Authorial updates

9 June 2013 § Leave a comment

9 June

Here is a lonely post of lost and found snippets, or madventures, with current commentary.

Rimbaud, his drab origins, and his examination composition of a metrically correct Latin poem on the subject of Sancho Panza addressing his donkey.  This is quite a lost fragment, and I cannot remember what its purpose was.  He did pop into Marseille at one point.  (Note: Marseille is sometimes spelled Marseilles in English-speaking places; apparently both spellings are correct.  I find this silly.)  I am reading Rimbaud’s Illuminations now, though, and shall report any wonderful passages or epiphanies.

All hail the founder of modern European poetry

All hail the founder of modern European poetry

Valerie Eliot died this year (9 November 2012).  Her husband, T S Eliot, died in 1965.  The Guardian called her a “sterling” guardian of his work.  I wonder if any nonliterary practical cats survived them both.  During the short holiday between the end of examinations and graduation, I went to the beach with some friends (i.e., every senior from school).  Exhausted and more antisocial than usual, I made use of insomnia-laden hours by reading Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats instead of reveling into the morn.  I read some other books, too, but Cats had the best illustrations and jauntiest descriptions, more than making up for its complete lack of plot.  See also: the musical Cats.

Combien de chats!

Combien de chats!

Auden did marry, and this is an account of it from Alan Lloyd, who lived in Ledbury and went to school at The Downs, where in the thirties Auden served as headmaster.  At the beach, I read Letters from Iceland—a compilation of reports, “letters” in verse to Lord Byron about contemporary Iceland and England, bits of humour, travel advice, and letters home, some of which Louis MacNeice wrote—which I had dreamed of reading last summer, and Secondary Worlds, more in the realm of general artistic criticism in its exploration of the secondary realms of literature, drama, and opera.  I especially liked Auden’s explanations of the different types of literary heroes (in the first chapter, “The Martyr as Dramatic Hero”) and also his explanation of opera singers as the ones who conform themselves to a rigorous craft in order to express the full emotion of an occurrence of great import.  When, for example, one loves a person, and that person, ignorant of the other’s love, exits the room, the first might undergo a laceration of the spirit that may find its proper, complete expression only in an operatic lament.  Possibly followed by an aria.

Oh what throes of despair Must we in society bear! Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Sir Stephen Spender, 1937

Oh the burden of despair
Must we in society bear!
Auden, Christopher Isherwood, and Sir Stephen Spender, 1937

I have a limited experience of opera, but I once attempted to make that argument—that those in opera can give voice to what most of humanity must have only the impulse to do—to someone, possibly my mother, but I think she found it difficult to hear past warbling extremities and the requisite shrill cry or two.  Perhaps she has the more sense.  In any case, I originally read that argument somewhere else, so it was not mine in the first place, and Auden’s description strengthened my adherence to it.

Secondary Worlds as a whole was somewhat prompted by Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy Stories” (1947), in which he delineated the differences between the primary world of personal and visible experience and the secondary world of imagination: “To make a Secondary World,” Tolkien says, “inside which the green sun will be credible, commanding Secondary Belief, will probably require labour and thought, and will certainly demand a special skill, a kind of elvish craft.”  Auden certainly attempted to foster this elvish craft when creating worlds in his poetry.

"On Fairy Stories" was later revised and published in Tree and Leaf (1964)

“On Fairy Stories” was later revised and published in Tree and Leaf (1964)

More on Auden later.  Much report of one’s infatuation with a writer tires the reader.  Time to retreat into my own secondary world.  Make like a tree and leaf.


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