Many apologies; I feel like the guest who comes to dinner and then falls asleep in the chair! Someone commented the other day on my posting a post that positioned poetry firmly in the quotidian world. And alas, that is all too firmly where it is. It's fighting for attention at the moment like the smallest jackal at the dried-up old watering hole, and there have been some other consuming matters at hand even aside from work. My day job is all but overwhelming, it's so busy, and last night I taught a class on anapests (left work late; bus stop out of service; walked miles in the rain, got caught on some kind of crazy roundabout at the end of Westminster Bridge where you can't cross the road, and then had to trudge to Waterloo to get some cash, and got a cab; left my scarf in the cab, but the cabbie fortunately brought it inside to me). The anapests were great: we had Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash, part of Swimburne's Dolores, The Streets of Laredo, and (of course), as a finale, Byron's wonderful Destruction of Sennacherib:
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
and his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold,
and the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea
where the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown...
The class loved Dolores. Here's the beginning:
Cold eyelids that hide like a jewel
Hard eyes that grow soft for an hour;
The heavy white limbs, and the cruel
Red mouth like a venomous flower;
When these are gone by with their glories,
What shall rest of thee then, what remain,
O mystic and sombre Dolores,
Our Lady of Pain?
Seven sorrows the priests give their Virgin;
But thy sins, which are seventy times seven,
Seven ages would fail thee to purge in,
And then they would haunt thee in heaven:
Fierce midnights and famishing morrows,
And the loves that complete and control
All the joys of the flesh, all the sorrows
That wear out the soul.
O garment not golden but gilded,
O garden where all men may dwell,
O tower not of ivory, but builded
By hands that reach heaven from hell;
O mystical rose of the mire,
O house not of gold but of gain,
O house of unquenchable fire,
Our Lady of Pain!
(There is more. Much more.) They even gave themselves a homework assignment based on Dolores! (It's great, isn't it: organic homework.) I was talking about how Swinburne achieved the amazingly decadent, enervated mood of this piece (aside from being decadent and enervated, of course; but that's for another day), and I said how different his poem would have been if he'd written "O mystical rose of the muck." George, who had originally pointed out that "mire" could easily have been replaced by "sh*te," exclaimed: "Oh, and there's a jolly good rhyme for "muck"! You could say - "
"THAT'S enough!" said Marian, sitting next to him.
And so it was decided that the class is going to go away and write their own responses to Dolores: as dirty or tragic of comic as they like. Modern versions, or women writing about a man, or Dolores replying. I for one can't wait.
There is poetry in London, after all! I'm on a high after class; and I recommend that you go back and read those stanzas of Dolores aloud. It's nonsense of course but it's gorgeous nonsense.
And here is Mayakovsky, with a cat. Click the picture to be taken to a crazy German art video.
(There is one ill-advised image in the video, which you'll know when you see it, for which apologies; but the video makes me happy. See Baroque in Hackney for the photo that led me to it.)
This cries out for a quote from Mayakovsky about a cat, but I can't find one. In the spirit of the video it might be more appropriate anyway to insert your own cat into a ready-made line from Mayakovsky? I am far too tired to do this myself right now, but I will more than welcome your Mayakovsky-cat comments! Or indeed versions of Dolores.