Sunday, 21 December 2008

Tree and Leaf

Wistmans Wood, Oct 2008
... the 'consolation' of fairy-stories has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it. At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite - I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophe tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.

The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous 'turn' (for there is no true end to any fairy-tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially 'escapist', nor 'fugitive'. In this fairy-tale - or otherworld - setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. it does not deny the existence of dycastastrophe, of sorrow and failure: the possibility of these is necessary to the joy of deliverance; it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.

It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the 'turn' comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of lterary art, and haveing a peculiar quality...

... in such stories when the sudden 'turn' comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.

JRR Tolkein - Tree and Leaf

On Fariy Stories

Kent, May 2008

...fairy-stories are not the only means of recovery, or prophylactic against loss. Humility is enough. And there is (especially for the humble) Mooreeffoc, or Chestertonian Fantasy. Mooreeffoc is a fantastic word, but it could be seen written up in every town in this land. It is Coffee-room, viewed from the inside through a glass door, as it was seen by Dickens on a dark London day; and it was used by Chesterton to denote the queerness of things that have become trite, when they are seen suddenly from a new angle. That kind of "fantasy" most people would allow to be wholesome enough; and it can never lack for material. But it has, I think, only a limited power; for the reason that recovery of freshness of vision is its only virtue. The word Mooreeffoc may cause you suddenly to realize that England is an utterly alien land, lost either in some remote past age glimpsed by history, or in some strange dim future to be reached only by a time-machine; to see the amazing oddity and interest of its inhabitants and their customs and feeding-habits; but it cannot do more than that: act as a time-telescope focused on one spot. Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else (make something new), may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you. The "fantastic" elements in verse and prose of other kinds, even when only decorative or occasional, help in this release. But not so thoroughly as a fairy-story, a thing built on or about Fantasy, of which Fantasy is the core. Fantasy is made out of the Primary World, but a good craftsman loves his material, and has a knowledge and feeling for clay, stone and wood which only the art of making can give.
[J. R. R. Tolkien, "On Fairy Stories" in Tree and Leaf 77-78]

The Eerie Realism of a Dull Corner

Margate Festival 2008

Herein is the whole secret of that eerie realism with which Dickens could always vitalize some dark or dull corner of London. There are details in the Dickens descriptions - a window, or a railing, or the keyhole of a door - which he endows with demoniac life. The things seem more actual than things really are. Indeed, that degree of realism does not exist in reality: it is the unbearable realism of a dream. And this kind of realism can only be gained by walking dreamily in a place; it cannot be gained by walking observantly. Dickens himself has given a perfect instance of how these nightmare minutiae grew upon him in his trance of abstraction. He mentions among the coffee-shops into which he crept in those wretched days one in St. Martin's Lane, "of which I only recollect that it stood near the church, and that in the door there was an oval glass plate with 'COFFEE ROOM' painted on it, addressed towards the street. If I ever find myself in a very different kind of coffee-room now, but where there is such an inscription on glass, and read it backwards on the wrong side, MOOR EEFFOC (as I often used to do then in a dismal reverie), a shock goes through my blood." That wild word, "Moor Eeffoc," is the motto of all effective realism; it is the masterpiece of the good realistic principle - the principle that the most fantastic thing of all is often the precise fact. And that elvish kind of realism Dickens adopted everywhere. His world was alive with inanimate objects.
[GKC, Charles Dickens CW15:65]

Friday, 14 November 2008

I Look at Myself

I look at myself
And I am grown old.
You say you love me
But I am not the one.
I see trouble ahead - I say
Ready to pounce – you say
I told you so.

The baby is in ruins – not much of it left, I dreamt.
The wind is prowling, maybe off it's head, I said.
Raging in pain the planet is plaintive, you said
We carry on.
We carry on.

And my mother, in her cups,
Is dying.
The year, in its throes
Is dying.
The bees, in their hives
Are dying.

And I am so sorry, so sorry.

The voices argue over again
and I remain dumb.

VH 2008

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Wistmans Wood 2008

To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver.

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so, (for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’); you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace one of the many minor globes of Space: a star’s a star, some matter in a ball compelled to courses mathematical amid the regimented, cold, Inane, where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend (and must), but only dimly apprehend, great processes march on, as Time unrolls from dark beginnings to uncertain goals; and as on page o’erwritten without clue, with script and limning packed of various hue, an endless multitude of forms appear, some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer, each alien, except as kin from one remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun. God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees, tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these homuncular men, who walk upon the ground with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound. The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs, green grass, the large slow oddity of cows, thunder and lightening, birds that wheel and cry, slime crawling up form mud to live and die, these each are duly registered and print the brains contortions with a separate dint.

Yet trees are not ‘trees’, until so named and seen – and never were so named, till those had been who speech’s involuted breath unfurled, faint echo and dim picture of the world, but neither record nor a photograph, being divination, judgement, and a laugh, response of those that felt astir within by deep monition movements that were kin to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars: free captives undermining shadowy bars, digging the foreknown from experience and panning the vein of spirit out of sense. Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves, and looking backward they beheld the elves that wrought on cunning forges in the mind, and light and dark on secret looms entwined. He sees no stars who does not see them first of living silver made that sudden burst to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song, whose very echo after-music long has since pursued. There is no firmament, only a void, unless a jewelled tent myth-woven and elf-patterned; and no earth, unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.

The heart of man is not compound of lies, but draws some wisdom from the only Wise, and still recalls him. Though now long estranged, man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed. Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned, and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned, his world-dominion by creative act: not his to worship the great Artefact, man, sub-creator, the refracted light through whom is splintered from a single White to many hues, and endlessly combined in living shapes that move from mind to mind. though all the crannies of the world we filled with elves and goblins, though we dared to build gods and their houses out of dark and light, and sow the seed of dragons, ‘twas our right (used or misused). The right has not decayed. We make still by the law in which we’re made.

Yes! ‘wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream, or some things fair and others ugly deem? All wishes are not idle, nor in vain fulfilment we devise – for pain is pain, not for itself to be desired, but ill; or else to strive or to subdue the will alike were graceless; and of Evil this alone is dreadly certain: Evil is.

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate, that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate; that seek no parley, and in guarded room, though small and bare, upon a clumsy loom weave tissues gilded by the far-off day hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build their little arks, though frail and poorly filled, and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith, a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night, or bid us flee to organised delight, in lotus-isles of economic bliss forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss (and counterfeit at that, machine-produced, bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).

Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair, and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat, and yet they would not in despair retreat, but oft to victory have turned the lyre and kindled hearts with legendary fire, illuminating Now and dark Hath-been with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

I would that I might with the minstrels sing and stir the unseen with a throbbing string. I would be with the mariners of the deep that cut their slender planks on mountains steep and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest, for some have passed beyond the fabled West. I would with the beleaguered fools be told, that keep an inner fastness where their gold, impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring to mint in image blurred of distant king, or in fantastic banners weave the sheen heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

I will not walk with your progressive apes erect and sapient. Before them gapes the dark abyss to which their progress tends – if by God’s mercy progress ever ends, and does not ceaselessly revolve the same unfruitful course with changing of a name. I will not tread your dusty path and flat, denoting this and that by this and that, your world immutable wherein no part the little maker has with maker’s art. I bow not yet before the Iron Crown, nor cast my own small golden sceptre down. In Paradise perchance the eye may stray from gazing upon everlasting Day to see the day-illumined, and renew from mirrored truth the likenesses of the True. Then looking on the Blessed Land ‘twill see that all is as it is, and yet made free: Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys, garden nor gardener, children nor their toys. Evil it will not see, for evil lies not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes, not in the source but in malicious choice, and not in sound but in the tuneless voice. In Paradise they look no more awry; and though they make anew, they make no lie. Be sure they still will make, not being dead, and poets shall have flames upon their head, and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall: there each shall choose for ever from the All.
JRR Tolkein

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

The Madness of the Caravanserai

Photo - West Bay, Dorset

And then there are places and regions farther afield, places on the verge of London, as unknown to the vast majority of Londoners as Harran in Abyssinia. To attain these, the general recipe is to take something that goes out of London by the Seven Sisters Road, something that touches on Finsbury Park, which, I take it, is the extremest mark of the  Londinia cognita Londiniensibus; the caravanserai from which the caravans set out across the wilderness; the merchants telling tales of travellers who journeyed on just such a voyage and travail and were heard and seen no more of men; though some chroniclers, in the fashion of old Mandeville, and therefore not to be trusted overmuch, hardily affirm that these very rapt personages have been noted going to chapel on Sundays in Grinders Green, wearing silk hats and frock coats, or as doing their own marketing on Saturday nights, haggardly, awfully, as men dwelling under the command of a djinneh, on the heights of Tottenham Rye. Such tales they tell of them that scoffed at the predictions of the geomancers, and undertook the journey of the great caravan that sets out from Finsbury Park, a station on the Great Northern Railway – I have not duly noted its new name – from York Road. His Name is the Merciful, the Compassionate, the King of the Day of Judgment; and in the Halls of Eblis there is no backyard gloomier than the backyard in which York Road Station, King’s Cross, is situate. O true believers: be not misguided by those who speak proudly of Euston and Somers Town: for they stray from the truth.
Alas ! I am sane, as the doctors persist, and so I cannot show these visions.

The London Adventure p.134 Arthur Machen

Arthur Machen Laments

Photo - Margate Festival 2008

“Really; it is quite clear that Art… is in the very bones of humanity, that it is the differentia of man, that which makes him to be what he is, that distinguishes him from sheep and goats, that nourish a blind life within the brain. And how infinitely strange it is that we, who are men because we are artists, should begin to suspect that if we are artists we are mad. Genius, art are, I take it , vision; the power of seeing further, seeing deeper, seeing more than we others see, with secondary part of expression, the power of communicating in notes, or paint, or marble, or words the thing that has been thus seen…

… ah! If I had but been one of this happy race of lunatics; how I would have shaken your hearts with the picture of Clarendon Road, Notting Hill Gate (Arthur Machen as a young man) , somewhat bowery, somewhat stuccoey, vanishing into October mists and dimness forty years ago on still, dull evenings; with the picture of the poor lad who lived in the little top room on No. 23, issuing forth and pacing the dull, still ways, dreaming, ever dreaming and burning for the great adventure of literature; seeing the stones glow into spagyric gold beneath his feet, seeing the plane trees in the back gardens droop down from fairyland, seeing a mystery behind every blind, and the infinite mystery in the grey-blue distance, where, as they tell me, for I have never sought to know, the street becomes dubious, if not desolate.”

The London Adventure p.130 Arthur Machen

Catching Abstract Triangles

Photo - Margate Festival 2008

We move, as I have said before, in a world of illusions, but of illusions on one plane. We are mistaken if we think that there is, in ultimate reality, any such thing as a cube, any such thing as a cow; but, at all events, these two are apparently on the same surface of being. But, now and then, there are intrusions upon us from other worlds, probably quite as illusory as our own. And we are accordingly left stupefied. There is no t” therefore”; no ratio. Suppose a mathematician, in the high matters of his science, to come upon a conic section singing a comic song. Suppose a gamekeeper trapping weasels – and catching Abstract Triangles, or a classical scholar finding the optative mood turning into white mice, with small, gilt bells. Thus it was when the coals shot out of the coal-scuttle at Farringay on the King’s Cross Line (a case of poltergeist), when the mud walls broke upon the Bishop’s holy head in Zanzibar; when I say the name “ Le Fleming” - or Fleming – on the brass plate in the Earl’s Court Road…

But, after all, from all this there does result this one moral…that the world, the sum of things of which we are cognisant, is infinitely queer, that even in the rind or surface of it the strangest essences are lurking, that tremendous beauties, amazing oddities are everywhere present, wearing very often, to use the Wardrobe Master’s phrase, Disguise Cloaks of the most commonplace pattern.

The London Adventure p.122 Arthur Machen

The Grey Hills

Sun Through the Leaves

I would write of a man on his summer holiday,… I would write of him as coming to my old territory , and as he ran down the shore of the Severn and the level lands to Newport noting something strange, in the shape of the wild Grey Hills to the north, something outland in those greeny dells of Wentwood, that hide in their lower slopes buried walls and temples. I would take my man to Caerleon-on-Usk and show him the grey Roman walls mouldering there above the green turf, and show him the red sunset over the mountain, and the tawny river swimming to the flood. He should go wandering away, this unfortunate fellow, into such a country as he had never dreamed of; he should lose himself in intricacies of deep lanes descending from wooded heights to hidden and solitary valleys, where the clear water of the winding brook sounds under the alder trees. He should be high on Mynydd Maen in the morning, in the fullness of the sun, and drink in the wind that blows there, and look out on the rolling billows of the land, and far down yellow Severn Sea; and finally he should come home again to London and perceive that wonderful things have been wrought in him; that these woods and hollows, these ancient walls and buried temples, this might and majesty of sun and wind upon the summit of the great mountain wall, these enclosed, still valleys of hidden peace and wonder; that all these things have discoursed to him a great mystery, whereby his soul has been renewed within him.

