Monday, September 3, 2012

Two uncles one full-dress saber

Owls in flight are strangely photogenic (see also):

Here is Uncle 1, "as looney as ever" -- i.e., Yeats, introducing a book by random eastern mystic, as described by Eliot; really you should read the whole thing but I wanted to flag this bit for poss. future reference:
it does seem a pity that he tells some of the Holy Man's best stories over in advance in his own fashion but the Holy Man himself writes much better than Yeats for this sort of thing I mean. That [sic] is a good one about his scaling a mountain about 25000 feet and tumbling into a cave on top of a still Holier Man who received him with laughter and affection.
I'm not sure if the book was originally to be called "Mount Meru" -- as in the typescript -- but you might remember the late poem "Meru" (quoted in that most Yeatsian of novels, Sabbath's Theater) in which hermits in caves on mountains appear; the spirit of the anecdote also reminds me a little of Lapis Lazuli.

And here is Uncle 2, in what is now my favorite Clive James poem, esp. for the ending (it is attributed to "Robert Lowly"; am not sure if it was originally published under James's name):
Revised Notes for a Sonnet 
On the steps of the Pentagon I tucked my skull
Well down between my knees, thinking of Cordell Hull
Cabot Lodge Van du Plessis Stuyvesant, our gardener,
Who'd stop me playing speedway in the red-and-rust
Model A Ford that got clapped out on Cape Cod
And wound up as a seed-shed. Oh my God, my God,
How this administration bleeds but will not die,
Hacking at the rib-cage of our art. You were wrong, R.P.
Blackmur. Some of the others had our insight, too,
Though I suppose I had endurance, toughness, faith,
Sensitivity, intelligence and talent. My mind's not right.
With groined, sinning eyeballs I write sonnets until dawn
Is published over London like a row of books by Faber --
Then shave myself with Uncle's full-dress sabre.
As an irrelevant postscript, there is something pleasingly symmetric about the word "toponymy," quite apart from the pony hiding in the middle of it.

No comments: