Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday commute cxlix: Pursuit and the genial element

 2017 has given cause to reconsider
 the vulnerabilities of the elements,
 as much as their inherent integrity,
 fickle as well as constant, which can
 deflect as well as temper one's way
 in them. They seem to constitute such
 a system, of their own, as to tempt
 understanding to treat them as predict-
 able. Affections, for example - of ex-
 perience as ancient as a bath, if not
 of sustenance, itself - are even less
 the unvolatile flux of our way in them 
 than their system is inviolate. They
 are subject to other systems, as much
 as reflections of them, in their way.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Suppose it were Friday cxlv: With you all the way


                                      British Legation
                                      15 February [1951]

               Dear Anne,

               A brief line to let you know that Eve
               is coming to London for a fortnight in
               order to scout around and see what she
               thinks about having the baby there; I've
               told her to drop you a line and perhaps
               when she comes to Oxford you'd be good
               enough to give her tea and tell her 
               roughly what the form is ..

               There is no news to give you much that
               you don't see in the papers; ah yes! I
               have struck a great blow for poetry. 
               While in Trieste I found, hiding in a
               garage, too big to be used, a perfectly
               gigantic car - a Horch: the German Rolls-
               Royce. Eight cylinder, forty horse power.
               It used to belong to Goering and then to
               the general commanding the area. I bought
               it for a song and brought it back. It is
               lovely, silver-grey, sleek and with a fun-
               ny old-fashioned look. It makes you feel
               like a film star of the twenties. We call
               it Hermann and are planning one mad summer
               of plutocracy in it before the war breaks
               out [rumored, with the USSR]. As a matter
               of fact you have often seen Hermann in the
               newsreels - do you remember the entry into
               Prague etc with one of the big shots stand-
               ing up in the front and giving the boys the
               salute. That's how I go to the office now.
               Everyone is speechless with rage, and few
               will speak to me these days. But the Bel-
               grade police force is deeply respectful.

               There are two horns on the car, bass and
               tenor. I say that I've struck a blow for
               poetry because it is an ideal poet's car:
               too large for any purpose except triumphal
               entries, and so expensive to run that only
               a lunatic would buy such a thing. I shall
               sell it to Tito when I leave. He already
               has one but not as nice as mine. Wish you
               could come out and admire it.


Spirit of Place
  Letters and Essays
  on Travel
Alan G. Thomas, editor
New Haven, Connecticut

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Alabama goes voting ii

Our morning news brings sad evidence
of an apostasy in Alabama's defrocked
Judge Roy Moore, appealing an adverse
turn in his fate to a secular venue,
a State circuit court in Montgomery.
Why he didn't go straight to his burn-
ing bush for relief from democracy,
is not for one to speculate; but the
humiliation this must bring to his
flock surely must incur our sympathy.
Had they hidden so, only to be seen?

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Chistmas Eve rising

           Ye Mists and Exhalations, that now rise,
           From hill or steaming lake, dusky or grey,
           Till the sun paint your fleecy skirts with gold

If one were to imagine all
the capabilities of language
in advance, it's doubtful if
we'd reach Milton. On Christ-
mas Eve I tend to keep a com-
forting practice, of sitting
up with a snifter of Scotch
to read from Dryden's Aeneid,
but poetry comes up earlier
to me this year, as pressing
its case with morning coffee.

I spent the previous evening,
tossing and turning over where
I had read of the impressions
conveyed to me by this anony-
mous photograph at an elegant
website; but as is often the
case with me, this is why my
dog and I go out upon a dawn,
to rebuild as with the day.

The rather wonderful British
scholar, Alexandra Harris, re-
minds us that John Milton's
Morning Hymn in Book V of his
Paradise Lost was the first po-
etical work ever cited by Tur-
which may or may not have en-
tered Wordworth's mind as he
read from it to Dorothy, over-
looking the valley of Brathay,
"[when] it seemed we had nev-
er before felt deeply the pow-
er of the Poet" (1810).

If there had seemed to be dis-
couragements in power's resort
to language in this year, I'd
not pretend that Milton were
necessary, for allaying them.
Anyone with our slenderer ac-
quaintance of its protections,
has been obliged to heed them.

But this was a poet who plain-
ly believed it of poetry, that
dawn is its manifesting moment.
Something like strength, more
than power, distinguishes this
perception and its fulfillment.
What one feels, is its nerve.
John Milton, a new winter mor-
ning, walking with one's dog.

John Milton
Paradise Lost
  V, 185-187

Alexandra Harris
  Writers and Artists
  under English Skies
Thames & Hudson, 2015©

ii  Leonardo da Vinci
    A copse of trees
    Chalk on paper
    Collection HM Queen Elizabeth II