The London Adventure p.137 Arthur Machen

Notes for the Hill of Dreams

The Colour Purple - 2008

He wondered whether all the objects of nature are not purely symbolical; whether nature does not endeavour to talk to us and tell us amazing secrets by the signs and ciphers of trees and ferns and herbs and flowers and hills and streams… the oak and the elm that we fell for our need may be wonderful signs: the brooks may indeed be books: the fern may be a great secret: the flower by the way the word of a great mystery: and whether we call the hills beautiful or dig coal from them, we may equally misunderstand their office.

The London Adventure p. 80 – Arthur Machen

Poets Catch Strange Glimpses Of Reality

Photo - Margate Wandering 2008

I am afraid “wandering a little” is almost a hobby of mine - I began to consider whether, in this respect, London were the unique matter I had considered it. For, referring back the axiom to its most august origin: we are ready enough to confess – if we be not occultists, who know everything – that no man hath seen God at any time. But are we prepared to admit that no man hath seen anything at any time? Yet, this is most indubitably the truth. We see appearances and outward shows of things, symbols of all sorts; but we behold no essences, nor could we bear to behold them, if it were possible to do so… Tennyson [said] - that if any man could see a grain of wheat as it is in its essence, he would instantly become a raging maniac. We see nothing real, we can no more see anything real than we can take our afternoon tea in the white, central heat of a blast furnace. We see shadows cast by reality. The more foolish of us gather up some of the shadows and put them in saucepans and boil them and then strain: and find out that water is really H2O, which is true enough in its way, and will remain so: till it is found out that H2 is shorthand for ten distinct forces, while O is a universe of countless stars, all revolving in their eternal order about an unknown, unconjecturable orb. And this, again, will be a good working hypothesis - till, new discoveries call for an entire revision of all our notions on the subject. No; we see nothing at all; though poets catch strange glimpses of reality, now and then, out of the corners of their eyes.

The London Adventure p.69– Arthur Machen

Strangeness Which Is The Essence Of Beauty

View from Primrose Hill - North London

Strangeness which is the essence of beauty is the essence of truth, and the essence of the world. I have often felt that, when the ascent of a long hill brought me to the summit of an undiscovered height in London; and I looked down on a new land.

The London Adventure p.127 Arthur Machen

The Question Of The Pattern

Then the question of the pattern. (Compare with the whorl, the spiral, Maori decoration.) Why was this form common to all primitive art?

The problem perplexed him. He took it, as was his custom, for a long walk; and in the dreariest, most grey street of a grey, remote suburb, just as the men were coming home form the city, the thought, with a pang of joy, rushed into his mind, that the maze was not only the instrument, but the symbol of ecstasy: it was a pictured “inebriation,” the sign of some age-old “process” that gave the secret bliss to men, that was symbolised also by dancing, by lyrics with their recurring burdens, and their repeated musical phrases: a maze, a dance, a song: three symbols pointing to one mystery.

The London Adventure p. 89 – Arthur Machen

We Learn By Experience, Say The Good Men

Photo - Margate Festival 2008

We learn by experience, say the good men; but I believe the fact to be that experience cause us to forget most things that are worth knowing … the sense of the eternal mysteries, the eternal beauty hidden beneath the crust of common and of commonplace things; hidden and yet burning and glowing continually if you care to look with purged eyes…

The London Adventure p.71 – Arthur Machen

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Solitude and the Creative Person

It is true that many creative people fail to make mature personal relationships, and some are extremely isolated. It is also true that, in some instances, trauma, in the shape of early separation or bereavement, has steered the potentially creative person toward developing aspects of his personality which can find fulfillment in comparative isolation. But this does not mean that solitary, creative pursuits are themselves pathological…

(A)voidance behavior is a response designed to protect the infant from behavioral disorganization. If we transfer this concept to adult life, we can see that an avoidant infant might very well develop into a person whose principal need was to find some kind of meaning and order in life which was not entirely, or even chiefly, dependent upon interpersonal relationships.

Solitude: A Return to the Self – Anthony Storr

Speed and Happiness

I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life.

Family Happiness – Leo Tolstoy

Creative Talent

It may, after all, be the bad habit of creative talents to invest themselves in pathological extremes that yield remarkable insights but no durable way of life for those who cannot translate their psychic wounds into significant art or thought.

In Search of the Miraculous – Theodore Roszak

Life in the Woods

Photo - Woods below Golden Cap, Dorset

Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth. I sat at a table where were rich food and wine in abundance, an obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board. The hospitality was as cold as the ices.

Walden, or Life in the Woods – Henry David Thoreau


The physical domain of the country had its counterpart in me. The trails I made led outward into the hills and swamps, but they led inward also. And from the study of things underfoot, and from reading and thinking, came a kind of exploration, myself and the land. In time the two became one in my mind. With the gathering force of an essential thing realizing itself out of early ground, I faced in myself a passionate and tenacious longing – to put away thought forever, and all the trouble it brings, all but the nearest desire, direct and searching. To take the trail and not look back. Whether on foot, on snowshoes or by sled, into the summer hills and their late freezing shadows – a high blaze, a runner track in the snow would show where I had gone. Let the rest of mankind find me if it could.

The Stars, The Snow, The Fire: Twenty-Five Years in the Northern Wilderness – John Haines

An Ideal Stage

Photo - Looking towards Mounts Bay, Kernow

Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation.

Wilderness and the American Mind - Robert Nash

Life as Sacrifice

Mulfra Quoit

Now what is history? It is the centuries of systematic explorations of the riddle of death, with a view to overcoming death. That’s why people discover mathematical infinity and electromagnetic waves, that’s why they write symphonies. Now, you can’t advance in this direction without a certain faith. You can’t make such discoveries without spiritual equipment. And the basic elements of this equipment are in the Gospels. What are they? To begin with, love one’s neighbour,, which is the supreme form of vital energy. Once it fills the heart of man it has to overflow and spend itself. And then the two basic ideals of modern man – without them this is unthinkable - the idea of free personality and the idea of life as sacrifice.

Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak

The Unhandselled Earth

Looking towards Logan Rock - Treen

Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful. I looked with awe at the ground I trod on, to see what the Powers had made there, the form and fashion and material of their work. This was the Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night. Here was no man’s garden, but the unhandselled* globe. It was not lawn , nor pasture, nor mead, nor woodland, nor lea, nor arable, nor waste land. It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth, as it was made forever and ever, - to be the dwelling of man, we say, - so Nature made it, and man may use it if he can. Man was not to be associated with it. It was Matter, vast, terrific, - not his Mother Earth that we have heard of, not for him to tread on, or to be buried in, - no, it were being too familiar even to let his bones lie there, - the home, this, of Necessity and Fate. There was clearly felt the presence of a force not bound to be kind to man. It was a place of heathenism and superstitious rites,- to be inhabited by men nearer of kin to the rocks and to wild animals than we… What is it to be admitted to a museum, to see a myriad of particular things, compared with being shown some star’s surface, some hard matter in its home! I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one, - that my body might, - but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries! Think of our life in nature, - daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, - rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! The solid earth! The actual world! The common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? Where are we?

