He is fifteen and a half – that most dreadful of ages – and quite bright when he can be bothered with it. Alas, that’s not always the case, lost as he is in that teenage tumult of rebellion, Fortnight games, and hunger for peer-approval. I might add that the long, long months of lockdown and Covid-related restrictions are hardly helping… Continue reading
Some Kipling today.
I’ve always loved this one, and was reminded of it last night, as I sat in the garden at twilight, watching as the small grey bats flew circles, quite a dance, lower and lower around me, entirely unafraid…
They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath,
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods.
I don’t know whether there are ghostly presences in my garden – although the house was built on the site of a Napoleonic battlefield, so who am I to say there aren’t – but the idea is a very pleasant one to entertain on a blue-green summer evening, in a garden gone slightly wild, where birds and bats and hedgehogs are reasonably sure that no one will bother them.
This story was told to me years ago, one summer afternoon, in a centuries-old library in Mantua. It was whispered by an elderly scholar, as we took a short break after hours of patient, careful philological work…
It begins with a boy of eighteen, the shy, bookish sort, with the kind of passion for Ancient Greece that makes one court girls by lending them books of Greek poetry. Continue reading
The Bard, you know – and the present times, and all this uncertainty… it brought back to mind an old post, about something that happened a few years ago, when times felt uncertain as well – although in a very different manner.
Anyway, it’s a small story about the power of words in dark times – and you can find it here: Reciting Poetry in the Dark.
I love Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great – and by that I mean the first of the two parts. It may be rougher around the edges than his later work, but it’s breathlessly fiery. With his blank iambic pentameter, with the historical subject-matter, and his unpunished bloodthirsty hero, the boy (all of twenty-three at the time) was breaking ground in many ways – and knew it well. Continue reading
I’m in the mood for poetry today – so why not some Emily Dickinson? Emily is one of a surprising number of poets in my literary pantheon… and I call it surprising because I don’t write poetry, unless it is by accident. Then again, I read it, and I’ve always wished I knew how apply to prose the compact effectiveness of it… Continue reading
I’ve been meaning to write this post for some time now – and I mean quite some time. Last Spring, as I adapted Puck of Pook’s Hill for the stage and chose Rackham illustrations to make into scenery, and later, as I rehearsed the thing with my cherry-picked cast, and then as our Monday drew close – and later again, when all was done and gone well… Only, there was always something else to post about, or perhaps it was too soon, or… you know how it goes.
But at last, here we go. Continue reading
I cannot say I’ve been waiting for the summer to end… I’m lucky in that heat doesn’t bother me overmuch. Still, I like Autumn when it comes: September, October, the sweetness of the golden light, the first chills, the turning leaves… And, perhaps most of all, the fires. The scent of smoke, the flames seen from afar, glittering in the twilight… Continue reading
Rant ahead, I warn you. A mild rant – but still.
So I took this MOOC – let’s name no names – about poetry. I don’t write poetry, but I greatly admire the skill of compressing meaning into a limited amount of words, structured and highly shimmering. I’ve always yearned to achieve at least a little of that focused effectiveness… And last year, in the spirit of “you won’t know until you try in earnest”, I’ve decided to stop yearning, and try instead. So I took a MOOC – and liked it a good deal. I’m not saying that I wrote good poetry, mind – but exploring the mechanism was absolutely fascinating. Continue reading