Thursday, May 21, 2009

No harsh patronage

Last week the new member of the family finally arrived - it had been a long and at times a very difficult wait. It is a curious activity, caring for the young, no more worthwhile thing easily found in this world. Not very Nietzschean I guess to be in service, and that's what it is, serving; and what is truly harsh is the way we measure that service: there is no way of perfection, and partially the unconditional trust is always failed. But this is how we are weighed, in deeds, not thoughts, in love, not intellect - and even if there is no perfection, there is protection and warmth, or the awful, unforgivable lack of them. So, in that sense there is no harsh patronage, even if there is such a hostage to fortune as to lack words to describe, in this unpredictable, uncaring world. With love comes dread, but without love there is nothing here. That is the way of our human world.

We were seventy-six for seven

I suppose my two most eccentric poetic predilections are vastly preferring the early Wallace Stevens to the later production and, even more bizarrely, seeing early Betjeman as a giant of poetry of his era. Later the sentimentality and a certain clumsiness of metre creep through, but the early poems are angelic. This, though naturally on hugely more humble scale, is a kind of equivalent of Eliot's famous confession of being a classicist in literature and a royalist in politics. It belongs to the classical tradition, surely, to appreciate Betjeman's glittering surfaces and rhythmical skill. It has seemed to countless critics (these days I guess no-one is any longer much interested) that this is all there is: a silly pose and a very oldfashioned, passé view of the form and function of poetry. I don't know - it seems such a selfevidently facile view of both young Betjeman and art. He does point to deeper things, indirectly, through the skill, through the offbeat, offcentre handling of the subject matter. You don't have to spell out things, you don't have to shout from the rooftops that this is great, weighty and serious poetry - neither do you have to be deliberately obscure and leave an enticing trail of riddles for dusty academics to uncover (and here we come to early Wallace Stevens as well).

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mõtlen et homme ongi see päev

It is probably far too rarely that I ever pause and reflect on how amazingly successful I have been on the terms that I once so uncompromizingly put to myself. Now to have such hostages to fortune, to have such a unified voice, such a coherent way of being in the world was once beyond my wildest dreams. This is of course a very exalted way of putting it - in more mundane words I have simply placed myself open to the random ice cold ways of this uncaring world, as I think we are all obligated to do. And even though for some people this surely would be pitifully little, something always taken for granted, it is not so for me - and that is the only meaningful measure we can have here.

So, after all these qualifications, this late arrival represents a true measure of success. I should never forget this - that I did after all manage to fashion a self capable of love, of being loved, that this did happen to me no matter how impossible it once seemed.