Ktaadn - Henry David Thoreau
*handsel - v. To inaugurate the use of; to use for the first time; to be the first to test, try, prove, taste.


Looking towards Porth Curno Beach

Reality is a thousand times more subtle and complicated, more labyrinthine in its retreats and evasions, than the dream-world of the most recondite idealist. It is also a thousand times more stark and bleak than the crudities of the most ferocious realists. It is both these, because it is the Protean offspring of the psychic embraces of every sensibility that exists with the original plastic life-stuff.

The Meaning of Culture - JCP p. 41

Beer & Chips

On top a double decker bus heading for Sennen Cove

It is a memorable moment in one’s intellectual life when one realizes that it is not learning for learning’s sake, or knowledge for the sake of knowledge that is the object of our secret struggle with inertia and futility. It is simply that we may enjoy the most exciting sensations that life offers; and enjoy them over the longest possible extension of time. Among such sensations one of the most thrilling is that vague feeling of old countryside romance which emanates from certain far-off highways and certain remote villages. Standing upon some old stone bridge where the moss grows green and untouched on the curve of the dark arches above the water, one often feels that there is a silent unspeakable secret hovering about such places that no writer has ever really caught. Perhaps these are things that cannot be caught; but, if they ever are, it will be by a mind that has made of such memories a rich, dim background, a background full of supernatural power that has the strength to push back, if not to obliterate, the crude pressure of modern preoccupations. Such a mind was that of Emily Bronte. Even if your nature finds something monstrous and shocking about the physical brutalities in “Wuthering Heights” …(it) is indeed a terrific emanation – the breaking out of an electric storm – from that obscure reservoir of unexpressed yearnings that most hearts conceal under a thousand decorous masks. To lose the power of imaginative sympathy with their dark thunderous ways were to subside upon a sort of death-in-life! From such a death-in –life Emily Bronte exultantly releases us, as if she were herself on of those strange mythic figures in William Blake’s pictures.

The place occupied in the older times by poetry seems in our own day to be occupied by imaginative prose. The role of culture among modern minds must imply, therefore, an attempt to turn all the critical searchlights we can summon upon contemporary writings, choosing what stimulates us and avoiding what disintegrates and confuses us. The desirable effect upon one’s mind of imaginative literature is not to strengthen one’s memory or enlarge one’s learning, or to inspire one to gather together a collection of passages from “great authors”; it is to encourage one to learn the art of becoming a “great author” oneself; not in the sense of composing a single line, but in the sense of sufficiently detaching oneself from the chaotic spectacle of reality so as to catch on the wing that fleeting loveliness of which no genius has the monopoly and which only the stirred depths of one’s own deepest nature can prevail upon to pause in its eternal flight.

The Meaning of Culture – JCP, p. 38

The Meaning of Culture

To realize the advantage that a person who loves books has over one who cares nothing for them, consider the contents of two separate human heads whirling through a New York subway tunnel. Both these heads are covered with hats. Both are staring helplessly at the subway advertisements. Both are swaying to and fro with a dense crowd of other human heads. Both are preserving an expression of democratic patience. But there the resemblance ends. The un-bookish head, likely enough endowed by Nature with a whimsical philosophy all of its own, has probably been so debauched but its daily reading of newspapers and magazines that its only humour consists in a pathetically standardised facetiousness. Such facetiousness is no doubt at this very moment playing grimly enough over very practical problems. The angry or the sarcastic words of our gentleman’s employer… the worry about his unpaid doctor or furious landlord… his wretched quarrel over God knows what, with his difficult sweetheart… such matter, gone over and over again in this harassed mind, throw their fretful patterns over the pictures of soap and tooth-paste and toilet-powder. On the other hand his thought may be complacent and self-satisfied; his curiosity piqued by some recent scandalous incident, may be pleasantly provoked to humorous ponderings. It is quite possible to live a busy, entertaining, and eminently respectable life, independent altogether of literature; but in such a case it will probably be concrete objects, realistic situations, external shocks rather than any kind of fanciful dreaming that will fill a person’s head.

But what about that other human skull? If one could visualise mental impressions one would be able to observe, floating in and out of this opaque, bony structure, how may airy clouds of fanciful craziness! This human head would doubtless in any case dream its dreams; but now, in its present pendulous position, when the charm of its own vision of things shrinks and wilts under reality at its worst, now is the moment when the imaginative worlds created by great geniuses, long ago dead, may, the mental will is strong enough, come to that poor head’s rescue. Under more normal conditions these imaginary “worlds” would serve, when our book-lover was remind of them, to rouse him to mould reality after his own secret pattern. But now, driven inwards, driven back upon itself, his mind struggles to fling the magic of these unrelated worlds, like a sorcerer’s hypnosis, over this whirling panorama of the raw and the crude. From Charles Lamb’s “Essays,” for example, why should he not be snatching something that might hover ironically and with a rich mellowness between himself and those rows of monotonous grey hats and black boots. The there would arise in that Manhattan tunnel a friendly assemblage of old-word humours, a fragrance, as it were of old folios, old wainscoted hall-ways, old gardens and purlieus of old college courts!

But more relevant perhaps to the nature of the motley spectacle before him might there not float and eddy round such a head quite a different host of airy sprites… the grotesque-sentimental population of Dickens’ reckless fancy? Weeping, chuckling, leering, grimacing, this cloud of lively hobgoblins might bear a resemblance to our traveller’s strap-supported neighbours. Hardly a photographic resemblance; a cerebral phantasmagoria rather, wherein a chance-tossed crowd of preoccupied New Yorkers is transformed into fairy-story ogres and angels!

But it is not only when in contact with the great outer world that a person’s saturation with literature thickens by a phalanx of portentous witnesses his vision of the familiar. Alone in one’s room of a late evening, bending over the fire, with the night sounds of the city or the night –silences of the country flowing through one’s absent-mindedness, how deeply does one’s inkling of the nature of life’s wild dream-stuff respond to the gestures of Dostoievsky’s fatality-masks! Let them beckon to us, these living figures, from amid their red coals! They are more than characters in fiction, these people of Dostoievsky. They are apocalyptic prophecies of psychic ecstasies, only to be revealed when some use-and-wont shutter of the human mind swings back in some Pentecostal wind….

