Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Villon was learned; he had gone to University and in medieval France qualified in the most coveted field open to the un-aristocratic with brains, to be a priest. Priest, I had urgh (!) feelings about that but still I could see how that appealed to him. It was the best and like I, he had to have the best, be the best.
I did not know it then but Villon meant a great deal to me too because after getting it all he said, “Fuck that shit” and walked away. That took more than guts and I was always wondering whether I could have such guts to do something like that. Maugham (that secret preacher of pleasure with stories culled from lived lives) in The Lotus Eater had suggested that but I had not tested my courage yet. Villon had.
Villon was also a lesson. He was my teacher about the costs, the penalties to be paid for refusing to conform.
BALLADE OF THE MEN WHO WERE HANGED
Brother men who come along now, we
Are gone; don't let your feelings petrify
Against us. For if you show some sympathy,
God; grace to you can only magnify
Five of us up here - or is it six? We fly
By means of ropes the flesh that once was sound
And sleek but now is mere half-eaten rind,
And only we, the bones, left to discuss
Our rotten luck. Don't laugh, but be chagrined -
And pray to God that He show grace to us.
We call you brothers, and we hope you'll see
Our side of things, although our fate came by
Edict of law. You surely must agree
That all men don't possess an equal high
Intelligence. And now that we draw nigh,
Ask of the Virgin's Son that He be kind
And, never stinting mercy, will befriend
And keep us from that Hell so thunderous.
We're dead-and none need pay us any mind,
But pray to God that He show grace to us.
The rain has washed us clean as clean can be;
The sun has blackened us and burnt us dry:
Eyebrows and beards the crows have carried away
And, helped by magpies, dug out every eye.
Nor are we tranquil as the hours go by
But always we drift restless in the wind
That gaily neglects to keep a steady mind.
We've got more holes than a tailor's thimble has.
Don't do our deeds; do just the other kind-
And pray to God that He show grace to us.
Jesus, to Whose domain we're all assigned
Let Hell not hold us eternally confined,
For that; one place we've got no business
And brothers, your sneering jokes are quite unkind;
O pray to God that lie show grace to us.
Villon was not super human. He had a weakness. Mine was my father. Villon’s was his mother… (a sample)…
Le Testament: Ballade: ‘Item: Donne A Ma Povre Mere’
This I give to my poor mother
As a prayer now, to our Mistress
– She who bore bitter pain for me,
God knows, and also much sadness –
I’ve no other castle or fortress,
That my body and soul can summon,
When I’m faced with life’s distress,
Nor has my mother, poor woman:
I was 16 when I read my first Villon. I was in a new school. I wanted to be left alone but my reputation had preceded me. Then I made a friend, Kalungi Martin, who one Saturday evening when the school was silent, empty and we were the only two left took me by the hand to a secret store, opened and showed me a new world. A world of dusty books and the pungent smell of ageing pages. Books the school library did not want anymore on its shelves. Old books out of fashion but not wisdom. Writers never heard of in ordinary discourse.
The door locked behind me, alone, I squatted and gingerly lifted the dust coated blue covered book nearest to my shoe. It was an anthology of Western greats and the first page I opened was on a writer called Francois Villon (1435-- 1465). At 6:40pm I began reading. I have not stopped reading since.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
Sniff! Sniff! Do you smell that? It’s the smell of love in the air…
The park is filled with night and fog,
The veils are drawn about the world,
The drowsy lights along the paths
Are dim and pearled.
Gold and gleaming the empty streets,
Gold and gleaming the misty lake,
The mirrored lights like sunken swords,
Glimmer and shake.
Oh, is it not enough to beHere with this beauty over me?
My throat should ache and praise, and I
Should kneel in joy beneath the sky.
Oh, beauty are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love.
With youth, a singing voice and eyes
To take earth’s wonder with surprise?
Why have I put off my pride,
Why am I unsatisfied,
I for whom the pensive nightBinds her cloudy hair with light,
I for whom all beauty burns
Like incense in a million urns?
Oh, beauty, are you not enough?
Why am I crying after love?
Sara Teasdale, Spring Night
Meeting her for the first time…
At last Dr. Jevenal asked the patient to sit up, and
with exquisite care he opened her nightdress down to
the waist; her pure high breasts with the childish
nipples shone for an instant in the darkness of the
bedroom, like a flash of gunpowder, before she hurried
to cover them with crossed arms.
