The Oriole-a nature poem by Emily Dickinson

  1. One of the ones that Midas touched,
    Who failed to touch us all,
    Was that confiding prodigal,
    The blissful oriole.

So drunk, he disavows it
With badinage divine;
So dazzling, we mistake him
For an alighting mine.

A pleader, a dissembler,
An epicure, a thief, —
Betimes an oratorio,
An ecstasy in chief;

The Jesuit of orchards,
He cheats as he enchants
Of an entire attar
For his decamping wants.

The splendor of a Burmah,
The meteor of birds,
Departing like a pageant
Of ballads and of bards.

I never thought that Jason sought
For any golden fleece;
But then I am a rural man,
With thoughts that make for peace.

But if there were a Jason,
Tradition suffer me
Behold his lost emolument
Upon the apple-tree.

Some beautiful lines in this poem and I find myself wondering about what sort of mine might be “lighted”. Also, verse 4 which puzzles me but I find entirely beautiful too.

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Sea Poppies by H.D.

Amber husk
fluted with gold,
fruit on the sand
marked with a rich grain,
treasure
spilled near the shrub-pines
to bleach on the boulders:
your stalk has caught root
among wet pebbles
and drift flung by the sea
and grated shells
and split conch-shells.
Beautiful, wide-spread,
fire upon leaf,
what meadow yields
so fragrant a leaf
as your bright leaf?
Hedylus

An Emily Dickinson -There is another sky

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields—
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

by Emily Dickinson

The Plaque- A Short Story by Kate Whitehead

                   The Plaque.

 

Aileen stands in the wide upstairs window of the holiday home detecting the subtle traces of him: a sharp scent of Old Spice a whiff of musky pipe tobacco. Dazzled by the surprize of yet another days sunshine she peers at the historical tableau below kids jumping from the high stone harbour walls catapulting magically through salty space.

She reaches into the musty wardrobe for a pinned stripe dress belted at the waist, pats her lacquered curls and sprays on the cologne which just like the summer reeks of 1976.

Strapped into her beige high heeled sandals she steps lightly into the midday sun passing familiar faces with a half nod. This unexpected burst of bright blue brilliance only accentuates the loss. Everything is magnified under the harsh distorting glare.

Aileen misses the bracing salt laden spring breezes. The still mid-summer air smells of consumption; over fried fish and suntan lotion. Her brown foundation trickles down her right cheek melting onto the starched white collar of her dress. She considers skulking back into the cool cavern but doggedly continues her weekly constitutional climbing the worn jagged slabs up to the other side. At the top of the steps she rests for a moment breathless, scowls at the discarded detritus tangled in the early brambles. Her frown relaxes into a small self -congratulatory smile as she observes the sleek elegant grey contours of the holiday home sandwiched amidst the granite.

Huddled at the end of the peeling brown bench with the missing slat a blonde woman sits clutching a small black notebook. Her clothes are vaguely scruffy at odds with the thick citrus scent of the Aqua Parma.

“Shall I move?” she asks half smiling half grimacing Aileen can’t be sure.

“No a there’s more than enough room for the two of us.” Aileen replies authoritatively.

The blonde woman’s called Alice . She lives in the village all year round up on the hill.

Aileen half listens to her staccato monologue .She’s diving into a memory, wallowing in its texture. It’s the Aqua Parma that’s set her off .She knows it’s really a special occasion evening perfume, remembers him first giving it to her for Christmas not long after their first meeting wrapped in shiny gold paper. The half empty bottle sits in her bathroom cabinet back home in Ireland. Now and the then she takes it out clutches it longingly to her chest, and strokes the cold glass.

“Oh my goodness where’s the time gone I’m late for my lunch.” Aileen exclaims rising stiffly from the bench.

That’s when she notices it larger, Golder and bolder very recently screwed on above her husband’s modest brown square.

Shocked and enraged at the blatant unbelievable audacity of this thing that’s appeared over night she spits the words at Alice:

“They can’t do this not without my permission .It’s our bench we paid 500 for the plaque …..Because he loved the village so much”

“Oh dear” Alice interjects troubled by the news that there is a dark drama clouding the benign gentleness of her favourite refuge.

“I need to speak to someone who knows about THIS. “  Aileen shouts jabbing a finger at the plaque.

“So you own the bench do you.”  Alice mutters indignantly.

Alice observes Aileen’s cautious descent down the steps and back over to the other side. She rises reluctantly from the bench her daily dose of calm contaminated by the morbid machinations.

Crouched on plastic stool in her porch Aileen unstraps the beige sandals, shuts her eyes and imbibes the cloying scent dusty tomatoes plants mingle with the spicy cinnamon of the purple orchids his daughter gave her.

She can’t decide lunch first, then the stern phone call to the woman at the chapel who knows everything or the other way round.

Suffused with a drowsy contentment after her single glass of Merlot she totters into the bedroom reaches for the tweed arm of the jacket which still has a whiskyish tang , strokes it longingly  wistfully recalling his exuberant warmth and good nature charm.

His words bounce mockingly in her head

“Well what’s  the problem two plaques on the bench? I’m happy to be with the other fella anyway glad of the company.”