…Down there, in those caverns of red coals, over which we dream, we, our very selves, will be watching all this; watching it and sharing in its monstrous terror. And how is t, that while from the wretched tales of contemporary brutality there only rises within us a wretched nausea of outrages nerves, or, at best, a simple human pity and indignation, there should mount up from these Dostoievsky tragedies a strange quivering beauty, that beyond all and in spite of all, seems to avenge and to absolve the human race? Is it that in the great moments of these heart-piercing novels we touch the fringe of some unguessed-at Absolute of feeling, which, in “the dark backward and abysm” of human suffering, hints at unspeakable consolation? Or is it simply that art itself, creating a reality beyond reality, turns with its demiurgic finger the intolerably pitiful into the symbolically tragic?

A person certainly does not realize all in a moment the influence that literature exerts over human minds, the power it has of transferring to one’s real experience that mythical heightening which it diffuses through its imaginary world. It is indeed only after we have saturated ourselves in these things, only after we have read these books over and over again, that the charm begins properly to work. But delayed though it may be, the moment will come at last when we find ourselves better able to cope with our won misadventures because of what we have caught, let us suppose from the heroic fantasies of the author of Don Quixote, or from the sly humours of the author of Tristram Shandy.

One of the most invaluable clues to that difficult casuistry that keeps the integrity of the ego intact amid the rough-and-tumble of life can be derived from the writings of Henry James. But neither does the spacious aroma of this high secret reveal itself at the first encounter; too diffused is it in the provocations of plot, too involved in the complications of character. By degrees, however,, as we read – say “The Golden Bowl” – for the second or third time, it dawns upon us that these punctilious and roundabout approaches to the quintessence of life, these wavering and reluctant moth-hoverings about the problems of good and evil, have a definitely significant worth in one’s personal adjudication of human values, as one goes through the world; a worth that, although implicated here with the cunning craftsmanship of a rich aesthetic creation, is in reality a redoubtable asset to the armoury of one’s own private life-weapons

The Meaning of Culture
John Cowper Powys p26

Friday, 3 October 2008

Raw Wilderness

Dark Spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost , and they seemed to lean toward each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, a lifeless, without movement , so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness – a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.

White Fang - Jack London

The Desert

The desert is the environment of revelation, genetically and physiologically alien, sensorily austere, esthetically abstract, historically inimical… Its forms are bold and suggestive. The mind is beset by light and space, the kinesthetic novelty of the aridity, high temperature, and wind. The desert sky is encircling, majestic, terrible. In other habitats, the rim of sky above the horizontal is broken or obscured; here, together with the overhead portion, it is infinitely vaster than that of rolling countryside and forest lands… In an unobstructed sky the clouds seem more massive, sometimes grandly reflecting the earth’s curvature on their concave undersides. The angularity of desert landforms imparts a monumental architecture to the clouds as well as to the land…

To the desert go prophets and hermits; through deserts go pilgrims and exiles. Here the leaders of the great religions have sought the therapeutic and spiritual values of retreat, not to escape but to find reality.

Paul Shepard
Man in the Landscape
A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature

Quoted from Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

Thursday, 2 October 2008

All Nature is your Congratulation

Crossing the stream that runs down to Zennor
If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, - that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality… the true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

Walden, or Life in the Woods - Henry David Thoreau
Quoted form: Into the wild - Jon Krakauer

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Ruskiin delights in the Rhone

For all other rivers there is a surface, and an underneath, and a vaguely displeasing idea of the bottom. But the Rhone flows like one lambent jewel; its surface is nowhere, its ethereal self is everywhere, the iridescent rush and translucent strength of it blue to the shore, and radiant to the depth.

Fifteen feet thick, of not flowing but flying water; not water, neither, - melted glacier, rather, one should call it; the force of the ice is with it, and the wreathing of the clouds, the gladness of the sky, and the continuance of Time.

Waves of clear sea are, indeed, lovely to watch, but they are always coming of gone, never in any taken shape to be seen for a second. But here was one mighty wave that was always itself, and every fluted swirl of it, constant as the wreathing of a shell. No wasting away of the fallen foam, no pause for gathering of power, no helpless ebb of discouraged recoil; but alike through bright day and lulling night, the never-pausing plunge, and never-fading flash, and never-hushing whisper, and, while the sun was up, the ever-answering glow of unearthly aquamarine, ultramarine, violet-blue, gentian-blue, peacock-blue, river-of-paradise blue, glass of a painted window melted in the sun, and the witch of the Alps flinging the spun tresses of it of ever from her snow.

The innocent way, too, in which the river used to stop to look into every little corner. Great torrents always seem angry, and great rivers too often sullen; but there is no anger, no distain, in the Rhone. It seemed as if the mountain stream was in mere bliss at recovering itself again out of the lake-sleep, and raced because it rejoiced in racing, fain yet to return and stay. There were pieces of wave that danced all day as if Perdita were looking on to learn; there were little streams that skipped like lambs and leaped like chamois; there were pools that shook the sunshine all through them, and were rippled in layers of overlaid ripples, like crystal sand; there were currents that twisted the light into golden braids, and inlaid the threads with turquoise enamel; there were strips of stream that had certainly above the lake been millstreams, and were looking busily for mills to turn again; there were shoots of stream that had once shot fearfully into the air, and now sprang up again laughing that they had only fallen a foot of two; - and in the midst of all the gay glittering and eddied lingering, the noble bearing by of the midmost depth, so mighty, yet so terrorless and harmless, with its swallows skimming instead of petrels, and the dear old decrepit town (Geneva) as safe in the embracing sweep of it as if it were set in a brooch of sapphire…

Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen
Chapter V. The Simplon p 130

Saturday, 6 September 2008

A Small Aspen Tree

Whilst traveling to Chamouni and resting at Fontainebleau. An Encounter with a small Aspen tree on the road after feeling unwell.

… And today, I missed rocks, palace, and fountain all alike, and found myself lying on the bank of a cart-road in the sand, with no prospect whatever but that small aspen tree against the blue sky.

