Saturday, August 31, 2019

Moving again, old portraits

I was talking with a friend on his
land line in California the other
day, about the problem of whether
to load up and take along disused
old portraits, moving to another
house. It's a simple problem, but
a vexing one, which means that it
remains in place, and the old por-
traits are packed along. In the
evening, prompted by a remark in
a movie I was watching, I opened
an old copy of Troilus and Cres-
sida, to a speech of self-por-
traiture in the Third Act. This
is not a play of top-of-mind a-
wareness in daily life, but its
familiarity highlights that risk
of contempt which dogs assumption
that we know it, when in fact one
knew it only for what was needed
at the time. Not to be prosaic, 
this is not a sustainable rela-
tionship with the works of that
writer, whose companionship (like
Mozart's) is so accepted as pre-
scient that there is no excuse 
for surprise, except for not hav-
ing needed what he was saying. A
portrait from the walls where one
has always lived might not be less
a matter of such fertile waiting.

   I am giddy; expectation whirls me round,
   The imaginary relish is so sweet
   That it enchants my sense: what will it be,
   When that the watery palate tastes indeed
   Love's thrice repured nectar? death, I fear me,
   Swooning destruction, or some joy too fine
   Too subtle-potent, tuned too sharp in sweetness,
   For the capacity of my ruder powers:

   I fear it much; and I do fear besides,
   That I shall lose distinction in my joys;
   As doth a battle, when they charge on heaps
   The enemy flying.

William Shakespeare
Troilus and Cressida
The Arden Shakespeare
Kenneth Palmer, editor
Methuen, 1982©

Tuesday, August 27, 2019


From time to time, a posting here
or there has referenced the college
town down the road, to acknowledge
some passing influence of its pres-
ence. Now I find myself moving res-
idence into that setting, and must
soon interrupt publication to give
attention to this project. I almost
wish I had the habit of relocation
which was so much the touchstone of
my own academic years, particularly
as it pertains to moving a shelf or
20 of books. It's daunting enough,
to challenge an English dog to de-
fend premises unfamiliar as his own.

Without warning, then, by thoughtful
composition, I do foresee a break of
a few days, within a few days. I do
not think the next enclosure will
disrupt the tone of what goes on in
this setting; Thorny will still be
Thorny, and rmbl, rmbl. I might not
be composing these entries over my
left shoulder, however, as I've done
before, but I think I'll try. An at-
tempt just made to gaze to the right
felt distinctly unnaturally strained.
They must probably see to themselves.

William Hogarth
  for Samuel Butler
Hudibras confronting
  Sidrophel & Whacum

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Les jeux sont fait à Biarritz

Americans, especially, always perk up
when their President ventures into a
because they know the ejaculations of
a brittle ego will flow warm and wrath-
ful in much staining of their honor.

All of life in his trajectory's a spin
of the wheel in his delirium's casino.
What Prime Minister will he shove this
time, what autocrat start petting, what
female head of state extend a pawful of
Hershey kisses? How swollen, tirades
trip the loosened lips bombastic, en-
listing legions of late night to wax a 
bit sarcastic. All to boost his ratings.

It may be a goon show, but it's America.

Martin Conte