Thursday, December 27, 2018

Graham Greene, "The Lost Childhood"

I remember distinctly the suddenness
with which a key turned in a lock
and I found I could read .. All a
long summer holiday I kept my secret,
as I believed: I did not want anybody
to know that I could read. I suppose
I half consciously realized even then
that this was the dangerous moment.


    I expunge the stain of
    remembering the Little
    Father and his Czarina
    beneath the White House
    Christmas trees, toying
    with children's dreams -

    as I recall a fragment
    from an essay in plain
    sight of every visitor
    to my home, every day  -

    who lets one trust the
    lessons we must learn.

Graham Greene
The Lost Childhood
  and Other Essays
Viking, 1951©

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Origins of Wednesday lxxxvi: Socratic cynic on the line

   He called to ask me if I still
   believed in the existence of
   Cetera, because at my age the
   promises of Et must have worn
   a little thin, right? I didn't
   know how to cope with this co-
   nundrum, to think of "and" as
   stripped of all connection, a
   constant tease without a term, 
   as if he'd always be with us.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve Dryden, revisited

I think a scan of precedents will
find that my custom of reading in
John Dryden on Christmas Eve has
been inspired by his brilliant 
translation of Aeneid. I haven't
any inhibition against admitting,
I love Dryden, because he's safe
from superfluous reprisals. That
said, as stoutly as I've champi-
oned to myself, at least, the 
music of his Aeneid, this year
in America, as this year in my
aging, has found me this evening
grateful for his lovely phrasing
of Virgil's bucolic masterpiece,
Georgics. There is not a poem be-
fore Pope's which I revisit more
constantly, or one which better
typifies my respect for music.

This year, I need the great mig-
ration of the priceless treasure
more, even than Aeneas' searches.
Say what one will, for defaults
in our study of Latin, that we
had such conduits as Pope and
Dryden to absolve us in their
mercy is, to me, a gift of God.
The night can withstand another.

Oh, fortunate farmers, he
famously had begun, in the
2nd book of Georgics, and 
every schoolboy will smile
to recognize, Shakespeare:

         O happy if he knew his happy state!
            The swain who, free from business and debate,
            Receives his easy food from nature's hand
            And just returns of cultivated land!
            No palace with a lofty gate he wants
            To pour out tides of early visitants.
            With eager eyes devouring as they pass
            The breathing figures of Corinthian brass.

            No statues threaten from high pedestals;
            No Persian arras hides his homely walls
            With antique vests which through their shady fold
            Betray the streaks of ill-dissembled gold.

            He boasts no wool, whose native white is dyed
            with purple poison of Assyrian pride.
            No costly drugs of Araby defile
            With foreign scents the sweetness of his oil.

            But easy quiet, a secure retreat,
            A harmless life that knows not how to cheat,
            With homebred plenty the rich owner bless,
            And rural pleasures crown his happiness ..

                    Ye sacred muses, with wise beauty fired,
            My soul is ravished and my brain inspired.

John Dryden
1631 - 1700
Selected Poems
  The Country
Steven N. Zwicker
  and David Bywaters
Penguin Classics, 2001©


Christmas cracker

    A man has to hold his mouth open
    a long time before a roasted par-
    tridge flies into it.

African proverb, cited in our book of
the year, a timely escape from a year
absorbed in waiting for a government.

Hank Shaw
  Upland birds and small
  game from field to feast
H&H Books
Orangevale, California