Languidly, but not idly, I began to draw it; and as I drew, the languor passed away: the beautiful lines insisted on being traced, - without weariness. More and more beautiful they became, as each rose out of the rest, and took its place in the air. With wonder increasing every instant, I saw that they ‘composed’ themselves, by finer laws than any known of men. At last, the tree was there, and everything that I had thought before about trees, nowhere…

IV Fontainebleau
Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen page 110

As I look deeper into the mirror

…as I look deeper into the mirror , I find myself a more curious person than I thought. I used to fancy that everybody would like clouds and rocks as well as I did, if once told to look at them; whereas, after fifty years of trial, I find that is not so, even in modern days; having long ago known that… the clouds and mountains which have been life to me, were mere inconvenience and horror to most of mankind…

Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen
Chapter 1

The Art of Forgetting

Its Snowing in Exeter

"Rather tired today. Its snowing in Exeter! Weather systems have gone mad - but it did look pretty. Woke up this morning after having an anxiety dream - I had to order a Chinese takeaway for a group of people.  I kept loosing the list, muddles all round - great anxiety..,. you know the sort of thing. Its a petty situation but indicates where I am at the moment. It made me feel awful and depressed when I woke up - the art of forgetting when it is needed is essential. I need to forget about jobs and chores and money and schedules and look about me and think about silence and music, pictures and beauty, essences and nuances. Its quite an art to juggle it all about and not loose touch with the bit that pays the bills but keep the bit that feeds the soul."

Vicky Spring 08

The Promontory of Sesti di Levante

The promontory of Sesti di Levante Nov 4th 1840

…very wet all morning; merely able to get the four miles to this most lovely village, the clouds drifting like smoke from the hills, and hanging in wreaths about the white churches on their woody slopes. Kept in here till three, then the clouds broke, and we got up the woody promontory that overhangs the village. The clouds were rising gradually from the Apennines, fragments entangled here and there in the ravines catching the level sunlight like so many tongues of fire; the dark blue outline of the hills clear as crystal against a pale distant purity of green sky, the sun touching here and there upon their turfy precipices and the white, square villages along the gulph gleaming like silver to the north-west; - a mass of higher mountain, plunging down into broad valleys dark with olive, their summits at first grey with rain, then deep blue with flying showers – the sun suddenly catching the near woods at their base, already coloured exquisitely by the autumn, with such a burst of robbing, - penetrating, glow as Turner only could even imagine, set off by the grey storm behind. To the south, an expanse of sea, varied by reflection of white Apline cloud, and delicate lines of most pure blue, the low sun sending its line of light – forty miles long – from the horizon; the surges dashing far below against rocks of black marble, and lines of foam drifting back with the current into the open sea. Overhead, a group, of dark Italian pine and evergreen oak, with such lovely ground about their roots as we have in the best bits of the islands of Derwentwater. This continued till near sunset, when a tall double rainbow rose to the east over the fiery woods, and as the sun sank, the storm of falling rain on the mountains became suddenly purple – nearly crimson; the rainbow, its hues scarcely traceable, one broad belt of crimson, the clouds above all fire. The whole scene such as can only come once or twice in a lifetime…

Praeterita John Ruskin Vol II
Pub: 1907 George Allen
III Cumae p61

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The Ancient God's Lament

" I want you...because the world has forgotten me. In all my nation there is no remembrance of me. I , wandering on the hills of my country, am lonely indeed. I am the desolate god forbidden to utter my happy laughter. I hide the silver of my speech and the gold of my merriment. I live in the holes of the rocks and the dark caves of the sea. I weep in the morning because I may not laugh, and in the evening I go abroad and am not happy. Where I have kissed a bird has flown; where I have trod a flower has sprung. But Thought has snared my birds in his nets and sold them in the market-places. Who will deliver me from Thought, from the base holiness of Intellect, the maker of chains and traps? Who will save me from the holy impurity of Emotion, whose daughters are Envy and Jealousy and Hatred, who plucks my flowers to ornament her lusts and my little leaves to shrivel on the breasts of infamy? Lo, I am sealed in the caves of nonentity until the head and the heart shall come together in fruitfulness, until Thought has wept for Love, and Emotion has purified herself to meet her lover. Tir-na-nOg is the heart of a man and the head of a woman. Widely they are separated. Self-centred they stand, and between them the seas of space are flooding desolately. No eye can bridge them, not any desire bring them together until the blind god shall find them on the wavering stream - not as an arrow searches straightly from a bow, but gently, imperceptibly as a feather on the wind reaches the ground on a hundred starts; not with the compass and the chart, but by the breath of the Almighty which blows from all quarters without care and without ceasing. Night and day it urges from the outside to the inside. It gathers ever to the centre. From the far without to the deep within, trembling from the body to the soul until the head of a woman and the heart of a man are filled with the Divine Imagination. Hymen, Hymenaea! I sing to the ears that are stopped, the eyes that are sealed and the minds that do not labour. Sweetly I sing on the hill-side. The blind shall look within and not without; the deaf shall hearken to the murmur of their wisdom of sweetness; the thoughtless shall think without effort as the lightning flashes, that the hand of Innocence may reach to the stars, and the feet of Adoration may dance to the Father of Joy and the laugh of Happiness be answered by the Voice of Benediction..."

The Crock of Gold - James Stephens 1912

Monday, 23 June 2008

The Dance Has Begun Lightly

"Come to us, ye who do not know where ye are - ye who live among strangers in the houses of dismay and self-righteousness. Poor, awkward ones! How bewildered and bedevilled ye go! Amazed ye look and do not comprehend, for your eyes are set upon a star and your feet move in the blessed kingdoms of the Shee. Innocents! in what prisons are ye flung? To what lowliness are ye bowed? How are ye ground between the laws and the customs? The dark people of the Fomor have ye in thrall; and upon your minds they have fastened a band of lead, your hearts are hung with iron, and about your loins a cincture of brass impressed, woeful! believe it, that the sun does shine, the flowers grow, and the birds sing pleasantly in the trees. The free winds are everywhere, the water tumbles on the hill, the eagle calls aloud through the solitude, and his mate comes speedily. The bees are gathering honey in the sunlight, the midges dance together, and the great bull bellows across the river. The crow says a word to his brethren, and the wren snuggles her young in the hedge... Come to us, ye lovers of life and happiness. Hold out thy hand - a brother shall seize it from afar. Leave the plough and the cart for a little time: put aside the needle and the awl! - Is leather thy brother, O man?... Come away! come away! from the loom and the desk, from the place where raiment is sold and the place where it is sewn in darkness: O bad treachery! Is it for joy you sit in the broker's den, thou pale man? Has the attorney enchanted thee?... Come away! for the dance has begun lightly , the wind is sounding over the hill, the sun laughs down into the valley, and the sea leaps upon the shingle, panting for joy, dancing, dancing, dancing for joy..."

...They swept through the goat tracks and the little boreens and the curving roads. Down to the city they went dancing and singing; among the streets and the shops telling their sunny tale; not heeding the malignant eyes and the cold brows as the sons of Balor looked sidewards. And they took the Philosopher from his prison, even the Intellect of Man they took from the hands of the doctors and lawyers, from the sly priests, from the professors whose mouths are gorged with sawdust, and the merchants who sell blades of grass - the awful people of the Fomor... and then they returned again, dancing and singing, to the country of the gods...

