And so it goes...

.......This is a blog where my other self exists in any number of the dimensions of Time and Space........... .

Friday, 17 September 2010

A bit more Browning

My Last Duchess
Robert Browning

That's my last duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will't please you sit and look at her? I said
"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 'twas not
Her husband's presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps
Frà Pandolf chanced to say "Her mantle laps
"Over my lady's wrist too much," or "Paint
"Must never hope to reproduce the faint
"Half-flush that dies along her throat": such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least. She thanked men good! but thanked
Somehow I know not how as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
In speech which I have not to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, "Just this
"Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
"Or there exceed the mark" and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,
E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will't please you rise? We'll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master's known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretense
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay we'll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

A portrait of Lucrezia de’ Medici, by Bronzino, generally believed to be My Last Duchess

Friday, 10 September 2010

"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”

"Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”
Robert Browning (1812–89)
MY  first thought was, he lied in every word,
  That hoary cripple, with malicious eye
  Askance to watch the working of his lie
On mine, and mouth scarce able to afford
Suppression of the glee, that purs’d and scor’d        5
  Its edge, at one more victim gain’d thereby.
What else should he be set for, with his staff?
  What, save to waylay with his lies, ensnare
  All travellers who might find him posted there,
And ask the road? I guess’d what skull-like laugh        10
Would break, what crutch ’gin write my epitaph
  For pastime in the dusty thoroughfare,
If at his counsel I should turn aside
  Into that ominous tract which, all agree,
  Hides the Dark Tower. Yet acquiescingly        15
I did turn as he pointed: neither pride
Nor hope rekindling at the end descried,
  So much as gladness that some end might be.
For, what with my whole world-wide wandering,
  What with my search drawn out thro’ years, my hope        20
  Dwindled into a ghost not fit to cope
With that obstreperous joy success would bring,—
I hardly tried now to rebuke the spring
  My heart made, finding failure in its scope.
As when a sick man very near to death        25
  Seems dead indeed, and feels begin and end
  The tears and takes the farewell of each friend,
And hears one bid the other go, draw breath
Freelier outside, (“since all is o’er,” he saith,
  “And the blow fallen no grieving can amend;”)        30
While some discuss if near the other graves
  Be room enough for this, and when a day
  Suits best for carrying the corpse away,
With care about the banners, scarves and staves,
And still the man hears all, and only craves        35
  He may not shame such tender love and stay.
Thus, I had so long suffer’d, in this quest,
  Heard failure prophesied so oft, been writ
  So many times among “The Band”—to wit,
The knights who to the Dark Tower’s search address’d        40
Their steps—that just to fail as they, seem’d best.
  And all the doubt was now—should I be fit?
So, quiet as despair, I turn’d from him,
  That hateful cripple, out of his highway
  Into the path the pointed. All the day        45
Had been a dreary one at best, and dim
Was settling to its close, yet shot one grim
  Red leer to see the plain catch its estray.
For mark! no sooner was I fairly found
  Pledged to the plain, after a pace or two,        50
  Than, pausing to throw backward a last view
O’er the safe road, ’t was gone; gray plain all round:
Nothing but plain to the horizon’s bound.
  I might go on; nought else remain’d to do.
So, on I went. I think I never saw        55
  Such starv’d ignoble nature; nothing throve:
  For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
  You ’d think; a burr had been a treasure trove.        60
No! penury, inertness and grimace,
  In the strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
  Or shut your eyes,” said Nature peevishly,
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
’T is the Last Judgment’s fire must cure this place,        65
  Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”
If there push’d any ragged thistle=stalk
  Above its mates, the head was chopp’d; the bents
  Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock’s harsh swarth leaves, bruis’d as to baulk        70
All hope of greenness? ’T is a brute must walk
  Pashing their life out, with a brute’s intents.
As for the grass, it grew as scant as hair
  In leprosy; thin dry blades prick’d the mud
  Which underneath look’d kneaded up with blood.        75
One stiff blind horse, his every bone a-stare,
Stood stupefied, however he came there:
  Thrust out past service from the devil’s stud!
Alive? he might be dead for aught I know,
  With that red, gaunt and collop’d neck a-strain,        80
  And shut eyes underneath the rusty mane;
Seldom went such grotesqueness with such woe;
I never saw a brute I hated so;
  He must be wicked to deserve such pain.
I shut my eyes and turn’d them on my heart.        85
  As a man calls for wine before he fights,
  I ask’d one draught of earlier, happier sights,
Ere fitly I could hope to play my part.
Think first, fight afterwards—the soldier’s art:
  One taste of the old time sets all to rights.        90
Not it! I fancied Cuthbert’s reddening face
  Beneath its garniture of curly gold,
  Dear fellow, till I almost felt him fold
An arm in mine to fix me to the place,
That way he us’d. Alas, one night’s disgrace!        95
  Out went my heart’s new fire and left it cold.
Giles then, the soul of honor—there he stands
  Frank as ten years ago when knighted first.
  What honest man should dare (he said) he durst.
Good—but the scene shifts—faugh! what hangman hands        100
Pin to his breast a parchment? His own bands
  Read it. Poor traitor, spit upon and curst!
Better this present than a past like that;
  Back therefore to my darkening path again!
  No sound, no sight as far as eye could strain.        105
Will the night send a howlet of a bat?
I asked: when something on the dismal flat
  Came to arrest my thoughts and change their train.
A sudden little river cross’d my path
  As unexpected as a serpent comes.        110
  No sluggish tide congenial to the glooms;
This, as it froth’d by, might have been a bath
For the fiend’s glowing hoof—to see the wrath
  Of its black eddy bespate with flakes and spumes.
So petty yet so spiteful All along,        115
  Low scrubby alders kneel’d down over it;
  Drench’d willows flung them headlong in a fit
Of mute despair, a suicidal throng:
The river which had done them all the wrong,
  Whate’er that was, roll’d by, deterr’d no whit.        120
Which, while I forded,—good saints, how I fear’d
  To set my foot upon a dead man’s cheek,
  Each step, or feel the spear I thrust to seek
For hollows, tangled in his hair or beard!
—It may have been a water-rat I spear’d,        125
  But, ugh! it sounded like a baby’s shriek.
Glad was I when I reach’d the other bank.
  Now for a better country. Vain presage!
  Who were the strugglers, what war did they wage
Whose savage trample thus could pad the dank        130
Soil to a plash? Toads in a poison’d tank,
  Or wild cats in a red-hot iron cage—
The fight must so have seem’d in that fell cirque.
  What penn’d them there, with all the plain to choose?
  No foot-print leading to that horrid mews,        135
None out of it. Mad brewage set to work
Their brains, no doubt, like galley-slaves the Turk
  Pits for his pastime, Christians against Jews.
And more than that—a furlong on—why, there!
  What bad use was that engine for, that wheel,        140
  Or brake, not wheel—that harrow fit to reel
Men’s bodies out like silk? with all the air
Of Tophet’s tool, on earth left unaware,
  Or brought to sharpen its rusty teeth of steel.
Then came a bit of stubb’d ground, once a wood,        145
  Next a marsh, it would seem, and now mere earth
  Desperate and done with; (so a fool finds mirth,
Makes a thing and then mars it, till his mood
Changes and off he goes!) within a rood—
  Bog, clay, and rubble, sand and stark black dearth.        150
Now blotches rankling, color’d gay and grim,
  Now patches where some leanness of the soil’s
  Broke into moss or substances like thus;
Then came some palsied oak, a cleft in him
Like a distorted mouth that splits its rim        155
  Gaping at death, and dies while it recoils.
And just as far as ever from the end,
  Nought in the distance but the evening, nought
  To point my footstep further! At the thought,
A great black bird, Apollyon’s bosom-friend,        160
Sail’d past, nor beat his wide wing dragon-penn’d
  That brush’d my cap—perchance the guide I sought.
For, looking up, aware I somehow grew,
  Spite of the dusk, the plain had given place
  All round to mountains—with such name to grace        165
Mere ugly heights and heaps now stolen in view.
How thus they had surpris’d me,—solve it, you!
  How to get from them was no clearer case.
Yet half I seem’d to recognize some trick
  Of mischief happen’d to me, God knows when—        170
  In a bad perhaps. Here ended, then,
Progress this way. When, in the very nick
Of giving up, one time more, came a click
  As when a trap shuts—you ’re inside the den.
Burningly it came on me all at once,        175
  This was the place! those two hills on the right,
  Couch’d like two bulls lock’d horn in horn in fight,
While, to the left, a tall scalp’d mountain … Dunce,
Dotard, a-dozing at the very nonce,
  After a life spent training for the sight!        180
What in the midst lay but the Tower itself?
  The round squat turret, blind as the fool’s heart,
  Built of brown stone, without a counter-part
In the whole world. The tempest’s mocking elf
Points to the shipman thus the unseen shelf        185
  He strikes on, only when the timbers start.
Not see? because of night perhaps?—Why, day
  Came back again for that! before it left,
  The dying sunset kindled through a cleft:
The hills, like giants at a hunting, lay,        190
Chin upon hand, to see the game at bay,—
  “Now stab and end the creature—to the heft!”
Not hear? when noise was everywhere! it toll’d
  Increasing like a bell. Names in my ears
  Of all the lost adventurers my peers,—        195
How such a one was strong, and such was bold,
And such was fortunate, yet each of old
  Lost, lost! one moment knell’d the woe of years.
There they stood, ranged along the hill-sides, met
  To view the last of me, a living frame        200
  For one more picture! in a sheet of flame
I saw them and I knew them all. And yet
Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set,
  And blew “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.”

