-suits-all remedy to dispense, as if we were all adventurers?