The Crock of Gold - James Stephens 1912

The Spacegoats - In Celebration

The Road to Fairyland

The Fairy Glen - Isle of Skye
Do you seek the road to Fairyland? I'll tell: it's easy quite. Wait till a yellow moon gets up o'er purple seas by night, and glides a shining pathway that is sparkling diamond bright. Then, if no evil power be nigh to thwart you, out of spite, and if you know the very words to cast a spell of might, you get upon a thistledown, and, if the breeze is right, you sail away to Fairyland along this track of light.
Ernest Thompson Seton

...With wonder, with delight, the daughter of Murrachu watched the hosting of the Shee. Sometimes her eyes were dazzled as a jewelled forehead blazed in the sun, or a shoulder-torque of broad gold flamed like a torch. On fair hair and dark the sun gleamed: white arms tossed and glanced a moment and sank and reappeared. The eyes of those who did not hesitate nor compute looked into her eyes, not appraising, not questioning, but mild and unafraid. The voices of free people spoke in her ears and the laughter of happy hearts, unthoughtful of sin or shame, released from the hard bondage of selfhood. For these people, though many, were one. Each spoke to the other as to himself, without reservation or subterfuge. They moved freely each in his personal whim, and they moved also with the unity of one being: for when they shouted to the Mother of the gods they shouted with one voice, and they bowed to her as one man bows. Through the many minds there went also one mind, correcting, commanding, so that in a moment the itnerchangeable and fluid became locked, and organic with a simultaneous understanding, a collective action - which was freedom...

... In a little they reached the grass land and the dance began. Hand sought for hand, feet moved companionably as thought they loved each other; quietly intimate they tripped without faltering, and, then, the loud song arose - they dang to the lovers of gaiety and peace, long defrauded - ...

The Crock of Gold - James Stephens 1912

The Faeiry Dance

...And one came also to whom the bosts shouted with mighty love, wven the Serene One, Dana, the Mother of the gods, steadfast forever. Her breath is on the morning, her smile is summer. From her hand the birds of the air take their food. The mild ox is her friend, and the wolf trotos by her freindly side; atr her voice the daisy peeps from her cave and the nettle couches his lance. The rose arrays herself in innocence, scattering abroad her sweetness with the dew, and the oak tree laughs to her in the air. Tous Beautiful! the lambs follow thy footsteps, they crop thy bounty in the meadows and are not thwarted: the weary men cling to thy bosom everlasting. Through thee all voices come to us, even the Divine Pormise and the breath of the Almighty from afar laden with goodness.

With wonder, with delight, the daughter of Murrachu watched the hosting of the Shee. Sometimes her eyes were dazzled as a jewelled forenead blazed in the sun, or a shoulder-torque of broad gold flamed like a torch. On fair hair and dark the sun gleamed: white arms tossed and glanced a moment and sank and reappeared. The eyes of those who did not hesitate nor compute looked into her eyes, not appraising, not questioning, but mild and unafraid. The voices of free people spoke in her ears and the laughter of happy hearts, unthoughtful of sin or shame, released from the hard bondage of selfhood. For these people, though many, were one. Each spoke to the other as to himself, without reservation or subterfuge. They moved freely each in his personal whim, and they moved also with the unity of one being: for when they shouted tot he Moth of the gods thye shouted with one voice, and they bowed to her as one man bows. Through the many minds there went also one mind, correcting, commanding, so that in a moment the interchangeable and fluid became locked, and orgnaic with a simultaneous understanding, a collective action - which was freedom...

Here there wsa no green thing growing; a carpet of brown turf soread to the edge of sight on the sloping plain and way to where another mountain soared in the air. They came to this and descended. In the distance, groves fo trees could be seen, and, very far away, the roofs and towers and spires of the Town of the Ford of Hurdles, and the little roads that wandered everywhere; but on this height there was only prickly furze growing softly in the sunlight; the bee droned his loud song, the birds flew and sang occasionally, and the little stredams grew heavy with their falling waters. A little further and the bushes were green and heautiful, waving their gentle leaves in the quietude, and beyond again, wrapped in sunshine and peace, the trees looked on the world from their calm heights, having no complaint to make of anything.

In a little they reached the grass land and the dance began. Hand sought for hand, feet moved companionably as thought they loved each other; quietly intimate they tripped without faltering, and, then, the loud song arose - they sang to the lvoers of gaiety and peace, long defrauded -...

The Crock of Gold - James Stephens 1912


...she had discovered that happiness is not laughter or satisfaction, and that no person can be happy for themselves alone. So she had come to understand the terrible sadness of the gods, and why Angus wept in secret; for often in the night she had heard him weeping, and she knew that his tears were for those others who were unhappy, and that he could not be comforted while there was a woeful person or an evil deed hiding in the world. Her own happiness also had become infected with this alien misery, until she knew that nothing was alien to her, and that in truth all persons and all things were her brothers and sisters and that they were living and dying in distress; and at the last she knew that there was not any man but mankind, nor any human being but only humanity. Never again could the gratification of a desire give her pleasure, for her sense of oneness was destroyed - she was not an individual only; she was also part of a mighty organism ordained, through whatever stress, to achieve its oneness, and this great being was threefold, comprising in its mighty units God and Man and Nature - the immortal trinity. The duty of life is the sacrifice of self: it is to renounce the little ego that the mighty ego may be freed; and, knowing this, she found at last that she knew Happiness, that divine discontent which cannot rest nor be at ease until its bourne is attained and the knowledge of a man is added to the gaiety of a child. Angus had told her that beyond this there lay the great ecstasy which is Love and God and the beginning and the end of all things; for every thing must come from the Liberty into the Bondage, that it may return again to the Liberty, comprehending all things and fitted for that fiery enjoyment. This cannot be until there are no more fools living, for until the last fool has grown wise wisdom will totter and freedom will still be invisible. Growth is not by years but by multitudes, and until there is a common eye no one person can see God, for the eye of all nature will scarcely be great enough to look upon that majesty. We shall greet Happiness by multitudes, but we can only greet Him by starry systems and a universal love...

The Crock of Gold, James Stephens 1912

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

The Very Apex of Sweetness

...when suddenly, from without , a chorus of birds burst into joyous singing. Limpid and liquid cadenzas, mellow flutings, and the sweet treble of infancy met and danced and piped in the airy surroundings. A round, soft tenderness of song rose and fell, broadened and soared, and then the high flight was snatched, eddied a moment, and was borne away to a more slender and wonderful loftiness, until, from afar, that thriling song turned on the very apex of sweetness, dipped steeply and flashed its joyous return to the exultations of its mates below, rolling an ecstasy of song which for one moment gladdened the whole world and the sad people who moved thereon...