Her anger evaporates seeing the matter with his eyes: “ What’s the point of making a fuss  right at the end.” She mutters to herself flipping the fried egg onto the tiny plate.

 

It’s the end of her final solo summer sojourn in the holiday home drifting through the wide rooms, relieved when the massive sun sinks into the sea leaving her shrouded in a comforting twilight blanket. She watches the evening news tut tutting at the relentless stupidity of it all, crochets for her three grandchildren then slides gratefully under the soporific lavender scented sheets.

Alice seeks a new unadorned bench for her morning calm over on the other side .Its slightly concealed by overhanging lilac bushes. Takeaway cartons peep out of the opening of the overflowing litter bin. If she turns her head slightly to the right for a gasp of today’s fresher saltier air she can see the gold yellow outline of her own home on top of the hill. Exultant all of a sudden that there’s a bit more time left she reaches into her bag for the summer sweet strawberries.

Aileen double locks the door of the holiday home for the final time with a brief glance back through the empty windows feeling a mixture of gratitude and sadness. The bulky taxi fills the lane outside waiting to take her to the airport its driver hovers nonchalantly by the open front door.  She sees the girl from yesterday squeezing her way by, acknowledges her with a small wave of farewell , happily reflecting on the hectic autumn distractions that await her back home.

Image result for Plaque on a bench by the sea

 

Anthony Powell and John Aubrey

Recently the famous leftist, Perry Anderson, wrote two articles in the London Review of Books about Anthony Powell comparing his work with that of, amongst others, Proust.Additionally, Hilary Spurling has recently written an acclaimed biography https://www.spectator.co.uk/2017/09/anthony-powell-gets-the-superb-new-biography-he-deserves/ I had quite recently read one of Powell’s early works “The Afternoon Men” I find Powell’s account in Dance to the Music of Time very interesting. The so-called upper classes offer the rest of us an opportunity for a certain very English form of voyeurism. The novels are also fascinatingly written with wry humour and the distance and curiosity of an evaluating psychoanalyst. The time at which I read them influenced my perception, particularly of social life in a way no other writer has managed. The prose is mandarin and the references to paintings add another appealing dimension.

Quite clearly, Powell’s socialist characters are treated fairly harshly and this vein comes through more strongly in his diaries. Working class people are reduced to the status of rude mechanicals. His portrayal of women is arguably stereotypical. None of which entirely detracts from the elegiac and reflective passages of these novels, nor their comedy either. For anyone interested in A.P. I strongly recommend reading John Aubrey about whom Powell wrote in May 1946 (John Aubrey and his Friends).Aubrey was, of course, a splendidly gossipy biographer and antiquarian and much else besides. I saw Roy Dotrice play Aubrey in a remarkable one man play in 1968 at the Criterion. Dotrice is now famous for his performance in Game of Thrones but his two and a half show at that time was truly brilliant. He would pretend to fall asleep motionless through the half-hour interval. This appears to be available on DVD http://www.cinemind.com/aubrey/ Image result for roy dotrice+John Aubrey Ruth Scurr has written an intriguing biography of Aubrey which has been reviewed by the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/mar/13/john-aubrey-my-own-life-ruth-scurr-review-biography John Aubrey: My Own Life by [Scurr, Ruth]

The Hazardous Hunt for Madam Butterfly

Butterfly escaped his attention

that foggy night, whilst his ears

were ringing from the singing of “The Mikado“,

so his splendid new automobile skidded

over the edge on the road near Lucca.

So in February of 1903 Puccini plunged

off the embankment and

fell down fifteen feet.

 

Having had that five metre fall

he found his right shin bone fractured.

In May he was disconsolate and complaining-no surprise

as it was badly set

had to be broken again

and reset.

 

In deep depression he wrote again

to Illica, his versifying lyricist;

Addio tutto, addio Butterfly, addio vita mea

Not easy to catch this fleeting insect-girl,

but in June, he slowly began once again

and by December,

the orchestration was finally complete.

Image result for puccini

Source

The Complete Operas of Puccini

by Charles Osborne

 

 

The Two Red Towers-Translated by Arthur Waley

THE TWO RED TOWERS
(A Satire against Clericalism)

Po Chu-I(A.D.772-846)

The Two Red Towers
North and south rise facing each other.
I beg to ask, to whom do they belong?
To the two Princes of the period Chēng Yüan.
The two Princes blew on their flutes and drew down fairies
from the sky,
Who carried them off through the Five Clouds, soaring away
to Heaven.
Their halls and houses, that they could not take with them,
Were turned into Temples planted in the Dust of the World.
In the tiring-rooms and dancers’ towers all is silent and still;
Only the willows like dancers’ arms, and the pond like a mirror.
When the flowers are falling at yellow twilight, when things are sad and hushed,
One does not hear songs and flutes, but only chimes and bells.
The Imperial Patent on the Temple doors is written in letters of gold;
For nuns’ quarters and monks’ cells ample space is allowed.
For green moss and bright moonlight—plenty of room provided;
In a hovel opposite is a sick man who has hardly room to lie down.
I remember once when at P’ing-yang they were building a great man’s house
How it swallowed up the housing space of thousands of ordinary men.
The Immortals are leaving us, two by two, and their houses are turned into Temples;
I begin to fear that the whole world will become a vast
convent.