Saturday, July 19, 2014

The papers are calling for stern measures

I find it increasingly difficult to believe
that our absolutely endless calls for the
defense of civilisation against peoples un-
sympathetic with our policies in the world,
are motivated by any taste for civilisation
at all. If this were a motive, I'd have ex-
pected The Washington Post today, instead
acts, to give the broadest publication pos-
sible to the celebration of a text rebutting
everything they say:

  Dear Ladies [the Blount sisters],
  You have here all the fruit Mr
  Dancastle's garden affords, that
  I could find in any degree of
  ripeness. They were on the trees
  at eleven o'clock this morning,
  and I hope will be with you be-
  fore night. Pray return, sealed
  up by the bearer, every single bit
  of paper that wraps them up; for
  they are the only copies of this
  part of Homer. If the fruit is not
  as good as I wish, let the gallantry
  of this wrapping paper make up for     it.

  I am yours: 
  [unsigned; he is 26]

    Unmatch'd our force, unconquer'd is our hand:
    Who shall the sovereign of the skies controul?
    Not all the Gods that crown the starry pole
    Your hearts shall tremble, if our arms we take,
    And each immortal nerve with horrour shake.
    For thus I speak, and what I speak shall stand,
    What pow'r soe'er provokes our lifted hand,
    On this our hill no more shall hold his place,
    Cut off, and exil'd from th'aethereal race.

I tire mightily of the generations'
waste upon the self-seeking fantasy
of having our way - wherever we may
wish to savour it, that is. At the
same time, the brightest ornaments
of our way only herald constantly a
civilisation truly to be championed,
in homes and schools and councils
from the lowest to the highest known.

The story of the disfranchised Eng-
lish Catholic crippled scribe's re-
freshment of the Iliad bears space,
if for nothing else, its astounding
compilation on scraps that doubled
as harbingers of cherries. Our pa-
pers, I think, need to learn what 
to save.

Edith Sitwell
Alexander Pope
op. cit.

Alexander Pope
The Iliad of Homer
  VIII, 560-569
op. cit.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Saturday commute xcii: Neither Daisy nor Tom at East Egg

    What we relish, sometimes, is
    that distinction between lan-
    guour and ease which allows a
    livelier contentment to be ex-
    tended, as Fitzgerald sought,
    even in the scintillating op-
    ulence of his sentences, that
    decay in their reverberation. 

    Such an idyll did he frame in 
    the negative in Gatsby, the 
    Summer season has never been
    the same.

    I don't say this rhetorically.
    I think Scott Fitzgerald immor-
    talised a condition no one can


How is a painting not like a mirror?

   A reader just sent
   digital photographs
   of two paintings of
   one subject, a farm
   house on a northern

   One acrylic, one in
   watercolor. What is
   it, to be living as
   if one could paint?

He would lie amid the waking instant of earth’s teeming minute life, the motionless fronds of water-heavy grasses stooping into the mist before his face in black, fixed curves, along each parabola of which the marching drops held in minute magnification the dawn’s rosy miniatures, smelling and even tasting the rich, slow, warm barn-reek milk-reek, the flowing immemorial female, hearing the slow planting and the plopping suck of each deliberate cloven mud-spreading hoof, invisible still in the mist loud with its hymeneal choristers. 

William Faulkner
The Hamlet
  Cited in Tim Parks,
The New York Review of Books, 2014©

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

There's a visiting silver Cobra, where I live

With ample time to do it,
I've neglected to lay the
context for my page in its
author's private pleasure,
on the grounds that I've
not regarded it as nearly
so noteworthy as his anger.
Yet if you were to say to
him, Antiquity: Summer, he
would think of ivory Speed-
sters in the lanes of Santa
Barbara, and a cracking in
their fragrant, tufted hides.

There came a time, ages in
a young life later, when an
American hot-shot hoisted a
289 engine from a Ford Mus-
tang, torqued it out to the
height of acoustic jubilation,
and dropped it into the svel-
test machine ever composed in
this hemisphere. "Cat" having
been taken, he dubbed it, the
Cobra; but it's a shame when
any genius is allowed to talk.
It made the Jaguar E-Type look
like the rector ferry it was.
This was too sublime to be nas-
ty. It was unalloyedly naughty,
which is to say, a glory.