The Crock of Gold, James Stephens 1912

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The Depths are Equal to the Heigths

...I want you to want me. I want you to forget right and wrong; to be as happy as the beasts, as careless as the flowers and the birds. To live to the depths of your nature as well as to the heights. Truly there are stars in the heights and they will be a garland for your forehead. But the depths are equal to the heights. Wondrous deep are the depths, very fertile is the lowest deep. There are stars there also , brighter than the stars on high. The name of the heights is Wisdom and the name of the depths is Love. How shall they come together and be fruitful if you do not plunge deeply and fearlessly? Wisdom is the spirit and the wings of the spirit, Love is the shaggy beast that goes down. Gallantly he dives, below thought, beyond Wisdom, to rise again as high above these as he had first descended. Wisdom is righteous and clean, but Love is unclean and holy. I sing of the beast and the descent: the great unclean purging itself in fire: the thought that is not born in the measure or the ice of the head, but in the feet and the hotblood and the pulse of fury. The Crown of Life is not lodged in the sun: the wise gods have buried it deeply where the thoughtful will not find it, nor the good: but the Gay Ones, the Adventurous Ones, the Careless Plungers, they will bring it to the wise and astonish them. All things are seen in the light – How shall we value that which is easy to see? But the precious things which are hidden, they will be beautiful with our sorrow: they will be noble because of our desire for them…

The Crock of Gold - James Stephens 1912

The End of the Road

This is a thing is true,
Everything comes to an end:
The loving of me and you,
The walking of friend and friend

Shall I weep the beauty I knew,
Or the greatness gathered away
Or the truth that is only true,
As the things that a man will say?

The child and the mother will die,
The wife and the husband sever,
The sun will go out of the sky,
And the rain will be falling for ever.

For ever until the waves rear
To the skies with a terrible tune,
And cover the earth and air,
And climb up the beach of the moon.

They go, for all things must end,
And this is true as I say –
A friend will be leaving a friend,
And a man will be going away.

James Stephens The Hill of Visions
Maunsel and Company Ltd, 1912

The Spalpeen

Looking on the rounded sky
From the Hill of Vision, I
Saw him striding here and there
Sowing seeds upon the air,
And he told the name of these,
Days and Years and Centuries.

Then a seed to me he threw
Saying, ‘tis a gift of you,
The best of all the seeds that be
This is the seed of mystery,
And its name is Death but no
Other tree can blossom so.

It will top the clouds and run
Branches up into the sun:
Fruit and leaf and branch and stem
Will grow far too high for them,
The immortals, who will cry
We are tired and cannot die.

“ Fear of the Gods” will be its name,
it will cover up their fame;
and beneath its shade will go
mighty mortals to and fro
who will die and live and be
eager through eternity.

James Stephens The Hill of Visions
Maunsel and Company Ltd, 1912

Through The Circle Of My Eye

Everything that I can spy through the circle of my eye, everything that I can see has been woven out of me; I have sown the stars, and threw clouds of morning and of eve up into the vacant blue; everything that I perceive, sun and sea and mountain high, all are moulded by my eye: closing it, what shall I find? …

James Stephens The Hill of Visions
Maunsel and Company Ltd, 1912

Wednesday, 30 April 2008


R.L. Stevenson, Kidnapped
N. Stephenson, Snow Crash
E.O. Gordon, Prehistoric London: Its Circles and Mounds
D. Lessing, The Wind Blows Away Our Words
R. Jeffries, The Story of My Heart
C. Ross, 1920’s London
P. Stanford, The Devil
J. Bate, Song of the Earth
M.V. Morton, In Search of England
M.V. Morton, In Search of Scotland
J.K. Jerome, Idle Thoughts of An Idle Fellow
A. Elon, Jerusalem: City of Mirrors
J. Cope, The Modern Antiquarian
F. Pryor, Seahenge
F. Thompson, Lark Rise
R. Monk, Wittgenstein: Portrait of Genius
M. Peake, Titus Groan
L. Shlain, The Alphabet versus the Goddess
J.-P. Sartre, Nausea
M.V. Morton, Travels in the Land of the Bible
M. Haddon, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
A.N. Wilson, Jesus: A Life
M. Peake, Gormeghast
H. Hesse, The Glass Bead Game
H. Beloc, The Old Road
L. Durrell, Bitter Lemons
D.E. Duncan, The Calendar
D. Watkins-Pitchford (‘BB’), The Little Grey Men
M. Peake, Titus Alone
Anon, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
B. Chatwin, The Songlines
J. Cope, The Megalithic European
V. Woolf, The Waves
F. Thompson, Over to Candleford
J. Crowley, Little, Big
F. Thompson, Candleford Green
C.J. Stone & A. Pendragon, The Trials of Arthur
anon. - Genesis
M. Moorcock, Elric at the End of Time
L. Durrell, Blue Thirst
M.-L. von Franz, The Feminine in Fairy Tales
G. Ashe – King Arthur’s Avalon
J.R.R. Tolkien – Tree and Leaf
G. Ashe – The Finger and the Moon
G.K. Chesterton – The New Jerusalem
A. Machen – The London Adventure
St. John the Divine – Revelation
R.W. Emerson – essays, never finished
T. Browne – Essay
H. Massingham – Downland Man
A. Letcher – Shroom

Saturday, 12 April 2008

A Song for Mothers Day

By Claudia

Your house is covered in pictures
Like sprinkled memories kept safe like holy scriptures
The scissors that rest next to the sink
you use to snip away at your hair marked by the finger prints
your strumming on the plastic guitar
isn't quite at good as your attempts to steal my nice Fender
I like your fish pie, its the best
damn thing I have eaten - but I hate the way you season

I don't have much money to give
but boy if I did
I would buy you a house
in the posh end of town
where we would keep bees
and pick apples off trees
you could paint things all day
and have scones on a tray
with plenty of cream
just you and me
I'll just have to give you my love instead

Your shrieks are music to my ears
I hear them everyday and will keep on listening for years
that tea its also the best in the world
we really should get used to using one of our numerous teapots
your walks carry on for miles
I've lost count of the amount of pivotal points you've visited
old books I swear you're under their spell
the mounds of pointless reads piling up like blocks of flats

I don't have much money to give
but boy if I did
I would buy you a house
in the posh end of town
where we would keep bees
and pick apples off trees
you could paint things all day
and have scones on a tray
with plenty of cream
just you and me
I'll just have to give you my love instead

Claudia Amarylis March 2008