At Verona 2

Giovanni_Battista_Tiepolo_-_St_Jacobus_in_Budapest

St. Iago Matamoros, before he got into brewing stout.

Wilde thing; by Donal Clancy

No Verona, nor Reading this Gaol.
Not of my body, but of my soul
this bleak house a prison makes,
and echoes with my futile pleas.

How steep the stairs within this house are
for unwanted feet as mine to tread,
and oh how silent and bitter is the bread
which is broken on this marital table, better far
that I remained on flat greens,
or bare my head to St. James’s gate
than to live thus, ignored by all but those
that seek the freedom of my soul to mar.

‘Curse love and leave: what better hope than this?
She has forgotten me in all the focus
of her self-pity, and faded looks’–
Nay peace: behind my prison’s blinded bars
I do possess what none can take away,
My love, and all the memories of how we were.

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Random photo match

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Anita Ekberg; who was living La Dolce Vita when Philip Larkin was sowing wild oats.

My challenge today (set by myself) was to find a photo that might match the snaps that Philip Larkin might have kept in his wallet.  Larkin wrote Wild Oats for his book “Whitsun Weddings” published in 1964.

Federico Fellini released his film “La Dolce Vita” in 1960 and it would have been firmly embedded in the zeitgeist of the early 1960’s when Larkin was writing the collection.  Anita Ekberg rose to stardom playing Sylvia in the film.  The scene of her cavorting with Marcello Rubini in the Trevi Fountain in Rome is probably the most iconic in Italian film.

So, not an English Rose, but a Swedish beauty queen who plays the unattainable object of the fantasies of the hero in La Dolce Vita.  Not wearing fur gloves either!

 

Wild Oats by Philip Larkin

About twenty years ago
two girls came in where I worked —
a bosomy English rose
and her friend in specs I could talk to.
Faces in those days sparked
the whole shooting-match off, and I doubt
if ever one had like hers:
but it was the friend I took out,

and in seven years after that
wrote over four hundred letters,
gave a ten-guinea ring
I got back in the end, and met
at numerous cathedral cities
unknown to the clergy. I believe
I met beautiful twice. She was trying
both times (so I thought) not to laugh.

Parting, after about five
rehearsals, was an agreement
that I was too selfish, withdrawn,
and easily bored to love.
Well, useful to get that learnt.
In my wallet are still two snaps
of bosomy rose with fur gloves on.
Unlucky charms, perhaps.

 

White Gloves

OK then, have white gloves and lots of bosom.

To poets: Learn to sail!

Good poet, bad sailor Percy Bysshe Shelley was born August 4th in 1792 and died a month short of his 30th birthday leaving a stunning legacy of poetry.  How much richer would the world have been had he practiced decent seamanship?

The Gulf of La Spezia is known locally as the Golfo dei poeti in commemoration of the disaster.

Rusticated is an obscure word used almost exclusively in Oxford and Cambridge universities.  It means to be expelled, or “sent down” from the college.  There is no higher accolade for a great artist, to break free of the bounds of established academia and be expelled for radicalism.  In Shelley’s case it was for publication of a pamphlet on Atheism.  If you look up a definition of the word “Rusticate” it almost invariably comes with an example which references the expulsion of Shelley.  In a sense he is responsible for the preservation of that meaning of the word.

From The Arabic, An Imitation :by Percy Bysshe Shelley

M.pngy faint spirit was sitting in the light
of thy looks, my love;
It panted for thee like the hind at noon
for the brooks, my love.
Thy barb, whose hoofs outspeed the tempest’s flight,
bore thee far from me;
my heart, for my weak feet were weary soon,
did companion thee.

Ah! fleeter far than fleetest storm or steed,
or the death they bear,
the heart which tender thought clothes like a dove
with the wings of care;
in the battle, in the darkness, in the need,
shall mine cling to thee,
nor claim one smile for all the comfort, love,
it may bring to thee.

 

Imagine being a pea?

Syria

An evacuated Syrian girl looks out of the broken window of a bus.

In this summer heatwave I appreciate the sentiment of Robert Graves, born this day 1895.  An English writer, son of an Irish poet of the Gaelic Revival.  Robert is best known for his novel “I, Claudius”.

 

Give us rain; by Robert Graves

‘Give us Rain, Rain,’ said the bean and the pea,
‘Not so much Sun,
Not so much Sun.’
But the Sun smiles bravely and encouragingly,
and no rain falls and no waters run.

‘Give us Peace, Peace,’ said the peoples oppressed,
‘Not so many Flags,
Not so many Flags.’
But the Flags fly and the Drums beat, denying rest,
and the children starve, they shiver in rags.

Susurrus

Seashell

It’s hard to find the right word to describe the shushing plashing sound of breakers rolling on a beach, the sound of the ocean that we seek in a shell.  Susurrus is commonly used, but is defined in the dictionary as a murmuring sound.  It is onomatopoeic I suppose, and that helps.

Onomatopoeia is a difficult word to spell, so easy to make a mistake with it in a literature exam.  It is when we make words that sound of the thing.  Most societies have a word for a snake that begins with the ssssss sound made by a snake slithering over dry ground.  It probably began life as a warning, because snakes are dangerous to man.  Serpent(e) in romance languages, Slang in germanic languages.

Cuckoo is another good example of onomatopoeia. A bird named for its call.

The poet and short story writer Stephen Vincent Benét, born 120 years ago on this day, found no such word to describe the ocean sound, or he probably would have used it.

A Minor Poet: by Stephen Vincent Benét

I am a shell. From me you shall not hear
the splendid tramplings of insistent drums,
the orbed gold of the viol’s voice that comes,
heavy with radiance, languorous and clear.
Yet, if you hold me close against the ear,
a dim, far whisper rises clamorously,
the thunderous beat and passion of the sea,
the slow surge of the tides that drown the mere.

Others with subtle hands may pluck the strings,
making even Love in music audible,
and earth one glory. I am but a shell
that moves, not of itself, and moving sings;
leaving a fragrance, faint as wine new-shed,
a tremulous murmur from great days long dead.

Happy Birthday Hart Crane

Melvilles tomb

A libation of Baleine salt at Melville’s Tomb.

Born this day in the final year of the 19th Century Harold Hart Crane did not reach the age of Christ and departed this world aged only 32.  Never an easy poet and he never had an easy life.  He struggled with twin demons of drink and sexuality.  His search for an uplifting counterpoint to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” resulted in poor critical reviews and a slide into depression.

On a steamship from Mexico to New York he made advances to a male member of the crew and was badly beaten.  He leaped into the Gulf of Mexico and his body was never recovered.  At Melville’s tomb did he foresee his own end?

 

At Melville’s Tomb; by Harold Hart Crane

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
the dice of drowned men’s bones he saw bequeath
an embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
the calyx of death’s bounty giving back
a scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
the portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
and silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
to farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps
monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.