Sunday, 28 November 2010


Look!  There’s David Herbert!  He’s running after Henry DavidMr Thoreau

Catching up, he overtakes; there’s a scuffle; I see fists, a heavy punch…

He’s got the trumpet!  And jumping on Henry David’s back he wacks him around the sofa.  Gee up little Roman!   Playing Charlie Ives he calls him Saint Augustus.

I behold you stand
For a second enspasmed in oblivion.
Obscenely ecstasied
Sucking live blood,
My blood.

Such silence, such suspended transport,
Such gorging,
Such obscenity of trespass.

You stagger
As well you may.
Only your own imponderable weightlessness
Saves you, wafts you on the very draught my anger makes in
       its snatching…..

Stumbling beneath the Arcadian abuse (his term), he sweats, and silently curses when his knees knock the table, then chairs, and knocks his simple bookcase; and old Milton falls to the floor. 

Nevertheless, Henry David looks on the sunny side: such energy for a young scamp!  Though he’s quoting Whitman now, that old fraud.   He hides it skilfully.  He thinks of Pan and the God Dionysus, and all the pages he will cover in imperial revelry.  A week at least to complete these well-spun thoughts; the paper, though, have I enough for all their antics, those final scenes, the uproar in the palace bedrooms?  He ponders it elliptically.  Gee up little Roman!   He will carry them in a silver chariot, Aphrodite and Salome sprawled around its sides; their bodies wrapped in scarves like chains; their hair blowing in the wind, streaming behind them…   They stop to look at a woman naked in a lake; she buries her body in the water.  Dionysus laughs and Pan sings; and the beautiful head bobs like a ball before them…. Her hair like burnt willow leaves?

That’s a strange piece; I can’t make out the melody…  Gee up my little senator!

The mosquito in D.H. Lawrence’s poem is an imp jousting with a man.  It sucks his blood, but dies eventually; squashed into “a dim dark smudge”. Its a funny image, whose humour animates both the scene and the language: the “obscenity of trespass” perfectly captures the outrage of that bite.  The mosquito in a sort of sexual ecstasy the lines describe that dislike we feel for those who gorge themselves at our expense.  The whole thing now a crude cartoon; a folk play in a summer fair, with all its liveliness.  Even the literary reference, Winged Victory, that appears a few times, is creatively employed: the narrator overhears the phrase, which is used to underscore the irony of this “epic” fight.  A weakness, perhaps, but a forgivable one in something so fresh and alive; you can see Lawrence flailing at his drunken jester.

The mosquito dead, and his playmate sprawled like a rug on the floor, our conqueror jogs off to New Mexico; leaving his old friends Pythagoras and Praxiteles on the library shelves.

Guinevere the maid runs in:

Mr Thoreau!  Mr Thoreau!  Are you all right?  Are you not dead yet, Mr Thoreau?

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