Archive for February, 2012

The Garden of Proserpine

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Great Gray Owl

Silent is the breath of earth grown sullen
By the weight of night, and all of sudden
Hark! scurrying feet
And cascading wings dip their oars
In fluid motion and with unerring vision
Glides the shape,
As though it has the moment
In its talons tight and unrelenting,-
Great gray owl has made the kill.

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(This is a poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne. Illustration is by me. b.)

Here, where the world is quiet;
Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds’ and spent waves’ riot
In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing
For reaping folk and sowing,
For harvest-time and mowing,
A sleepy world of streams.

I am tired of tears and laughter,
And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.

Here life has death for neighbour,
And far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labour,
Weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither
They wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither,
And no such things grow here.

No growth of moor or coppice,
No heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies,
Green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes
Where no leaf blooms or blushes
Save this whereout she crushes
For dead men deadly wine.

Pale, without name or number,
In fruitless fields of corn,
They bow themselves and slumber
All night till light is born;
And like a soul belated,
In hell and heaven unmated,
By cloud and mist abated
Comes out of darkness morn.

Though one were strong as seven,
He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
In the end it is not well.

Pale, beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love’s who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her
From many times and lands.

She waits for each and other,
She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
And flowers are put to scorn.

There go the loves that wither,
The old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither,
And all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken,
Blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken,
Red strays of ruined springs.

We are not sure of sorrow,
And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man’s lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure.

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.

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Madame de Pompadour

The mistress of Louis XV of whom Carlyle wrote, ‘of whom it is not proper to speak without necessity’ was however an exceptional woman. After Encyclopaedia was banned without her active intervention the Enlightenment as a movement could not have got its potential as it did. She was on friendly terms with Voltaire and his circle of friends.
In one of the supper parties at Trianon the Duc de la Valliere wondered loudly what gunpowder was made of. ‘It seems so funny that we spend our time killing partridges, and being killed ourselves on the frontier, and really have no idea how it happens.’
Madame Pompadour didn’t miss her chance and she asked, ‘yes and face powder? What is it made of?’ She turning to the king and asked, “Now if you hadn’t banned the Encyclopaedia, Sire, we could have found out in a moment.’
The king presently asked for a copy from his library. After an amusing evening he relented and allowed the subscribers to have their copies, though he kept the ban for public in place.

Mme de Coislin

Mme de Coislin was a rival who after her success in snatching the king’s favour did not forget to rub it in whenever she had a chance. During a game of brelan Mme de Coislin had a winning hand and she said to Mme de Pompadour, ‘I take the lot.’ Scooping the cards she gloated, ’I’ve a handful of kings.’

Madame de Maintenon

Madame de Maintenon the mistress of the Sun King once told her confessor that it tired her very much to make love with the king twice a day and asked it she was obliged to go on doing so. The confessor wrote down her question for his bishop to decide and he replied as a wife she must submit. The king was five years younger to her and she was 75.

Once two mistresses of the Sun King came across each other at Queen’s staircase at Versailles. Marquise de Maintenon called out to Marquise de Montespan and said, “You are going down, Madame, and I am going up.”

Years later Marquise de Maintenon was asked what was her secret of her influence over Louis XIV and she replied, “I always send him away despondent but never in despair.”

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I am at a stage life has come to mean something; funny it also means it doesn’t make much difference one way or other.
I can see it as if it is happening to someone who has to live while each day I am on the go under creative urge. I almost wanted to write fire but it sounds a little over the hill.
I sleep soundly and even though shorter duration the moment I open my eyes most of the time my head is clear and it is to write or read as though during the night my filing cabinets have been cleared and rearranged for the day. My memory is as good as ever. It was total recall but now it is downhill. Yes. it is natural.
Curiosity and creative touch is still as though in full flow and ready at the turn of a tap.
Of course there are moments that I feel time’s winged chariot to borrow Andrew Marvell’s expression is getting nearer. Should I really bother? Wisdom of age tells me it doesn’t matter.
I live on the nerves and yet I seem to be teflon coated to get down to the brass tacks when things need to be done and keep my inner poise in tact. Words crowd into my mind and while speaking I am at a total dither since I have to concentrate what I need to say. Sometimes, no often I have made nonsense of what I what I intended to say. I have laughed myself at it. A man of contradictions and yet old age has given an inner resilience to laugh at my own follies and go past them.
My childhood was terrible and yet I could weather it all and be all things to all without giving away myself. My inner life without let up was spent making sense of all I read, heard and outward thing hardly made a dent unless I let. Use of money and fashion didn’t make much claim and yet all that I value, I could indulge in art music books cinema and still they do claim my attention.
From youth up I was at ease with the idea of a loving God and I never let fear ruin my bond. It was an everyday thing. Even now it is thus. I know I am in the plan of God and our relationship is bonded by age.
At a time of my utmost need in the early morning(late 80s) I was woken up by a thought. It was clearly a verse. I took my bible to read. The exact verse was Moses blessing on Benjamin( I was Benjamin to my father) where it is written He shal dwell between his shoulders( Num.33:16). What is between shoulders but the head? I knew what it meant in my case. Five years later I had to step out of nasty relationship and when it came I knew everything shall be Ok. It was so.
So many years in personal and creative life I could not wish more. Now I keep recalling the words of A.C Swinburne a poem that makes more emotional appeal to me.
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

I take exception the idea that ‘dead men rise never’ but as poem it takes on meaning and poetry suits my mood to set out passing thoughts. Sometimes droll, foolish wise well all these are part of me. So why complain what is natural?

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The Weekend Art-sisters

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She walks in beauty, nipt and tuck’t
Flabs spread all o’er, surgeons art
Ne’r more meet than in Mary Plukket,
And she is out to steal my heart.
Walk on by, walk on Mary Pluckket
I shall one day pledge my heart.
One more lipo-suction would have
Marred my Mary beyond repair;
My eternal pledge is mine to give
For millions in exchange fair, –
But is it worth or freedom I crave?
One day I shall come with an answer.
She walks in beauty, nipt and tuck’t
But not for long, she is big with child
And all her strivings by chance crack’t.
Alas, nipt and tuck’t by thoughts wild
she sees our babe neatly incised and pluckt
At birth than her perfect form marr’d.

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