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


and a song written by the inimitable Bert Jansch

Oh Deed I Do
Now, it makes no difference what you do, I love you, babe.
Well, I need your lovin', I need it bad, oh deed I do.
Now, you don't believe me when I say I love you, babe.
I wanna know the score, all I want is more, oh deed I do.
I wanna lay you down, prove to you I love you, babe.
I wanna turn you on to my lovin', babe, Oh deed I do.
I got the blues like a Gypsy Dave never has, babe.
I got a jealous dream of losing you, oh deed I have.
Now I can never say I'd ever miss you, gal,
'Cause I'm proud as a king, I wanna hear you saying "Oh deed I do."
Won't you break my mind and take your time to love me, babe.
You've shattered my brain with a mean saying, oh deed you have.
And you've taken every thought of love I'm thinkin', babe,
you've hung them high, gonna let them dry beneath the sun.
I'm gonna bend the bones that hold my blues together, babe.
I'm gonna stretch the string that my troubles bring to me each night.
I'm gonna sing a song with words that say I love you, babe.
I say I need your lovin' and need it bad, Oh deed I do.
Now, it makes no difference what you do, I love you, babe.
Well, I need your lovin', I need it bad, oh deed I do.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

September 1 1939

I remember first reading this in 6th form at Turramurra High School,it gave me a bit of a shiver in 1972.. still does.

September 1, 1939  
by W. H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.