Friday, February 15, 2013

What can I give him ii

    We came onto a vehicle track.
    Tires had gouged a glutinous
    dark brown strip, twenty feet
    wide. My boots stuck to the
    mud, so I walked on the ice 
    in the roadside ditches. This
    was better, except when the
    ice broke and my feet plunged
    into cold water. Babur was now
    coated in black mud. We had
    been walking for nine hours.

    Daulatyar was only fifteen
    kilometers away and there were
    probably two hours of daylight
    left, but I had forgotten how
    much deep mud and wet snow 
    slowed my pace. I felt muffled
    in the snow-fog and imprisoned
    by the rain hood I was wearing.
    I threw back the hood. I could
    hear and see again. The day was
    very silent and the plain seem-
    ed very large. The snow driving
    into my eyes at a forty-five de-
    gree angle made me feel much
    freer, but my left foot seemed
    frozen to a cold iron plate.

An immortal book? A certain
masterpiece, in the English
language; an act of inquiry
driven by the heart? I will
trade all majesty for words
into Aghanistan. Right now.

Rory Stewart
The Places in Between
Picador, 2004©

Thursday, February 14, 2013

bring the flowers iii

Because I deeply praised and trusted earth
and did not spread my secret wings in flight
but rooted in the stillness all my mind,
the spring again has risen to my thirst,
the dancing spring of life, my own joy's spring.

Because I never questioned how and when
but plunged my thought into each passing hour
as though its boundless goal lay hidden there,
no matter if I live in calm or storm,
the rounded moment shimmers in my mind,
the fruit falls from the sky, falls deep inside me.

Angelos Sikelianos
Because I Deeply Praised
Edmund Keeley and
  Philip Sherrard, translation
The Greek Poets
  Homer to the Present
op. cit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Our Eric's makeover has begun

Like you, I could not have been more apprehensive, as a great State occasion's drawing nigh, must loose th'expensive whirlwind of the Right-wing cocktail tie. And who could doubt, that bright redoubt of mongrels exercising clout, with Boehner drawn to preen and flout an orange sheen to match his snout? But who could b'lieve that sweet reprieve our Eric ravelled from his sleeve, a virtuous impression of a statelier procession in that hour, as televisioned faces lacking any trace of graces, boasted of how sour they must grieve?
I look not upon my government in Congress so conceived, except in scant security its face can be believed, whil'st in its glare of disrepair a jest might have relieved, the gruesome toil to lance the boil no politics deceived. But here was Biden, lavendered - a rising swell on every word in place - mobilised to augurise ambition to replace.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On the problem of inventing the new Eric Cantor

Dilke's work was aggravated by the diversity of his colleagues' opin-ions. Some seemed to believe that filth and disease were God's judge-ment on sin. What was wanted was pure hearts not pure water. Lord Salisbury maintained that the poor were at-tached to their slums and would posi-tively resent being rehoused. But the deepest divergence was one which perplexed most Victorian philanthro-pists. Loving liberty, and sensitive to the claims of individuals, they hesitated to resort to compulsory powers .. The Commissioners soon discovered that parish vestries, charged with preventing abuses, generally consisted of precisely those people most interested in preserving them.

Our popinjay priest in a tropical tie, of sharecropper populism, gigolo of the Republican cruise ship of rapine sanctimony, has been heard to squeal of late as Lord Salisbury's self-important stooge, on an emergency in the Party. How should one be surprised? I have studied him in a concert bowl, on a sunny day in Richmond, feeding demagogic barbecue to saturated leers of his assiduously uneducated base, citing the name, alone, of San Francisco's Italian and female Congresswoman as nourishment enough of every phobia he promotes. He knows he may rely upon his audience's defiant ignorance of every fact illuminating him. How bereft this Party's ideological starva-tion of its following has left it now, of adaptations which must resemble a betrayal.

Amongst the witnesses summoned to give evidence were Lord Shaftesbury and the Reverend A. Mearns, whose bitter cry had reached the Queen. Both described scenes of unimagin-able squalor: houses in which effluent overflowed down staircases, dead bodies left to rot for a week or more, vermin everywhere, unendurable stench, filth, dark, damp, helplessness and despair. 
The Prince approved the Commission's Report which was published in May 1885, but refused to sign an appen-dix proposing leasehold enfran-chisement .. [to] require landlords to maintain their property in habit-able repair: thus threatening the Englishman's inalienable right to let his roof fall in.

An advantage of one's vintage is to have observed each of the serial recostumings of ostensible Conservatism in the sorry, rootless life of Richard Nixon. Congressman Cantor, our fresh and local delegate, pursues a well known path of clinging to power at any price. To what happier appraisal of our corrupt hysterics can we bring ourselves, on Mardi Gras, than to a Prince's own indulgence of their masque? What sweetens more, harsh circumstance, than hypocrisy's adroit investiture in its amelioration? Our Eric counts on our not knowing, what the Prince of Wales, himself, well understood -- The brutal and inescapable facts which the Commissioners were forced to contemplate compelled them to propose measures totally inconsistent with their declared political opinions. As the Prince of Wales said at the Mansion House, on 5 November 1895, 'We are all Socialists now-a-days.'

Giles St. Aubyn
Edward VII
  Prince and King
Atheneum, 1979©

Martin Conte

Sunday, February 10, 2013

bring the flowers ii

Old time, Old Shifting Trade -
Time there is for the luffing sheets,
for the shipmates crying out for a blast to drive them home;
and Time there is for the flash flood. Rain,
Son-at-Arms from the thunderbreast of Sky.
But once let a man catch fire,
wring some triumph out of the grit of combat:
then my underrun of music,
a founding-stone for annals building against the years,
will mount at last, an unaging pledge to the works of Greatness;
over the seas of Envy, surge and spring, my votive tablet,
shoring up from your bed of Olympic wreaths perennial!

No, go slow, my heart, slower, lips,
straining to rear this win and make it bear.
God is the gardener. All our primes,
    flowering out on the coiling
    force of skill,
yours and mine entwining, stem
from Him alone ..
Muse at the cutwater, O my Convoy!
Take this warrant, taut as our cords:
no camp of provincials armed to the teeth to warm 
us in as guests, no, nor bludgeon-artists put to rout
by a piece of fine old work;

  no; in the haven you and I
  will raise the craftsmen grasp the heights,
      the spearmen hit the grand finesse forever.
  Show me a Trade that sloughs them off -
      the eyes of the vixen glittering Guile,
      or the rival of thunder, the lion's exultation -
  all the marks of birth that vault to Triumph on our rushing be       blood.

Olympian Ode XI
  For Agesidamus of the
  Westwind Locrians: Winner
ca 460 BC
Robert Fagles, translation

The Greek Poets
  Homer to the Present
Peter Constantine, Rachel Hadas,
Edmund Keeley and Karen Van Dyck,
Norton, 2010©