on the way through the pale trees, although I am naturally gratified to use a recently-acquired word.
The mind of this strange man is worth a visit, however, and demonstrates the truism that images and narratives are diminished by their exegesis; even Jung could only make his stories smaller when he enlarged upon them.
lxx : Have an argument
No, not the kind taking place in Room 12A. In the darkness before today’s sodden dawn the pen scrawled reluctantly across sheet after sheet of file paper (can’t produce a good argument using a word processor, however ten-fingered I may be).
Looking at the result is like looking at holiday packing: gloom at the shabby aspect of one’s possessions, grave doubts that the right things have been selected, wondering what is the essential item you have certainly forgotten, and a growing conviction that this monstrous heap will never all go in.
… with anything much, when there is water dripping through the ceiling, and the plumber clonking about detectively.
With November imminent, it was appropriate to groan and say, Here we go again, and cut out paper. Every year the most tiresome part is trying to squeeze uniqueness into a hundred squares, each no more than an inch and a half on a side, when there is barely room to turn the scissors (the large squares are much easier). So I applied the worst-first rule.
Seventy-five minuscule squares later, and with a shiny new ballcock in situ, that seems to have been a sound decision.
… obviously, as I no longer pause for photographs. Still, being on the inside of a large damp cloud all day may have had something to do with it; not even the cathedral could manage to be photogenic in the gloom.
It is a great treat to be on the loose in a real library again, though I must say some of these are rather forbidding tomes. The one I fancied most was entitled Dissenting readers. Then I looked again and found it was really called Discerning readers, which put me right off. Very Freudian misreading. There was also a fat anthology of literature just called DEATH, which looked inviting, but I didn’t have enough borrowing allowance by the time I’d selected the others. Another time perhaps.
In a way this is the one I’m most looking forward to:
It’s years since I had a Homeric binge, and I’ve heard good things of this translation. And it doesn’t come with a time limit (apart from good nature on the part of the lending library).
I’ve been looking through some photos from last week. There was little time to go anywhere except the College itself, or a quick doddle round the Close for fresh air. Luckily, there was a fascinating exhibition in the library, and the cathedral always rewards. (Click a thumbnail for the gallery. If you want to see texts properly, click on link from gallery to full size.)
About 1602, with an edifying introduction and signs of serious use –
– I was taken with the smug lions and the unexpectedly cross-looking elephants.
This author is maintaining the usual standard of Christian polemic 😦
Here we have Augustine and notable characters – and a jolly ditty running through the footer. Aaah!
And here is Matthew helpfully rendered in Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, and early Englishes.
College bedrooms are austere but included a view of the quadrangle in the amenities,
while the cathedral has an elaboration of flying buttresses (always a good thing).
They seem to have mislaid a few saints, leaving Geo. Herbert lonely, which may be why he looks less cheerful than one might expect.
More interesting expressions. Even the sparrow finds a home – though I think this spiky appendage requires a larger fowl.
Bit of a postcard view – but yes, Salisbury is genuinely spectacular.
Today I went looking for a quiet place on the stairs in which to find a teasing line. Instead I found an image, obscure at first but clarifying into black comedy.
I don’t think he or she made it.
So goodbye to the lectures and a brief hello to some nearestsanddearests; full of apple crumble we admired the Close and the cathedral lit by what looked like about seven million lux, killing the stars.
I have swapped my austere hall-of-residence style bed for something even more austere, having no bedstead at all; but the ambience is friendly, and I am cooched up on the sofa with the Middle English Metrical Paraphrase of the Old Testament:
In this boke that cald is Genesis
ther may men see the soth unsoght
How God, that beldes in endlese blyse,
all only with Hys Word hath wroght
Hevyn on heght for Hym and Hys,
this erth and all that ever is oght.
This erth was wyde and wast
and no gud on yt grovyd;
On the heght the Holi Gast
abown the waters movyd.
Milton, eat your heart out.
The best thing about this book (as far as I am concerned) it that it has informed me of the existence of Hrotsvit, apparently a tenth-century canoness who referred to herself as the Forceful Testimony of Gandersheim, and wrote sacred dramas in the form of Terentian comedy, redeeming the form (she said) from his pagan smuttiness. How lovely to imagine her beavering away, and thinking “Ha! Take that, Terence!” every time she finished a good bit.
In spite of some interesting ideas, the rest has been a struggle. I don’t mind the content, or the slightly experimental form. It’s mostly because of the English. The constantly repeated use of favourite words is like squeaking chalk – “profound” and “deep”, sometimes even “deeply profound” and “profoundly deep”, multiple times on what feels like every page. Other words and phrases were almost equally intrusive. If only the author had gone through and removed every adjective, the book would be ten pages shorter, and if he had eliminated at least 50% of the repetitions, it would be twenty pages more readable.
So I’ve let myself off the concluding chapters. I’ll deal with the actual ideas elsewhere, and they’ll probably be useful. But genuine thanks for Hrotsvit.
It’s a classic failure to organise: fling everything in on top of itself, incomprehensible page following puzzling extract on top of contentious essay, accompanied by alternating layers of tosh, bits of Mesopotamia, defunct television criticism, and (of course) recent investigations into specific gravity. It may be necessary to jump up and down on the heap. Insofar as there is a plan, this should continue for a few more weeks (barring accidents), at which point everything should receive a good stir-up and be left for a week or two to fractionate.
I wonder if it will work?
In a book about apocalypses and endings in fiction, it seemed appropriate to begin with the most recently written segment, which is the epilogue, before returning to chapter/lecture 1, mischievously entitled “The End”.
It was perhaps an error to cook a ginger cake between chapters 2 and 3. The tin is almost empty.
One in Salisbury, which was all about books: library and second hand; and generalised chaos. The second more local, involving close conversation and landscape, the colours dimmed by season and the sky’s declared intention to drop in buckets, which nevertheless didn’t happen.
Now all I’ve got to do…