10 October 2008


First Look

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific — and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Badass Ley will be stunned to see this but I'm not just out to impress him. I have a tale.

German girl and I had been to an arty 'do' where some foulard-enfolded type had declaimed Donne not very well and she hissed at me, "Why you don't read poetry any more?"

My dear, could have knocked me down with a feather. How on earth did she know of my secret vice?

Anyway, to cut to the quatrain, I agreed to revive some of my greatest hits including the Keats with which I took the laurel at a school recitation by taking it slow and calm and savouring each syllable.

I remember the adjudicator drawing a laff with his comment that,

"If I may make one observation, I somehow doubt that RCA records will release a record of 'The King' reciting Keats but if they do, he will certainly deliver the final line in exactly that husky basso profundo fashion:

Silen'. Uponna a peak. In Derrnnn."

But this isn't why I'm posting.

I was camping it up for the Germaniki when maman walked in and burst out laughing, "Oh I got in such trouble with your father over that. We might never have got married."

Ooh Mum, do tell!

So like my dad was a secretive type with the British Army Aid Group (BAAG) en Chine during his war, sneaking into Hong Kong under Ianni Nippon's flat nostrils to do mischief and then hightail it back again via Lion Rock and comparative safety. Brave stuff considering that he didn't exactly look like a casting director's immediate choice for the chorus line of the Mikado.tanto

He and my mother had just met, she down in Oz to where he was apparently able to send mail.

I've never understood how that worked, them being all cloak and tanto, like.

"Psst, evening, all. Rickshaw Express. Any mail to go? Right, here's one for you, Major, usual tax demand. General Cho, one for you, flyer from Lane, Crawford, their summer sale. Special on the anti-macassars"

So dad had sent his sweetie a trés daring coded messagio saying he felt "like stout Cortez".

Mum had only a vague idea where he was, so she wrote back to the effect, "But I thought you were somewhere in the Pacific?"

You didn't know my dad: ultra stickler for the rules, trained to take a man out with just one punch; I don't like to talk about him all that much. He must have died to read his subtle literary allusion blasted to the universe.

"Calling all units, the accursèd gaijin are in Honkers after all."

Back to Keats, it feels good to be learning verse again; good for the old memory, too.


rwells said...

Sly insertion of Dylan paraphrase. You didn't really think that would pass unnoticed, did you?

I just memorized 15 + pages of the Commercial Drivers License handbook, and discovered, yes, indeed the old brain functions. Am now moving on to perfecting "John Wellington Wells" from "The Sorcerer," as a party piece. I have most of it because my HS friend locked me in a room with the recording and wouldn't let me out until I could recite it through the door. It was a long afternoon, but I had the beer.

I've always though it would be great to recite a Chinese menu in its entirety, or the Rig Veda...

Busker said...

I inserted the Dylan just for you.