Sunday, August 12, 2012

In memory of WB Yeats

In the course of a typical morning I ran accross Auden's great elegy on the death of Yeats. Poetry shatters the commonplace. When Auden is good, he really is - how well the text is crafted, how beautiful, how serious:
Earth, receive an honoured guest:
          William Yeats is laid to rest.
          Let the Irish vessel lie
          Emptied of its poetry.
These are the long views that are hidden in our busy daily lives. The question to ask at the end is, how long did you ever stray, how much did go to waste?

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Guarda e passa

I have been reading Egon Friedell's curious masterpiece Cultural History of the Modern Age - it's magnificent and I do suppose it's war, meaning fundamentally very serious history (surely still quite hated by the academics). Flashes of genius all over the pages building to a perceptive, idiosyncratic vision of our civilisation. I stopped for a while at his description of Montaigne (and the patronising attitude of serious philosophers to him), "too wide a thinker to be contained into the narrowness of a system". A view I'm very sympathetic to (though Montaigne most probably would have been able to build a system, as I'm very obviously not). That surely goes to describe Friedell too, a most curious person himself, a cabaret actor and literary critic turned great historian, politely warning the passers-by before plunging to his death in Vienna a few steps ahead the SA men come to arrest him. A memorable scene part of the cultural history of our modern Western Civilisation.