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God strengthen me to bear myself;
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.
All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.
I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?
If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run ! Death runs apace.
If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!
God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease and rest and joys
Myself, arch-traitor to myself ;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.
Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me
Break off the yoke and set me free.
“Who Shall Deliver Me?” by Christina Rossetti (Mellery The Stairway; Khnopff I Lock the Door Upon Myself; Khnopff Who Shall Deliver Me; Rossetti Beata Beatrix)
What happened that night, inside your hours
Is as unknown as if it never happened.
What accumulation of your whole life,
Like effort unconscious, like birth
Pushing through the membrane of each slow second
Into the next, happened
Only as if it could not happen
As if it was not happening.
What a hype around this Hughes poem and yet it took me hours to find the whole thing online (OK, maybe not hours). It feels a bit like looking into the sun as it’s dying says Carol Ann Duffy about it. My favourite poets at the age of 17: Sexton, Plath and Boye. How bloody self-destructive and pitiful, right? I used to, starry-eyed, commend suicides as bravely taking control of the one thing you cannot control but, alas, I think that this, as everything else, is false comfort. You can play with life but not with death. Now, with a bit more zest for life, I am a lot less morbid (but, I admit, still unreasonably fascinated by the glorification of anguished artists). Anyhow, I’m just back from a walk in da hood where I happened to pass by the tragic scene in question. The plaque reads William Butler Yeats (who lived there at some point and Sylvia’s plaque is on another house she lived at, just around the corner) but this is where it, indeed, did happen. What would it feel like, I wonder, to live in a house like that?
Hello dear blog, the weekend just passed has seen me move beyond my comfort zone of NW1 and enter both unexplored territory and places from the distance past. A Mile End jungle party called for my alter ego Chief Drink-a-Lot to down rum in a wading pool and belt out 99 Luftballons (yes, in German!) into the dark tropical night. A global music festival in Ealing went down slightly more civilized, with Rumanian folk music and a Yiddish twist orchestra forming an antidote to my hangover. And a mini Saturday excursion went to the fields of Knockhult where I praised the ingenuity of the eco-system whilst indulging in berries in the best goblin-like manner. I am now feeling amazingly reinvigorated, despite minor bodily damages.
Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries-
Melons and raspberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
All ripe together
In summer weather–
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy;
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye,
Come buy, come buy.”
(Goblin Market, C. Rossetti)
Will there really be a “Morning”?
Is there such a thing as “Day”?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!
(Akseli Gallen-Kallela Lake Keitele; John Singer Sargent Girl Fishing; Parrish Spring Morning, “Will there really be a “Morning”?” by Emily Dickinson)
Like the ghost of a dear friend dead
Is Time long past.
A tone which is now forever fled,
A hope which is now forever past,
A love so sweet it could not last,
Was Time long past.
There were sweet dreams in the night
Of Time long past:
And, was it sadness or delight,
Each day a shadow onward cast
Which made us wish it yet might last–
That Time long past.
There is regret, almost remorse,
For Time long past.
‘Tis like a child’s belovèd corse
A father watches, till at last
Beauty is like remembrance, cast
From Time long past.
(Time Long Past by Percy Bysshe Shelley)
Today I am celebrating (or at least acknowledging) the 5-years anniversary of what has become le grande love affair between me and London. Our story begins on the 28th of August 2004 when I arrived in London for the very first time (the one time I had been here before doesn’t really count as it was part of a confirmation-trip and we spent the whole bloody day in St. Paul’s Cathedral. The most exciting thing I got to do was run across the street to buy a bottle of water). I remember that first weekend so well; the whole city was boiling in a tropical heat wave. I lived on Edgware Road and felt like I had ended up in a Moroccan tourist resort.
I spend an awful lot of time complaining about London. It’s noisy, it’s ugly, it smells. There are no stars, no birdsong, no fresh air; only polluted skies, sirens and fumes. And while people are busy being either rude, drunk or just plain stupid (or all of the above), the Victorian buildings wither away in the neon lights from the kebab shops. It makes me lose faith in humanity and everything feels more dystopian than the most hopeless of Heym-poems. Base and course and dreadful.
Claude Monet, one of the paintings from the London Parliament Series (1904)
But then I have moments when the beauty of this city just overwhelms me. When I walk over one of the Thames bridges I am almost overpowered by the riverbanks’ majestic skylines and it is like the epiphanic moment Wordsworth had on Westminster Bridge*. And underneath our feet floats the river: cold, dark and quiet, reflecting the moon and the street lights like thousands of crystal on its surface. And it fills me with a feeling I never have anywhere else; that I am happy that I am here and nowhere else. Joie de vivre and all that.
John Atkinson Grimshaw Reflection on the Thames, Westminster
Most of the time I am somewhere in between these extremes. I sit on Trafalgar Square with Landseer’s lions, probably arguing enthusiastically with the world over something trivial. As I glimpse Big Ben behind Lord Nelson I start to loose myself in the amazing sensation of having 200 years of historical greatness within an arm’s reach or the dreadful feeling of carrying 200 years’ worth of human misery on my shoulders. But then I have to divert my attention to swear at some tourist or pigeon or something else that annoys me. And so the love story continues.
* “Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802” by William Wordsworth
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This city now doth, like a garment wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie
Open unto the fields and to the sky,
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did the sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!