Saturday, June 23, 2012

"Scratchy brisk rain irritable as tinder"

Regular readers will know of my fondness for these things. (It is the sort of thing I find easy to memorize, too; for instance, I will not easily forget that the bus from Innsbruck airport to the city stops at "Fischerhaeuslweg" and "Klinik," though I only rode it twice.) Here is the map in the original Norwegian (inter alia I am pleased to note that Norwegian for "brook" is cognate with "beck"). Here is a related old post.

Letters from (mostly children's) authors to kids. (Failing which, there's nothing but the wall / of public lavatories on which to scrawl.)

Peter McDonald reviews the new Geoffrey Hill books. I do not mean to direct you to the review, which is defensive and boring, just to cull a few quotes. (The books seem dreadful.) But here is Hill on Yeats: "Yeats with his clangour of despotic beauty." And there are these snippets:
‘Passchendaele’s chill mud at a gulp engorging | Men and redhot rashers of sizzling metal’ (XXXV), ‘long demolished | Iron bridges clamped over backstreet inlets | Tremor to footfalls’ (XXXVI),  ‘Bracken-guarded airfields where now the pigeons | Ponderous, wingladen, in near-botched take-offs, | Rattle the spinneys’ (XLII), ‘Glasstight black porter’ (XLIX)
And finally, a delightful stanza:
Broken that first kiss by the race to shelter,
Scratchy brisk rain irritable as tinder;
Hearing light thrum faintly the chords of laurel
Taller than we were.
(Cf. Bishop's moonlight, "hairy, scratchy, splintery" and Auden on being "taller today.")

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Arundel turtle-tomb

Prehistoric turtles, squashed in rapturous embrace (via Calista)

Notably, "Their nearest living relatives are probably the pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), a much bigger species that swims in waters around Australia and Papua New Guinea." Which look like this (file under: snouts) --

I have not seen a more viscerally satisfying picture in months.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Handel with care

Came upon one of these lately: 

Here is Browne on the genre of picture (he is discussing the curvature of dolphins):
And thus also must that picture be taken of a Dolphin clasping an Anchor: that is, not really, as is by most conceived out of affection unto man, conveighing the Anchor unto the ground: but emblematically, according as Pierius hath expressed it, The swiftest animal conjoyned with that heavy body, implying that common moral, Festina lentè: and that celerity should always be contempered with cunctation.
I first came upon the saying in Moore's frigate-bird:
    As impassioned Handel——

meant for a lawyer and a masculine German domestic
  career——clandestinely studied the harpsichord
  and never was known to have fallen in love,
    the unconfiding frigate-bird hides
in the height and in the majestic
  display of his art. He glides
  a hundred feet or quivers about
    as charred paper behaves——full
    of feints; and an eagle

of vigilance...Festina lente. Be gay
  civilly? How so? "If I do well I am blessed
  whether any bless me or not, and if I do
    ill I am cursed."

I remember, at the time -- I had no Latin at all, then -- assuming that she was paraphrasing the quote in what immediately followed it. (And I had not noticed the parallel between this and the bit in Auden's limestone poem -- he would have been familiar with early Moore in 1948-49 -- where he says, "The blessed will not care what angle they are regarded from, / Having nothing to hide." And other Google image results clarify that the thing protruding from the dolphin's face is a proboscis not a parching tongue.)

It is an amusing coincidence that both frigate-bird and porpoise are storm-sensors ("before a storme, hee tumbles just as a hog runs").

I shall close this pointless post -- as Eliot was fond of saying in forewords, all one can do with things that are so transparently good is point -- with a strikingly good observation from David Bromwich's essay on  Moore:
As a composer of words Moore's greatest affinities are with Francis Bacon [...] To be curt, undeviating, end-stopped wherever a thought might enter, but at the same time vivid, striking, inventive in the highest degree conscionable, is the ideal of both writers. [...] "Nature is often hidden; sometimes overcome; seldom extinguished," is a sentence one can imagine her writing, or quoting, as easily as "it is good to commit the beginnings of all great actions to Argos with his hundred eyes, and the ends to Briareus with his hundred hands; first to watch, and then to speed."
Here is the Bacon (I really have to read more of these essays). And for "extinguished" cf. -- in Moore's pangolin -- "curtailed, extinguished, thwarted by the dusk."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Corkscrewing, cheesiness

Back after a very pleasant trip to NYC and Princeton -- my spirits survived my body's weak attempts to depress them with a cold. Highlights included gin and marmalade (!), and a crawl through the Met, where I was particularly struck by these two pictures. (Unfortunately I missed the Edward Gorey exhibit at Columbia...) The workshop was great too -- I wish I hadn't let my old physics blog fall into such utter desuetude; I would have had material for it... I mean to get back to a more normal blogging schedule, but disruptions associated with moving and paper-completion are likely to persist for another few weeks.

A smattering of links:

1. Illustrations from a 1925 Japanese edition of Aesop.

2. David Crystal on Dickens's language (parts 1, 2, and 3). Part 3 is especially good I think; esp. the precursors of Chuzzlewit, and this bit from Oliver Twist, which I do not remember at all (having read the book only as a child):
Mrs Mann: How comes he to have any name at all, then?
Bumble: I inwented it.
Mrs Mann: You, Mr. Bumble!
Bumble: I, Mrs. Mann. We name our fondlings in alphabetical order. The last was a S,- Swubble, I named him. This was a T,- Twist, I named him. The next one as comes will be Unwin, and the next Vilkins. I have got names ready made to the end of the alphabet, and all the way through it again, when we come to Z.
Mrs Mann: Why, you're quite a literary character, sir! 
For Swubble cf. "swabbling." And the list of words that might have been coined by Dickens has some remarkable entries...

3. Mary Beard recently alluded to the duck's ditty in Wind in the Willows; I'd forgotten about it, was happy to be reminded, and was thoroughly cheered up to find that "Up tails all" is an old folk song to which the lyrics have apparently been lost (?), although the refrain survives in allusions by Jonson, Herrick, and Vanbrugh:
Ras. The Matter?—why, Uptails All's the Matter... My Lady has Cuckolded my Master.