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."

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