GarciaMarquez, Love in the time of Cholera
Head over feet (Alanis Morisette)
I had no choice but to hear you
You stated your case time and again
I thought about itYou treat me like I’m a princess
I’m not used to liking that
You ask how my day was(chorus)
You’ve already won me over in spite of me
Don’t be alarmed if I fall head over feet
Don’t be surprised if I love you for all that you are
I couldn’t help itIt’s all your fault
Your love is think and it swallowed me whole
You’re so much braver than I gave you credit for
That’s not lip service(repeat chorus)
You are the bearer of unconditional things
You held your breath and the door for me
Thanks for your patience
You’re the best listener that I’ve ever met
You’re my best friend
Best friend with benefits
What took me so long
I’ve never felt this healthy before
I’ve never wanted something rational
I am aware now
I am aware now
Good God, what a night that was,
The bed was so soft, and how we clung,
Burning together, lying this way and that,
Our uncontrollable passionsFlowing through our mouths.
If I could only die that way,
I’d say goodbye to the business of living.
Sometimes love is not possible
Joey raised his head as I lowered mine and we kissed, as it were, by accident. Then for the first time in my life, I was really aware of another person’s body, of another person’s smell. We had our arms around each other. It was like holding in my hands some rare, exhausted, nearly drowned bird, which I had miraculously happened to find. To remember it so clearly, so painfully tonight tells me that I have never for an instant truly forgotten it.
Perhaps it was because he looked so innocent lying there, with such perfect trust; perhaps it was because he was so much smaller than me; my own body suddenly seemed gross and crushing and the desire which was rising in me seemed monstrous. But above all, I was suddenly afraid. It was borne in on me: But Joey is a boy.
James Baldwin,Giovanni’s Room
She’s always there
All day I have been working,
Now I am tired.
I call: “Where are you?”
But there is only the oak tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you’re not there.
Suddenly I am lonely:
Where are you?
I go about searching.
Then I see you, standing under a spire of pale blue
larkspur, With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool,
like silver, And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes,
You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and
rounded. You tell me these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet Te Deums of
the Canterbury bells.
Amy Lowell,Madonna of the Evening Hours
Time has slowed down. I seem to be waiting hours for Gina to reply, yet I know by the time she speaks only seconds will have passed. I hear the clock ticking, the fridge-freezer whirling, the heating clanking. But these are silent compared to the sound of my blood, rushing around my veins and gathering weight in my temples.
“It is to me. Because I’m humiliated, Gina. All those times you’ve found it easy to say no to me, all those nights of sexual rejection. All those years of completely controlling our sex life and then Mr. Sensitive comes along and your knickers hit the ground faster than a dropped crystal glass. So I want to know. I want to know all the goy details. When did it begin? Where were you when you did it the first time? Did he go down on you? Did you suck his cock, Gina? Is it bigger than mine? Is he a better screw than me? Is that why you let him have you?
“You’ve changed Andy. You’re not fun anymore. You’ve lost your…charisma. The man who could hold a room spellbound two seconds after he walked into it has just disappeared.”
“Let’s get out of here. I can’t talk anymore.”
I’ve stood up and I’m making my way back to the car, leaving Gina to follow me…at least, I presume she’s following me. I’m not stopping to check.
Owen Whittaker, The House Husband.
The room was dark except for the shafting light from the half opened bedroom door. Martin undressed quietly. Little and little, mysteriously, there came in him a change. His wife asleep, her peaceful respiration sounding gently in the room. Her high-heeled shoes with the carelessly dropped
stockings made to him a mute appeal. Her underclothes were flung in disorder on the choir. Martin picked up the girdle and the soft, ilk brassiere and stood for a
moment with them in his hands. For the first time that evening he looked at his wife. His eyes rested on the sweet forehead, the arch of the fine brow. As Martin watched the tranquil slumber of his wife the ghost of anger vanished. All thoughts of blame and blemish were distant from him now. Martin put out the bathroom light and raised the window. Careful not to awaken Emily he slid into the bed. By moonlight he watched his wife for the last time. His hand sought the adjacent flesh and sorrow paralleled desire in the immense complexity of love.
Carson McCullers, A Domestic Dilemma
The end of all things
The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold,
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.
Our freedom as freelances
Advances towards its end
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.
The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying
And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under thunder and rain with you
And grateful too For sunlight on the garden
Louis MacNiece, The Sunlight on the Garden
(PS: You guys better read up on Winesburg, Ohio bySherwood Anderson because his birthday is coming upand you know I’m not going to let it slip by. Preparefor the bombardment!)