Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dutifully padding about the temples of Impression

     Is travel then the mirage where
     the real self itself becomes mi-
     rage ..? When we are in Rome or
     Athens, do they evade us, lost
     under the scurrying modern life
     imposed on them, an ancient ghost
     behind a modern ghost? Do we meet
     always and everywhere nothing but

     Or are there, in Florence, for ex-
     ample, moments when the emanation
     of the past stamped on stone and
     bronze surges up above the present,
     with a greater order perhaps than
     it ever had in the past? This is
     surely so when, from Fiesole, we 
     see the dome of the cathedral like
     a shield made of rust-coloured pet-
     als guarding the city ..


Stephen Spender
World Within World
Random House, 2001©

Friday, May 15, 2015

Dutifully padding about the temples of Persepolis

     2 March 1935

     Dear Dr Herzfeld

         Since both the Governor
     of Fars and Dr Mostafavi have
     stated categorically that you
     have no right to prevent my
     photographing the portions of
     arches and columns which have
     always been above ground, the
     only means of stopping my pho-
     tographing them are either

       (1) to show me the wording
     of your concession proving
     that you have the right, or
       (2) force.

     Please choose your means.

     There are still some things to
     be said about Persepolis.

     Only the stone has survived, but
     for a few of Alexander's ashes
     which they dig up now and then.
     And stone worked with such opu-
     lence and precision has great
     splendour, whatever one may think
     of the forms employed on it. This
     is increased by the contrast be-
     tween the stones used, the hard
     opaque grey and the more lucent
     white. Isolated ornaments have al-
     so been discovered in a jet-black
     marble without vein or blemish.

     Is that all?

     Patience! In the old days you ar-
     rived by horse. You rode up the
     steps on to the platform. You made
     a camp there, while the columns
     and winged beasts kept their sol-
     itude beneath the stars, and not
     a sound or movement disturbed the
     empty moonlit plain. You thought
     of Darius and Xerxes and Alexander.
     You were alone with the ancient
     world. You saw Asia as the Greeks
     saw it, and you felt their magic
     breath stretching out toward China
     itself. Such emotions left no room
     for the aesthetic question, or for
     any question.


     Today you step out of a motor, 
     while a couple of lorries thun-
     der by in a cloud of dust. You
     find the approaches defended by
     walls. You enter by leave of a
     porter, and are greeted, on 
     reaching the platform, by a light
     railway, a neo-German hostel, and
     a code of academic malice control-
     led from Chicago. These useful ad-
     ditions clarify the intelligence.
     You may persuade yourself, in spite
     of them, into a mood of romance. 
     But the mood they invite is that
     of a critic at an exhibition. This
     is the penalty of greater knowledge.
     It isn't my fault. No one would have
     been more pleased than I to leave
     the brain idle in a dream of history
     and landscape and light and wind and
     other impalpable accidents. But if
     circumstances insist on showing me
     more than I want to see, it is no
     good telling lies about it.

Robert Byron
The Road to Oxiana
Oxford University Press

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dutifully padding about the temples of Mt Athos

    Woke up this morning, the weight
    of my twenty years heavy upon me,
    wondering how many people at home
    were wishing me many happy returns
    and whether the waves of their 
    well-wishing would reach me through
    the air. The arbondaris, with whom
    I have made great friends, brought
    me tea and jam and bread. He seems
    to have taken me under his wing, as
    I'm his only guest.

    After dressing, I was just setting
    out in quest of Father Basil, when
    I met him on the threshold, coming
    to visit me. So we sat talking in
    my room, and then we set off to
    look around the chapel, where the
    ikons and frescoes were all new,
    and though not unpleasant, not very
    interesting. The gilding in the up-
    per chapel is all recent, and some
    of the stencilling on the wall aw-
    ful, and luckily not very obvious.
    The two-storey library is enormous,
    with long, pleasant rooms packed
    full of books in expensive cases.
    It is very poor in manuscripts how-
    ever, except for one with the gos-
    pels for each day of the year, which
    has fascinating illustrations, a Na-
    tivity where the interest and adora-
    tion in the eyes of the animals is
    really wonderful, and another of the
    Baptism of Christ, naked in Jordan,
    with the devil, or some evil water
    sprite, in a posture of submarine

    Then I bade Basil goodbye, and he
    returned to his cell, I to mine,
    he dragging his heavy boots behind
    him, and giving the impression, in
    his youthfulness, of a schoolboy
    dressed up in a flowing beard and
    hair, tall hat and long robes.

Patrick Leigh-Fermor
February 11, 1935
The Broken Road
  From the Iron Gates
  to Mount Athos
Artemis Cooper and
Colin Thubron, editors
op. cit.

Fionn Creber

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dutifully padding about the temples of the Vatican


   The bit about the children
   went like clockwork. I told
   [His Holiness Pius XII] that
   I had a single daughter -
   our son was not yet thought
   of - and a white rosary was
   immediately handed by a cham-
   berlain to the Pope, who
   blessed it and delivered it
   to me. I was rather hoping he
   would repeat the mistake he
   was said to have made among a
   party of American congressmen
   when, instead of asking, "boy
   or girl?" he murmured, "black
   or white?"; but no such luck.

John Julius Norwich
Trying to Please
  A Memoir

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dutifully padding about the temples of Agrigento

     The Bishop now elected
     to fall into a shaft,
     gracefully and without
     damage, and for a moment
     a terrible beauty was
     born. One touch of mu-
     sic-hall makes the whole 
     world kin.

Lawrence Durrell
Sicilian Carousel

Fionn Creber