Oh, yes, Mr Shelby later laid
a 427 engine into it, but that
was a little compulsively ther-
monuclear. With a 427, the Cobra
did win approval from the Stone
Age wing of the motoring com-
munity, and even Mitt Romney's
father countered with a Marauder.
But you see how rapidly undeft a
sufficient stroke becomes, among
its witless wielders.

Meanwhile, the original rapture-
rod, like Enzo Ferrari's inimitably
sonorous 3-litre masterpieces, dis-
appeared beneath an avalanche from
the Curtis Le May gross displacement
cabal. Well, then. When the neigh-
borhood plays host to an original
Cobra, the strains of nature ring
aloud, and boys do not mistake them.
One is here, now, and there is calm.

And yet there is always ground for
consolation elsewhere in maturity.
I remembered this as I heard a boy,
breathing it out, exactly right.
Was it ever the car?

That's an American car? It's beau-
tiful! No. It's worse than beautiful.

Sven de Vries

AC Cobra 289

NB, a posting for the 16th,
on language police, taken
down, will be restored, but
I did not wish to rush the
succession of this entry.

Class in a very small place

  With apologies to the historian
  of Dien Bien Phu, a cul de sac
  we go on plagiarising, the sec-
  ret lives of academics somehow
  go on fascinating us all, given
  to concentrate original lessons.

  In Britain, the mortar is minus-
  cule, the pestle seldom absent.
  From central New Jersey to Lang-
  ley or the Cosmos Club, a lunch
  can be attended, any given day.

        I do feel our Government is making
        rather a fuss over the Falklands.
        As I am having lunch in the H of C
        on Tuesday with Chris Patten - a 
        former pupil and I think no great 
        friend of Mrs T - no doubt I'll
        learn more.

Fellow of Balliol
My Dear Hugh
  Letters from Richard Cobb
  and others
    20 May 1982
Tim Heald, editor
Frances Lincoln, Ltd., 2011©

Monday, July 14, 2014

France, or, Where to begin

.. poetry doesn't spring forth
in a single bound from the depths
of one's mind and spirit, but 
must free itself from various
obstacles that are a function
of the particular nature of lan-
guage or cultural tradition. For
someone like me, who wanted very
much to devote himself to poetry,
it was obviously important to un-
derstand this.

Of all the shabby obstacles to
which we are pressed to bow to-
day as Americans, the crushing
doctrine of originalism in Con-
stitutional interpretation con-
stitutes the stunningest proof
of the need for France as it
inched forth on this date, 1789.
Only a beginning, but the neces-
sary one en route to a humane
majesty. It is simply false to
sequester that destiny from the
hydraulic processes of language.

This is the distinction the trans-
lator Richard Howard observed in
the poetry of Yves Bonnefoy, be-
tween natural objects and natural
energies; and shall a document,
shall a life, be a moribund pile
of stone or a guest in the house?

                  The cloth of the rain clung to you.
                  You were the breast
                  A painter might have dreamed.

Yves Bonnefoy

i   Shakespeare and the French Poet
    Interview with
    John Naughton, editor
    University of Chicago Press, 2004©

ii  Summer Rain
    Hoyt Rogers, translation
    Cited in Charles Simic
    The Renegade
    George Braziller, 2009© 

Ivan Terestchenko

Maxime Bergougnoux
  photographer unknown

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I shall never ignore the chest again

    The first WC victory by the
    Old World in the New, found
    a "sub" deploying that part
    to ricochet a dramatic tri-
    umph in a fine test of play.

                 For us and for many,
                 this comes as happy
                 news. For Sarpedon,
                 it's something more.
                 We saw a right thing
                 as play took charge.

The tourney of Riesling and Malbec

  Even if indigenous ethnicities
  were as influential in shaping
  regional sports teams as their
  national denomination would im-
  ply, the borders' artificiality
  would still trump superstition.
  Localities therefore only hap-
  lessly demand to be implicat-
  ed or vindicated in the play of
  arbitrary avatars. We sometimes
  designate our viticultural ex-
  ponents with the same aspiration,
  but we don't pit Riesling against
  Malbec to define itself, any more
  than we confine ourselves to pol-
  itical strictures of taste. Or do
  we. Our domain is chance, its sub-
  ject is play. It bears a smile.

i    Linus Wördemann

iii  David Adamo